When they were young, my kids really loved the kiddie rides at Funland in Rehoboth Beach DE. It’s extra special there because many of the rides have been maintained for several generations. As a kid, I rode and loved some of the same rides my daughters did.
One of our favorites was one we called The Cars. It’s the typical kiddie ride set-up; glittery-painted sports cars and motorcycles that riders “drive” in circles around a rotating clown, who served as traffic cop.
One summer night, when my older daughter (Bailey) was about 8 years old, her and my younger daughter (Ally) headed over to The Cars for another great ride and climbed onto adjacent motorcycles. Bailey reached over and helped her 5 year old sister strap on her seatbelt. But, when she tried to fasten her own, she discovered that it was too short by just an inch. Concerned but not sure what to do, she waited a few seconds for the ride attendant to come by. When he did , he gently informed Bailey that she had grown too big to ride and would have to get off.
The excitement and happiness in her face fell instantly to a crushing sadness as she sat in despair for a few seconds. But it didn’t last long. After a deep breath and a sigh, Bailey perked up, smiled, double checked her sisters seatbelt and climbed rather happily off the ride. As we watched Ally enjoying her turn, my wife and I asked Bailey how she felt about one of her favorite rides being over for good, at least for her.
To paraphrase, she said, “At first I was sad ‘cause I love this ride. But kids are supposed to grow up, and that’s what happens. I had a great time riding, but it’s time to move on to the next rides.”
She wasn’t sad. She didn’t pity herself. She had many great, memorable experiences to cherish, but despite her initial reaction, she was ready to move on.
Bailey is now 26 years old, but I think about this scene from time to time, especially when my mind wanders to my eventual death.
When my time comes, I want to be like Bailey. I want not to get stuck in a state of shock, despair or sadness, but I instead hope to be full of gratitude for the ride I had, and to be ready to move on. I hope to leave those around me in safety and comfort, in the same way that Bailey checked her sister’s seatbelt before getting off the motorcycle.
If it’s a possibility, I’d like to watch from “the other side”, cheering my loved ones on like the rest of us who watched Ally on her ride. I hope to be at peace and content, even though the next experiences of death and beyond are unknown.
My family has enjoyed many trips together to Rehoboth Beach since the time of this Funland kiddie ride scene. And each time we pass The Cars, I flash back to the night when my 8 year old inadvertently taught me about death.
Life itself is a strange ride.