“Life Is Like a Moonlight Swim,” column for Aug. 6, 2013

Last night I went swimming in the moonlight. I do that every chance I get. I’ve swum at night in rivers and lakes and once in the ocean, though that time I kept thinking about sharks, and I can’t say it was much fun.

Night swimming is a different sort of pleasure from swimming by day. If you can’t see what’s in front of you, or behind or below, if you don’t know what might be lurking out of sight, it requires a substantial act of faith.

Even in a swimming pool in your own backyard. Who knows what could be hiding in there?

My husband loves to tell the story of how, as a boy, he and his buddies cannonballed into the deep end of the public pool one morning only to discover, just below them, a shark.

It was dead, dumped apparently the previous night by vandals. The fact that the boys didn’t know it was dead makes it a better story. That, plus the fact that the pool had to be closed for some, um, major cleaning.

I don’t worry much about sharks in my backyard. But what about birds or rabbits or, hepmejeezes, roaches? They fall in and drown, then float around dead waiting for me to find them. I feel for them, yes, but I do not want to find them.

Fear should never hinder us from things that make us happy. I’m proud to say it doesn’t stop me. I just make my husband go in first and skim the pool.

So there I was last night, floating in bath-warm water, with a breeze ruffling the palm trees, city lights in the distance, a sky full of stars, a fat desert moon and a good man nearby to scoop up floating carcasses.

I felt lucky. As well I should. Life is good and I am grateful.

There’ve been times in my life, as there may have been in yours, when I did not feel lucky at all, when I feared waking up to face some long-dreaded news.

The loss of a job. The end of a dream. The worry for a child. The anguish for a friend. The death of someone I couldn’t fathom living without.

Heartache, like happiness, is part of life. Live long enough, and you’ll likely see some of both. They tend to come in waves — uneven, unpredictable and entirely uncontrollable.

Some say it all balances out in the end. Maybe so. But I’ve known too many good people who seemed to get a lot more heartache than happiness.

What I remembered last night in the moonlight was something my stepfather once told me.

Our family had been through a “hard spell,” a 10-year ordeal of worry and waiting, hospitals and surgeries and long, sleepless nights, leading to the deaths, two years apart, of my mother and then my first husband.

Three years after the last funeral, we sat on his porch, my stepdad and I, enjoying a rare visit just for pleasure.

Cicadas sang in the hickory trees. Thunder rumbled off the mountain. Sweat rolled down my neck. Finally, he spoke.

“We’ve been through some hard times,” he said, steadying his voice, “but this is a good time right now in our family. Nobody’s got cancer. Nobody’s suffering. Everybody’s got work. We’re doing all right. It’s a good time. We need to remember it.”

Three years later, my brother would lose his wife to cancer. And two years after that, my stepfather would be gone.

At his funeral, and often since, just as I did last night, I thought of what he said to me on the porch. He was right. You can’t help noticing bad times; they scream for attention. But good times are easy to miss.

To see one clearly, you need to slow down, pay attention and watch closely. When you spot it coming, reach out and grab it. Hang on tight. Clutch it to your heart. Lift it up for all to see. Point it out like a shooting star, stand in awe and watch it shine.

Life is like a moonlight swim. Scary, yes. An act of faith, to be sure. But oh, what a pleasure.

This is a good time for my family. I need to remember it. I hope it is for yours, as well.

 

Comments

  1. Sharon,

    I don’t know how I got so far behind reading your columns, but I did. As I have told you before, I read your columns for inspiration and joy. I am never disappointed. And this column was simply amazing.

    Thanks so much,

    Bruce

  2. Sharon says:

    Tears aren’t my favorite way to start the day, but when they’re tears caused by reading this lovely piece, it’s all good. Just beautiful. Thank you for one I’m going to share with a few people today!

  3. terry lee says:

    I was cleaning up my “bookmarked favorites” tonight and found your blog, once again. No, of course I didn’t delete it! You have been and continue to be one of my favorite columnists. As the others have mentioned, you have such a special gift at getting to the heart of the matter, no matter what it might be. I am blessed to have re-found your blog tonight and to catch up on your posts. Oh, what an important reminder to cherish the “good” times we are given, something I’ve been working on a lot lately. Yes, I’ve lived long enough to experience my fair share of “hard spells”. But I’ve also been blessed beyond measure with the good times. Sharon, you are an inspiration. Keep writing, sister.

  4. Vickie Garrison says:

    Once again God has used the pen in your hand and the words in your heart to weave a beautiful column of thankfulness, and hope.

  5. Sydney Love says:

    Wow! That was awesome and just what I needed for the day. Thank you!

  6. RobynFrance says:

    Sharon–what a beautifiul column–the reminder to be grateful for the beautiful days is so important. Thank you!

  7. I sit in awe of your ability to write masterpieces week after week. You always manage to touch the sweet spot. God gifted you in a special way and you are using that gift very well indeed. Thank you for brightening my world with your perspective and unique blending of words and thoughts that are always uplifting and thought provoking.

    I hope and pray your pen never runs dry.

    Chet

  8. michael says:

    You should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

  9. Amanda says:

    Wow, I think this column may have been written just for me. I have had a rough few weeks, and today it just seemed like things were piling on. Thank you for lifting my spirits!!! I wish you and yours many good times ahead….

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