Gifted again by the sea

I passed along a copy of “Gifts from the Sea,” to a friend of mine the other day.
A few weeks ago we had been at the funeral of a beautiful and dear young man who had taken his own life and as we grieved, we wondered about how his mother, or any mother, could ever survive such a loss.
Even as I write those words I know there are men  who will ask as they read this, what about the father’s loss? In deference to the different ways that men and women handle such horrific challenges, I must simply say that — as humans often do — we were trying to imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes. In this case, it was the mother of this amazing young man who broke so many hearts with his last decision.
Afterwards, I sent my friend a copy of “Gifts from the Sea,” the book by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a simple little book which I have read time and again to remind me of who I want to be and how I want to live.
I was drawn to Anne Morrow Lindbergh as a young mother who, once I met and fell in love with my children, could not imagine how I would ever survive should something to happen to them.
Lindbergh was the wife of the famed aviator, Charles. After his historic solo-flight across the Atlantic in 1927 he became a “rock star” of sorts, but he and Anne paid dearly for his fame when their infant son was kidnpped from his crib and brutally killed.
Anne went on to raise five children and in the process wrote this amazing little book about how to find peace and chaos in the insanity of today’s world. It is a book I return to again and again, because I continually forget the message and need to be reminded.
She wrote “Gifts from the Sea” while she was alone in an old cabin on a island, surrounded by the ocean. She had left her family behind for a few days and described the pain she felt at removing herself. She also wrote that she felt a great necessity to do so in an effort to stave off all the demands she, like so many woman, faced in her time, spinning like a wheel in the middle of so many complex relationships and tasks.
On her little island she sought a way to be a peace in the center of a wheel and noted that her central question was “how to remain strong no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub.”
Lindbergh offered no perfect solutions, but suggested, like so many others seeking wellness and wholeness, a simplification of life and a reverence for the ebbs and flows of peace and joy and sadness.
I didn’t know whether my friend would enjoy the book or not, but I noticed several walls in her home were covered with paintings of ocean scenes, so I hoped that the book might touch her as it has always touched me.
She wrote me shortly afterwards and said she was in the process of reading the book and was enjoying it very much. I was so grateful that she too seemed drawn to the gentle thoughts and words of a woman who had risen above the worst life has to offer and who had gone to the ocean to find peace.
I too feel drawn to the oceans. I think they are a magnificent representation of life, holding potential for disaster and destruction yet hypnotically beautiful and sacred in the sustenance of our lives.
Life is so much like an ocean. It can drop you to your knees or raise you up in amazing grace. We cannot always protect or save loved ones from their own decisions and sometimes there is horror in that. But, what we can all do is lovingly reach for connections with each other and share the guideposts of those who have already passed this way.


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