The sky was full of clouds but in a nice way. The way that made sitting down in the sand bearable on a summer day. I stared wistfully out into the gray-blue horizon and allowed my mind to be mesmerized by the sound of the crashing waves.
“It’s beautiful out there.”
My body jerked out of its stupor as I looked up at a short older woman standing beside me with a paddleboard and oar in her hand. She smiled wide and sat down beside me.
“Yea, it is. A bit choppy, though,” I remarked.
“Ah, that makes it even better. What’s life without a little choppiness?”
Her laughter felt hearty like it came from somewhere deep and celestial. “A smooth life isn’t living, darling” she lifted her head and took a deep breath in. “Life is meant to be lived, with fullness, and spice, and risk. “
I shrugged. “Sure, but it doesn’t hurt to be careful.”
“My child, you still have so much to learn about this life. I have experienced so much, and yet there are many things I will never experience. My life has been lived fully and not always carefully.”
“But haven’t you made mistakes when you weren’t careful?”
“Maybe. But some of the most beautiful parts of my life came from these so-called mistakes. So were they really mistakes or events that at the time the world around me did not recognize as destiny?”
She stood up and brushed some of the sand off her decadent chocolate skin.
“I have to go now.”
“Wait!” I reached up to her, surprising myself. “I still have questions for you.”
“Don’t worry yourself with questions about me. Go and live and trust that the Lord will take care of you.”
Pausing, I observed as she squinted her eyes and looked out at the horizon. Why did I feel so nervous about her going? She was a stranger. Yet, something about her seemed intriguing and strangely familiar.
“I don’t even know who you are?”
Smiling, she looked down at me.
“Remember to take care of yourself, and don’t sit here moping around like this, okay my darling?”
She walked forward, and as the waves kissed her toes, she turned to me and grinned.
“Where are you going?” I shouted, cocking my head to the side.
“Forward. To live.” Was her response as she thrust her fist up in the air and stood atop her sky blue paddleboard. I could hear the whish of her oar in the ocean, in opposition to the waves.
She turned back to me with a crooked smile and a quick wave.
Everything in me wanted to run after her. But it felt like something was holding me down. Cupping my hands around my mouth, I yelled after her, “I don’t think this is a good idea!”
“Yes, let your soul be free!” She shouted back as she steadily paddled farther away.
“That’s not what I said!” I yelled back, but she couldn’t hear me. “That’s not what I said,” I muttered to myself.
The woman was further out now. Her grey hair blew behind her in the wind as she battled wave after wave.
“Where are you even going,” I said to no one in particular as I began to feel bothered about the whole situation. I didn’t know this lady, yet I felt responsible for her like she was someone important to me. I could see her gray hair still flowing with the wind in the distance. I looked down at the sand and began to draw random lines.
She sure had some strong muscles to be able to stand and paddle for that long.
My heart started racing as I glanced at the waters.
I couldn’t see her anymore. I scrambled up and ran to the shoreline to get a better look. She was gone. I tried to see if I could see her head bobbing up out of the water or her paddleboard, but the ocean seemed empty. The wind stilled, seas had calmed down, and even the sky had cleared.
I dashed up to the lifeguard stand, screaming and sobbing for help. He ran out with a float and headed in the direction I last saw her. After about 15 minutes, he came out empty-handed and began to call for a boat.
The boats came, and after about two hours of searching, they also came up empty-handed. No trace of her. The police arrived and took my statement, and asked a couple of questions.
“What was she wearing?”
“Um, a colorful swimsuit.”
“What did she look like?”
“She was a little darker than me, with wide mystical eyes.”
“Yes, they were beautiful; you could have gotten lost in them.”
The officers shared a glance.
“Okay. How old was she?”
“I don’t know, I just met her, I don’t even know her name!”
“How old did she look?”
I pictured the lady standing next to me. “She…she looked old enough to be my grandmother.”
“Okay, you’re not going to get in any trouble, but we just need to make sure. Have you taken any drugs in the last couple of hours?”
I felt my jaw drop. “What? No! Do you think I’m crazy? I saw her! I spoke to her.”
“We’re not saying you didn’t, but the lifeguard said he never saw anyone talking to you.”
I felt my head get hot and looked back at the ocean.
“Is there someone we can call to pick you up?”
“No, no. I’m okay, I’m just going to take a walk. This is all too much for me.” I walked away from them as quickly as I could and kept walking in the sand until all I wanted to do was run.
When I got back to my original spot, everyone had left, and it was just me and the ocean again. Sitting down, I began to contemplate what happened.
There was no way I made the whole thing up. I saw her. Something gleamed in the distance, and I looked around. There she was, standing on her paddleboard, waving at me. I shook my head and turned around to look for the lifeguard again, and thought better of it.
She looked happy, and as far away as she was, I felt her warmth and smile like it was right inside of me.
I didn’t understand what was happening, but I was starting to realize that maybe it was okay.
Raising my hand, I hesitantly waved back and smiled. That’s when her voice rang clear in my head.
“That’s right; smile and know that I will always love you, my precious granddaughter.”
She turned around and paddled toward the horizon before disappearing into the sunset.
That was one of the most gorgeous sunsets I have ever witnessed.