Saturday, October 8, 2011

"Swept Away"

There was once a man who had seven beautiful daughters. He loved them equally but his fourth child gave him a special measure of joy. As they lived next to the beach, it was her practice from an early age to spend hours dancing on the sea wall. At the restaurant which he managed, he would make it a practice to watch sometimes as she danced mostly for an audience of screeching seagulls and hidden sea creatures. She would turn and bow, laughing as the salty water sprayed her face. She was not afraid.

She was not like the others. She went to school, of course, and had many friends. In fact, all who knew her felt as though they were her closest of friends. Her father felt this way, too. He thought to himself, "I am her favorite. She adores me above all others." If someone felt sad, she would join them in their sadness. If they expressed contentment, then she would share in that, too. Even when she was unable to dance due to illness or weakness, she made it her goal to "lift up at least one soul a day" helping others overcome their hardships. In her unique style she would say, "Let us ascend to the challenge and not despair, for hope will win the day!" Animals came to her unsolicited. She spoke their languages and they understood that she cared. People of every age simply liked to be near her. One elderly gentleman on our island, a wise man who knows about such things, thought her the kindest human being he had ever seen. In his words, she was "An old soul with wild, sun-blessed hair!" "Hair," he said, "that seemed to fill all who knew her with warmth and light." The father himself used to call her, "My little bodhisattva."

Even her family accepted that she was exceptional. There wasn't much envy or jealousy, and even when conflict arose (as it sometimes does in families), no one could stay cross with her for long. Her grace and wit simply wore them down (or built them up!) and before long all could be heard laughing once more. Her big sisters especially praised her and felt she could do no wrong, felt especially that she was meant to do only good. Only later would they learn how very much she thought of them. The eldest sister was her standard, her model of perfection, and she thought the second sister to be entirely and perfectly beautiful. Together, they were to her the ideal woman she hoped to one day become.

And then it happened one morning that a great and rogue wave came and assaulted the beach. Her father had been watching her dance upon the wall. She had just smiled at him and then cart wheeled, knowing the special gladness that that movement brought him. "So elegant" he thought. "So full of serenity and calm." He had just turned away when the sound came. Looking back, he saw in her face an expression of surprise, as if a friend had arrived earlier than expected and found her not quite ready to leave. Overcome by the water she loved, she tried to tame it, to charm it, just as she had all of life until now. She could see her father swimming toward her and she knew she was going to be okay. She thought, "My daddy will save me." She was not afraid. He fought the wave and all the sea to reach her, but when, finally, he held her nearest his heart, it was too late.

All the village wept. No one could recall such a wave. Town leaders called it "a fluke, a once-in-a-hundred-year's wave." Some offered that "evil exists and sometimes good people get caught by it." These were not comforting words. A few well-meaning religious people tried to comfort the father by saying that God somehow, "needed her." (They suggested this only once.) Many years went by and all the village went on with their lives. The father, however would not be consoled. For a long time he would stare at the empty sea wall and say quietly through his tears, "I am so sorry that I could not save you."

But he was a thinker. Indeed, he did nothing in this season of grief but spend his time at the restaurant thinking about thinking! How could such beauty and innocence simply vanish? And for what purpose?! Would it be enough that he had known her? That he had seen a vision empty of guile, that he had been witness to 5,000 days of grace? Can one be happy again after so terrible a loss? Should deep pain and emptiness keep one from loving again, from being there for all those who were not swept away?  After many days and many thoughts, he put his reflections aside with one, final insight: “Certainly, by now she would have wanted me to go on into this new stage of life."

Today, you can see him down by the beach, usually with a few grandkids in tow. Watch. Watch. He will lift the little ones up onto the sea wall, and there will be dancing. And he will smile, even laugh and remember. He has resolved to ascend. He is no longer afraid.

                "You belong to me, Not swallowed in the sea." ~Coldplay
        

                              
                                          



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