My earliest memories of the beach are of standing with my father at the water’s edge. Holding on to his hand, jumping and squealing, I learned that waves could be great fun, and that the white foam could tickle my toes and delight my spirit. I knew that Daddy would lift me high, above even the biggest breakers, and that I would end up in his arms, or carefully planted back on the sand. The ocean’s roar and the tumultuous movement of sand, shells, and seaweed were exciting. I felt joyful, and I felt safe.
As I grew, and became an independent pre-teen girl at the Jersey Shore, I chose a more adventurous way of tackling the surf, namely body surfing with my friends. The sea was our playground, where we somersaulted and splashed, and paddled fearlessly out toward the deep. We sized up the waves, deciding whether they were worthy of riding, or just “duds” lapping by.
But the more I rode waves alone, the more aware I became of their frightening power. I can vividly remember the first time a seemingly harmless “dud” caught me, dragged me, threw me, and pelted me with sand and debris. There was this period of time when I was in free fall underwater and could not think or act, breathe or communicate. I felt far away from my life above the water, and from the parents who now watched from chairs on the shore. I was terrified.
However, the loving and protective spirit of my father was still with me. Though I felt neither the joy nor the safety of our days at the water’s edge together, there was courage and a confidence in me that I had received from Daddy. Had I been able to see anything with my mind’s eye at that moment, it would have been Daddy in his orange swim trunks, smiling and giving me a thumbs-up.
I rode it out.
“Thank you, God, for your presence in all our moments. You lift us up and hold us tight. Empower us to share joy with all your children and to keep them safe. Amen.”