Childlessness is like the sea, it’s always there
The hot air of a truly British heatwave shimmers over the Cornish coastline. The cloudless blue sky melts into the horizon, filling the sea and making it even more blue. Flecks of dusky pink are reflected in the calm water, hinting at the deep red sunset yet to be unveiled. Looking to my right I watch the remaining families play in the sand, celebrating the gift of a balmy summer evening in England, squeals of laughter carried by the gentle, warm breeze as the turquoise water strokes the soft sand, the sky, crystal clear and celebrating.
I turn my head and my thoughts back to where I am, rejoining the crowd of people sitting around me on a patchwork of blankets and towels stretching across the sand. Some new friends, some I’m yet to speak to, and Dave sat next to me. In my hand is a sheet filled with song lyrics, God songs, printed words of praise calling me to join them. In front of me the strings of guitar, banjo and violin begin to play and voices join with them, songs of praise drifting up into the warm, salty air. Instead of lifting my eyes up, I look down to my feet and slide my toes into the sand, feeling its coolness and watching the soft grains peppered with pieces of broken shell slide over the top of each foot. I want to sing but there are no words of praise to be found within me, so I let the rhythm of the guitar and the the waves of gathered voices carry mine with them, disconnecting my heart from the words leaving my mouth. I think about God briefly, wondering if he knows the words I’m singing are merely a mask covering my mute heart, and then I remember He is God, of course He knows.
The music softens, the singing replaced by words of prayer and praise. I listen politely but know I cannot join them, for my voice comes from a different place. Praise floats up into this perfect summer’s evening. I close my eyes, allowing my weary body to be carried by these hearts full of faith and hope and deep, deep joy. The guitar and banjo continue to play, then the violin joins them, dancing over the chorus of another song of worship to the creator. I long to stay here forever, my soul lifted by the trio of stringed instruments and the gentle rhythm of the glistening tide on its eternal journey, but I know I need to tend to my own heart and the place I find myself in right now. I get up slowly and quietly, turning to walk away from the group, gently resting my hand on Dave’s shoulder reassuring him I’m okay. I leave my new friends sat on the sand singing folk songs and God songs, the string medley washing around me as I walk to the water’s edge. On my journey towards the tide I notice a beautiful sea-weathered shell, soft lines curving over it, dusky pink fading to white. I bend down to pick it up, brushing the damp sand away to inspect its pattern more closely. I stroke it’s smooth surface, tracing the lines with my finger before placing it safely into the pocket of my long, turquoise patterned skirt. Then I find a mussel shell, unharmed by the power of the sea it came from. It’s vibrant blue and black lines shouting out amongst the pastel yellows and pale blues of the seaside. I bend down again to collect it, salt water creeping up and curling over my toes. I continue my journey along the growing tide line with the music gently following me as I search for more shells, studying each one before carefully storing it in my skirt pocket, rejoicing in each new discovery, knowing that soon they will be hidden again, covered by the depths of the sea and the secrets it holds. Walking along the freshly drenched sand, rescuing shells from the encroaching tide, I think about our baby daughter and how beautiful she would have been and how much I would have loved her. I imagine holding her, watching her play, watching her smile, then holding her once again, my heart bursting with love for her. I dust the sand off one last shell found glistening in the dusky pink light of the most perfect sunset, and place it in my pocket. I feel the weight of my skirt hanging off my hips, the lightweight fabric carrying a priceless treasure. I slide my hand into my pocket, salty fingertips searching through my carefully curated collection of shells, each one a reminder of the eternal journey of the sea, rising, then retreating once again to reveal the beauty of life hidden within it. I lift my eyes up from the golden path beneath my feet and look out across the glittering ocean, the warm light of the sunset reflected onto my face. I love the sea, I love its presence, its power and its depth, holding more salt water than I could ever cry.
Childlessness is like the sea,
It’s always there
When the pain becomes more acute
and the grief overwhelms
The tide rises,
covering the open space of the beach and the rocks.
As the tide goes out,
the pain subsides,
the voice of grief becomes quieter,
and a spacious place opens up
Providing space to play and explore
This pattern of life continues to ebb and flow.
The years go by
And still the sea is there,
The angry waves crashing down,
The tide filling the space,
Then rising once again.