Today’s guest post is something of a blessing for me on a lot of levels. It arrived in my inbox on a day when I was trying not to be overwhelmed and wondering about the point of a few things. The message, one of trusting God and even thanking him for the “stuck” moments in our lives, was one I need. Daily. So…enjoy!
By Colette M. Liddy
There I was. Stuck. In pain, physical pain. At the beautiful shore.
On a bench at the end of the street just below the path leading up to the beach.
I’d been on a mini vacation for nearly two days and had not yet laid eyes on the ocean. I can’t walk on the beach due to a physical limitation, which sometimes includes physical pain.
I could not see a drop of the sea from where I sat. No amount of craning my neck would help. I’d called the town beach office and was trying to make arrangements for them to bring one of those huge beach wheelchairs, which are great on the sand. I’d even made arrangements for the college kid working at the place where I was staying to push me up and down the dune pathway onto and off of the beach.
I had a plan. A good one. I just needed that darn beach wheelchair to arrive.
I kept waiting and calling, but it seemed like nothing was coming together. I was frustrated and eagerly, desperately, needed to get on that beach. Even a child’s wheelbarrow enticed me, but I just didn’t have the guts to ask the dad if I could use it.
Already on the beach, my friend called and said she felt terrible. She wanted to help push me, but knowing the physical strength needed to traverse that dune, I would not allow it. I wanted her to enjoy her time, certainly not to worry about me, and I was controlling every detail that I could. I tried to distract myself.
I called a friend, and that diverted me for a bit. I prayed, but pain distracts prayer. I tried to read my book, but pain distracts reading. I could smell the salt air.
I could see the seagulls and the beautiful blue sky, yet I could not see that ocean. I kept saying to myself that seeing God’s beauty in the ocean would make me feel better, even if I was in physical pain.
How did I know? Because I’ve been walking this walk for 16 years, and nature is always a healer for me. Could I crawl on the sand? Just to get a glimpse? I thought about it, but concluded that I could injure something else, so it was probably not a great idea.
The sun was hot. Very hot.
I called the office again, now one too many times. The poor young gal on the other end was trying all she could to help, but the guys from the office were on the road and certainly had other pressing needs.
Finally, I offered a weak prayer to God — something like “Please help me deal with this.”
I called the office again and said if I was not going to get the beach wheelchair today, then we should schedule it for a specific time tomorrow. I’m sure the young lady on the phone was relieved to be released from my persistence for the day. Dealing with a former television producer must be extremely painful. We tend to go at it as if we are booking an exclusive national interview. I told her that if they could still make it happen today, I was still standing by, but that tomorrow was a definite. And I hung up.
I still had not gotten the frustration out of me completely, but at least I had made a step to try to let go. A little bit. The prayer had been heard. I still waited. I was still in pain.
Then things started to happen. I looked up. Walking towards me in a horizontal line were two moms with five or six little kids, all holding hands. The moms were on the end with the little ones – mostly three- to five-years-old and in between. It looked like a clothesline. So cute! I spring up, wave my hands and shout, “How cute!! How precious! Do you have a camera? This is waaay too cute! Do you have a camera?!” The first mom said no and didn’t seem too excited about my enthusiasm. The other took out her phone and handed it to me. I snapped a few photos and gave it back.
They continued up to the beach without much fanfare. I knew they would really appreciate the photos later – perhaps in the dead of winter –when they just might remember that woman who jumped up at the entrance to the beach marveled by the beautiful synchronicity of their adorable little brigade. I sat again. Still stuck at the entrance of the beach.
But I was smiling inside. HE was getting my attention now. I was starting to see how HE was writing the story of my day.
A few minutes later a car pulled up with an elderly man and woman. He got out of the driver’s side. The passenger door opened slowly, as she slid out. She was slower than him, but could walk.
He grabbed the beach chairs, umbrella, beach bags and cooler and gave her one or two light items to carry. They walked 30 feet and he dropped everything by the beach entrance. He walked back to the vehicle. She followed and tried to get into her side.
I watched closely.
He said, “No, you wait here with the stuff. I’m parking the car.” He pulled away, but she didn’t walk back to their beach gear.
She just stood there in the middle of the road at the entrance to the beach watching him park. Every few seconds she moved a step or two, as if she was going to walk towards him.
I had a sense of what may be going on. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it when a loved one starts to face memory loss or failings due to illness or injury, when spouses not that far apart in age suddenly seem generations apart.
I watched as he walked over and picked up most of the gear. He was doing his best. Trying to live life as normal as possible, with a little time at the beach gazing at the ocean. He gave her an item or two and she turned and looked towards me.
I knew what I needed to do. I gave her a big smile and said, “Enjoy your day!” A light turned on inside of her. She smiled, and I could see “her” now, the woman with the smile and her bright red lipstick. She’s probably a loving mom and grandma. Maybe an aunt, a sister, a great aunt.
For that moment at least, she looked younger. She was happy. Even if she remembered very little in her life at that moment, she remembered what I was trying to give her for a few seconds. Kindness. A smile. She knew, and it was good.
How did I know this would help her? Because long ago and far away I lived this; I know that when a loved one fails that the most real and true thing we can do to help him or her is to show kindness and love in the simplest ways.
We learn that in the end, when all else is taken, love is all that really remains. The elderly couple headed up to the beach, with her following just behind him. I sat back down at the entrance of the beach.
I was no longer stuck.
Ok. I get it, God. This is where you wanted me to be today. At the end of the beach. Not on the beach.
You wanted me to see your beauty here – in the young and in the old in the comings and goings of people’s lives – not on the sand with the crash of the rolling waves.
You wanted to show me that you would bring joy to my day, if I just let go a little tiny bit.
You wanted to show me that I could give joy to others, if I just followed your promptings to reach out to those in my path.
You are in everything, and you know how to write the stories of my days. Thank you. Tomorrow, I will try again to see that ocean. It may be a struggle, but I’m not giving up, because I believe you want me to see your beauty in the ocean on the beach tomorrow. But not today, because today you had different plans for me.
And they were good. Very good .
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
(The next day I did get on the beach and see the ocean and it was beautiful. Thank you, God.)
Colette M. Liddy is a media relations professional from New Jersey. She worked in the New York and Philadelphia markets as a television, cable and radio producer and traffic reporter. She has produced and written for a variety of public affairs and special interest programs, most notably a documentary on “The Legacy of Dorothy Day,” founder of the Catholic Worker movement She volunteers for a crisis pregnancy center. Colette holds a B.A. in speech communications and a M.A. in pastoral ministry. She is blessed to be an aunt of a whole bunch of nieces and nephews who mean the world to her!