For as long as I've known Phyllis Rhodes, a CCBI employee, we've talked about the fact that she had never been to the beach.
"When can we take you to the beach, Phyllis?" I would say referring to myself and my photographer, Chad Flowers.
"I'll get there someday," she would say wistfully.
It was a monthly, if not a weekly conversation that became a running joke between us.
Two weeks ago something miraculous happened. I met Phyllis in the crosswalk between the courthouse and the jail.
"Guess what," she said with her trademark ear-to-ear grin that can make your day.
"What?". I said already distracted with what was on my plate.
"I went," she said.
"Went where?" I replied.
"To the beach."
With those three little words Phyllis made my heart skip a few beats. I had a ton of questions, but they would have to wait for a time when I wasn't rushing to court.
Today I got the story.
Phyllis and ten women who are part of a prayer group went on a weekend retreat to Myrtle Beach. At first she didn't want to go, didn't want to leave her comfort zone, but they wisely encouraged her to come.
Her first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean came through the window of her hotel room. She watched in amazement as the waves crested and crashed into the beach. She had to get down there, she thought.
As she stepped onto the sand and headed for the water she heard her friends whisper-"Watch Phyllis."
Such a simple thing, Phyllis thought, really an oversight on her part, not going to the beach. Phyllis was born and raised in Raleigh, just two hours away, but there just never seemed to be an opportunity to go...until now.
"I started crying like a nut," Phyllis says, "I couldn't help it."
She couldn't believe the size of the ocean, the power of the waves, the beauty of it all. She had seen it in pictures, in movies, on television, but it wasn't the same.
"I hollered this is better than Hawaii Five-O," Phyllis says. "It was incredible."
What is even more incredible is that it took fifty-eight years for her to get there. Phyllis shakes her head as she ponders this thought out loud.
"To wait this many years to go see something," she says. "You really need to enjoy life now. It's almost like you should make a list-things I want to do."
Even now, two weeks later, Phyllis feels "changed" by the experience.
"I needed this," she says.
When she told her husband of thirty plus years, Randy, about it he told her he had no idea she had never been to the beach. Phyllis marvels at how you could live with someone for so long and not have shared such a significant detail.
"I can't wait to go back," she says with her grin in overdrive. "Maybe I'll take him."