Wednesday, November 18, 2009


A woman walks alone on the beach. I watch her clothes dancing in the wind beside her. I cannot make out much more than a shadow but I observe her with each fading day. Slowly she meanders past. I cannot tell age or ethnicity. I cannot tell class or status. Still with no information I am left transfixed by this image.

I am here with family and friends and have been for two weeks. We have a villa with huge rooms and lots of food in our fridge. Our days are full of laughter and shenanigans. The kids and the dog are contented with exercise and sun. A picture perfect portrait of an American family vacation is born. Planned for months and executed flawlessly. I am not alone. I am trying to be nothing but joyous and thankful. Yet I am troubled deeply with news I have to share before the end of this trip, in front of everyone I hold dear to me.

I have watched this stranger's journey each night. I have shared this with no one. It's as if this is meant to speak to me alone. I selfishly hold her and my fascination privately. Intently she picks up shell after shell, stopping each time to slowly place it to her ear. I wonder what she is hearing or what she is longing to hear. Human nature leaves me inquisitive. Logic and reasoning leave me to assume and write the story in my mind.

Had she lost a sailor to the sea? Was a child taken by an undercurrent, a husband lost fishing for sport? Was it a loss at all? Could it be that she is unstable and is acting out of the repetition in a clouded mind? Maybe she is just a free spirit. Maybe she is taking the time to enjoy all of the amazing sensory stimulations offered at this wondrous location. I had spent so much time with her on my mind that I had shuffled my own problem to the back of my conscience, for now. At least that was a positive thing.

My time here is coming to an end and my speech is near. There would be only one more night of happy faces, full contented bellies and sweet dreams. Then my family would have to know the real reason I fought so hard for this trip. I needed this time with them more than they could know.

The figure looked a bit different this night. I was compelled to greet her but scared to bother her in her task. Maybe doing something so simple helped her heal from something. I began to wonder about my own path. When was the last time I had taken the time to do something so uncomplicated? Had I stopped to smell a flower recently or just sat under the stars admiring the beauty? Had I let the kids stay up entirely too late while watching movies and consuming sugar toxins freely? Everyday life had consumed me. I was beaten into submission by the rules and regulations someone else set for "normal" life. I work everyday at a job I hate. I yell at the kids for bad grades and torn clothes. I fight with my husband about the bills and his obsession with golf. And yet, they all still love me. I let people dictate more than I should.

Just then my dog tore past me and ran straight out towards the shape. She was posed perfectly erect, head up to the sky, shell at her ear. Darting after the dog I noticed her smiling. I stopped his escape and we both stared at each other for a moment. The mystery and I were locked eye to eye. I felt cold in an instant. She looked right through me.

"I've been waiting for you.” she said softly "Listen to this and tell me what you hear" she spoke as the shell was strongly placed in my hand. Startled, I accepted it and placed it by my ear lost in her eyes. I heard nothing. Complete silence. "But," I said cautiously "I don't.." I was interrupted. "NO! Listen again, LISTEN!!!" she pleaded to me forcefully. It was amazing. I tuned every thought out and really listened. I heard the ocean as normal, but there was more. A background noise that brought me a peace and calmness I had not felt since I received my news. Goosebumps grew on every part of me and I began to cry. This was a gift.

"You have a lot of decisions to make, a lot of them you have already tried to make on your own. You need to go back and rethink them and change your way of looking at this situation before it is too late." Her eyes penetrated me "there are things you can't know, a power with you that you don't know is there yet, reconsider." She started to fade away "you must trust in what you heard here and only that, reconsider". I started to flashback.

Months ago I sat in a doctor’s office staring at the pictures on his shelf. I awaited his return confident that nothing serious was wrong. That was not the case. There is a tumor. It is strong, it is deadly and it is in my brain. I have brain cancer. It is inoperable, not treatable and there is no hope left. Opinion after opinion bears the same conclusion. I would not tell my family until I was sure. "There are some last ditch efforts that we could try,” I was told by the last expert. "But they are very invasive and could even take time away from you. You need to consider this very carefully,” he said calmly. Now I am sure.

I have decided not to fight. I have decided to give in, as it would be easier on everyone involved. No false hope and no seeing me in anguish. That was it. I would tell them in a special way at the right time.

She touched my arm and jolted me back to reality and then completely faded away. I was awoken on the beach, dog still by my side. My husband had seen me collapse and ran out to help me. I stared up at him and felt the shell still lying in my hand. "Did you see where she went?" I asked. He had never seen her. I sat up slowly and put the shell to my ear as he looked at me concerned. The sound was still there only stronger. Tears drained from me, as I knew it was time. I had to tell my family. But it would be a different speech. It would be a fighting speech. I would try everything to survive. We would beat this.

It is five years and a baby girl later. The risky and experimental treatment has worked and I have been in remission for many years. The shell sits by my bed as a constant reminder that there is a power within us all.

All I remember about her were her eyes and the strength they conveyed. I don't know if it was a dream or real. I know I have been saved. I have learned to look at things differently. I reconsider things that seem hopeless. I take the time to live now and not merely exist. I look and I listen and I really see and hear. These are among the greatest gifts you can receive. And they are available to everyone. I now pass them on to you.

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