Terri Evans came into my life in 2009 and left just a short while later. We found each other through our family trees on Ancestry.com. She sent a message to me saying that she was also researching Cecila Potts, her grandmother. She had been placed for adoption and was researching her birth family. I wrote back, “Well, hello cousin!” From then on, we had long message and email threads back and forth as we found out about each other’s family, growing up, siblings, and our beloved dogs.
In 2010, my husband, Don, and I drove from North Carolina to Minnesota to visit family and friends. On the way back, we stopped in Menomonie, Wisconsin to meet Terri. She working at a residential alternative home, and as we drove up, one of the residents was standing in front of the house waving at us. She rushed in to let Terri know, and I finally got to meet Terri and her dog, Scout. We stayed for coffee, and then made our way back to North Carolina.
We continued our correspondence, and then in 2013, she wrote to me asking if she and her mother could come to North Carolina to visit. Her mother had taken each of her children on a trip to wherever they’d like to go, and now it was Terri’s turn. She wanted to visit me in North Carolina.
The big day arrived, full of drama because she missed the plane so had to come on the next flight. At the last minute, nerves getting the better of her, she called from the Raleigh airport to say that she and her mother, Marie, would take a hotel room nearby. I told her, “Nonsense. You're staying with us.”
They did stay with us and we had a great time together. She was as dog crazy as I was, so she immediately fell in love with our Sheltie, Guinevere. I shared photos of our aunts and uncles and what little I knew of her family. She shared photos of her family and adventures growing up at the lake.
There were several things she hoped to see while in North Carolina, and one of them was the coast. We did a long day of driving. The Tryon Palace in New Bern, late lunch of flounder at The Stingray Café, then on toward the coast. It was getting late and we questioned if we should continue on to the beach or head back. Terri said she was fine either way. Don said, “Well, we don’t have to be anywhere tomorrow, so let’s keep going.”
It was early October, so it had already been dark for some time when we got to Topsail Beach and found a parking spot. By the time we’d gotten out of the car and helped Marie with the stairs over the dunes, Terri was gone. When we got down the stairs we saw her footsteps in the sand, Terri standing at the edge of the water, looking at the moon over the waves.
Just three years later, Terri passed away after an intense battle with cancer. I miss our long emails about everything and anything. I miss my cousin and friend.
Previously published in San Diego Reader
She rushed the dune
while we struggled
using the light
of a cell phone
to make our way,
gingerly, up and over
Topsail’s well worn
On the dune’s ocean side,
we smiled at footprints,
wide and wild,
where she had run
to the ocean’s
Gail Wawrzyniak is a North Carolina writer bringing together her love of art, history and writing.