Knowing when to take a break and enjoy life
Updated: October 7, 2012 6:38AM
I am sitting at the beach, my toes digging into the wet sand that separates land from waves.
In my peripheral vision, I see dune grass bending softly in the wind, that same wind that is blowing softly in my face and carrying the voices of my kids several hundred feet away, as they wade in a shallow creek that leads right into Lake Michigan, searching for driftwood and some cool speckled rocks.
It’s early August, and the sun is setting a few minutes earlier now. The horizon looks at once like an Impressionist painting and a melting bowl of orange and raspberry sherbet, all smudgy and beautiful.
The sun itself, though, is what mesmerizes me, as it does every time I’m at this same stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline, far away from buzzing BlackBerry phones and a schedule that makes me feel that I am always behind before I even get started.
The sun is sinking lower, until half of the sphere is under the water line. As I look for it to descend all of the way into the distant waves, my 15-year-old son sits next to me in the sand.
I am hoping he does not notice the tears welling up in my eyes.
A few minutes earlier, when I was watching the sunset, observing a pair of seagulls flying together, then separating into different parts of the sky, I couldn’t help but think of the death earlier that day of someone I knew. This person had been struggling for years with an aggressive cancer and passed away decades too young, leaving behind a wonderful young wife.
I was uncharacteristically quiet, then, in front of my son.
“Mom,” he ventured, looking off at the horizon. “Do you ever think that sunsets are like death?”
Wow. This apple sure didn’t fall far.
I told him that we are lucky to see such sunsets in full view, without any buildings or landscape blocking the view. And I said that yes, I agree that a sunset is akin to a life leaving this earth: just because we can’t see it for a while, doesn’t mean it’s not there or that it was any less amazing and appreciated. (Of course, I also told him that he should use some of those metaphorical skills in his high school English class. What can I say? Once a mom, always a mom.)
After I returned from my time at the beach, ensconced in suburban schedules and deadlines, I was reminded again about the poignancy of early sunsets.
One of my best friends was friends with the Chicago-area man recently swept away by waves of that same Lake Michigan, as he valiantly and instinctively ran into the choppy water to save two children caught in a powerful current. A skilled physician who had a special gift for healing children, he, too, was taken in a way that just wasn’t right
There have been other reminders in recent weeks about fickle, cruel fates. A young mother of two also courageously battling cancer, surrounded by love and family and buoyed by faith as her horizon drew closer. A colleague who was returning home from a business trip to learn that her husband had been involved in a terrible accident, left in critical condition with devastating internal injuries.
My takeaway from these recent tragedies has been a newfound resolve to savor what I have been blessed with in own life, whether it’s the chance to watch a spectacular sunset or spend more time away from intruding phones. I have also pledged to tell family and friends just how important they are to me.
“Life is short,” we declare, whenever we make a decision to get off the merry-go-round for a bit. ~.
I say that we need to invoke that phrase more often and feel less guilty when we do so.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s an inner tube in a cool pool that’s calling my name as summertime slips away. And a bright, shining sun above it.