A sandpiper glided by.
She was six years old when I first met her on the beach
where I live. I drive to this beach, a distance of
three or four
miles, whenever the world begins
to close in on me. She was building a
sandcastle or something
and looked up, her eyes as blue as the
"Hello," she said. I answered with a nod, not really in the
to bother with a small child.
"I'm building," she said. "I see that. What is
I asked, not caring. "Oh, I don't know, I just like the feel of
"That sounds good, I thought, and slipped off my
"That's a joy," the child said. "It's a
"It's a joy. My mama says sandpipers come to bring us joy."
bird went gliding down the beach. "Good-bye joy,"
I muttered to myself,
"hello pain," and turned to walk on.
I was depressed; my life seemed
completely out of balance.
"What's your name?" She wouldn't give
"Ruth," I answered. "I'm Ruth Peterson."
"Mine's Wendy... I'm six."
She giggled. "You're funny," she said.
In spite of my
gloom I laughed too and walked on.
Her musical giggle followed me.
again, Mrs. P," she called. "We'll have another happy day."
The days and
weeks that followed belong to others:
a group of unruly Boy Scouts,
meetings, and ailing mother.
The sun was shining one morning as I took my hands out of
dishwater. "I need a sandpiper,"
I said to myself, gathering up my
The ever-changing balm of the seashore awaited me.
was chilly, but I strode along, trying to recapture
the serenity I needed. I
had forgotten the child
and was startled when she appeared.
P," she said. "Do you want to play?"
"What did you have in mind?" I asked,
with a twinge
of annoyance. "I don't know, you say."
"How about charades?"
I asked sarcastically.
The tinkling laughter burst forth again.
know what that is."
"Then let's just walk." Looking at her, I noticed the
fairness of her face. "Where do you live?" I asked.
She pointed toward a row of summer cottages.
Strange, I thought, in winter.
"Where do you go to school?"
"I don't go to school. Mommy says we're on
She chattered little girl talk as we strolled up the beach,
my mind was on other things.
When I left for home, Wendy said it had been a
Feeling surprisingly better, I smiled at her and
Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state of
near panic. I
was in no mood to even greet Wendy.
I thought I saw her mother on the porch
felt like demanding she keep her child at home.
"Look, if you don't
mind," I said crossly when Wendy
caught up with me, "I'd rather be alone
She seems unusually pale and out of breath.
"Why?" she asked. I
turned to her and shouted,
"Because my mother died!" and thought, my
why was I saying this to a little child?
"Oh," she said quietly,
"then this is a bad day."
"Yes, and yesterday and the day before and-oh, go
"Did it hurt? "
"Did what hurt?" I was exasperated with her, with
"When she died?" "Of course it hurt!" I snapped,
wrapped up in myself. I strode off.
A month or so after that, when I next
went to the beach,
she wasn't there. Feeling guilty,
ashamed and admitting
to myself I missed her,
I went up to the cottage after my walk and knocked at
A drawn looking young woman with honey-colored hair
opened the door.
"Hello," I said. "I'm Ruth Peterson.
I missed your little girl today and
wondered where she was."
"Oh yes, Mrs. Peterson, please come in"
talked of you so much.
I'm afraid I allowed her to bother you. If she
a nuisance, please, accept my apologies."
"Not at all-she's a
I said, suddenly realizing that I meant it.
she?" "Wendy died last week, Mrs. Peterson.
She had leukemia. Maybe she
didn't tell you."
Struck dumb, I groped for a chair. My breath
"She loved this beach; so when she asked to come,
we couldn't say
no. She seemed so much
better here and had a lot of what she called happy
But the last few weeks, she declined rapidly..."
"She left something for you...if only I can find it.
Could you wait a
moment while I look?"
I nodded stupidly, my mind racing for
anything, to say to this lovely young woman.
She handed me a
smeared envelope, with MRS. P printed
in bold, childish letters.
was a drawing in bright crayon hues-a yellow beach,
a blue sea, and a brown
Underneath was carefully printed:
A SANDPIPER TO BRING YOU
Tears welled up in my eyes, and a heart that had
almost forgotten to
love opened wide.
I took Wendy's mother in my arms. "I'm so sorry,
sorry, I'm so sorry," I muttered over and over,
and we wept
The precious little picture is framed now and hangs
study. Six words- one for each year of her life -
that speak to me of
harmony, courage, undemanding love.
A gift from a child with sea-blue eyes
and hair the color
of sand --- who taught me the gift of love.
I feel so very privileged to have Ms. Peterson email me
and thank me for telling her story so well.
"The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself
Here are some Sandpipers for your JOY! I hope they bring
fullfillment to your life as they did Wendys.
I also hope from this story you
take a look at how
you treat others and how you look at life. While your
life may not be perfect or what you had hoped,
you can usually make
the changes you need to, in order
to make it better, Wendy couldn't.
she did the best she knew how,
at that is really all any of us can
Here is a Sandpiper
Thank you for sharing your joy my husband and
"Don't be afraid your life will end,
afraid it will never begin."
© 1997-2012 Sharon
Back to Page
Laughter is Good
For The Soul
Deficit Hyperactive Disorder II
New Guestbook, Images allowed