Of Sunshine and Seasides and Hope – A Photo Essay

See that girl in the pink?
She is the best medicine in our lives just now,
and we had ourselves a good, healthy dose yesterday.
Last week’s visit to my mom was hard,
and the road ahead will continue to be so. 
This end-of-life journey will be fraught with 
confusion and loss
and I will hate it.
A lot.
I am talking to God about it,
often yelling while I do,
but also coming back round to center,
remembering that no matter how lost
my mother feels to me,
she is never lost to God.

So. Yesterday was a school holiday for our girl,
and we were given the gift of being with her.
She sprang through our door about 8:45 a.m.,
dressed from head to toe in HOT pink,
complete with sequins lining the pockets of her fleece jacket.
A new outfit from Target, picked out by herself. . .
and of course, it had to be pink.
And not just pink, but PINK
We pulled out the Lego bins, filled with
colorful bricks that once belonged to her dad,
and she dug in with gusto.
Almost three hours for this 7-year-old
of creating, disassembling, re-arranging
and fun. 
I sat at the table, 10 feet away,
reading blogs and email,
 enjoying her easy company and occasional conversation.
Then we piled into the car about noon,
and headed out to the wharf.
It was a stunning day.
Crystal clear, about 60 degrees, 
with warm sun on our shoulders.
We went to the local Sea Center,
a small marine museum, featuring exhibits
about the creatures which inhabit these coastal
waters in the Santa Barbara channel.
This is a very bright girl,
eternally curious and actively engaged with 
whatever is going on around her.
From tiger sharks to sea stars,
from restless Garibaldi to the breathtaking view 
out the back wall,
she explored it all.
In the ‘wet room,’ where buckets are dropped 
directly into the ocean through a large hole
in the wharf,
she watched, intrigued,
as several students older than she
put the contents of a bucketload through a 
sifter and then a microscope.
Upstairs was a small exhibit of jellyfish,
those brainless creatures of grace and transparency.
You can just make her out to the left of
the observation window, 
momentarily entranced.
Against a very dark wall, there was a slide
of moving shapes and colors
and Gracie wanted a picture in front of it.
A little bit too dark, however, 
and the flash obliterated the slide on the wall.
In the upstairs gangway, there was a small puppet theater,
which enraptured her. 
She had such fun entertaining us with
each and every one.
One look at this sweet girl’s face
and all the sadness just sort of lifted
away like a cloak,
dropping to the floor around me.

This guy apparently inflicted some pain!
But the dolphin was sweet as could be.
We took her to lunch at Longboard’s about 90 minutes later.
She loves the peanut barrel there,
where you can scoop up as much as you want,
eat as much as you want, and —
wait for it! —
toss all the peanut shells right onto the deck!
How cool is that??
We finished our adventure with a trip to the
ice cream shoppe –
single scoop of Cotton Candy on a sugar cone, please.
It even matched her outfit.
She ate every last bite, too —
without spilling a drop on her new outfit —
until that very last bite, when the cone
broke. . . and there was a bright blue
spot in the middle of all that pink.
As we sat in the sun, enjoying our ice cream,
this catamaran came within about a stone’s throw,
gliding through the sea,
loaded with inquisitive tourists,
eager to view the coastline and enjoy
their afternoon on the water.
I took a deep breath, trying to capture the moment.
A beautiful grandchild – one of eight such
magnificent gifts in our life.
A spectacular day – in a magnificent location.
And we get to live here,
fifteen minutes from this girl and her sister.
The older kids live one to three hours south of here,
so these are the kiddos we see most often
and are graced to care for from time to time.
This, this is gift.
And I am grateful.
And for a while, as the sun shone down,
and the water sparkled,
and the glory-girl grinned her toothless
grin at me while her Poppy watched with love —
for a while, that hurting place in my heart
was healed right over.
Thank you, Gracie, for being you:
God’s gift to all of us.

Signing on with Michelle DeRusha, Jen Ferguson, Laura Boggess and Ann Voskamp. Sad to say good-bye to Seedlings in Stone this week – but trust that Laura Barkat’s fine work will continue to show up in some other sparkling setting – I know it will show up at TSP!


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  1. Just makes us so happy for you. We relate to both the pain and the joy. Blessings. J&J

  2. Thanks, guys. I know you know this – all of this.

  3. A beautiful child, and a lovely recount of an absolutely beautiful day. What joy!

  4. Amen to that – thanks for stopping by!

  5. Sadness and joy intertwined. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thanks for coming by, Carolyn. And yes, life is constantly that curious mix of sadness and joy, isn’t it?

  7. On being “grand” – what joy! xox

  8. oh her toothless smile…and I love that you call her good medicine…this is exactly how I see my grandlove…especially as my daughter went through a miscarriage…that little one was medicine for our souls…thanks for sharing this~blessings~

  9. Amen, Patricia. Amen.

  10. This sweet girl – and her boy cousin, the youngest of our SIX boys – were born one month and one day apart 7 years ago, when we were in the midst of the most difficult thing we as a family have ever walked through – the illness and death of our son-in-law. So they – and this girl’s little sis – have been absolute balm for us, a daily reminder of grace and goodness and hope. So thankful you’re enjoying your gift, too, Ro. Sure adds a rich, good layer to getting older, doesn’t it??

  11. What a beautiful blessing she is to you in this difficult time. Thank you for sharing those pictures so full of life.

  12. You are welcome, Lori – thanks for stopping by and leaving words of encouragement.

  13. Look at those teeth (or lack thereof)! This entire day looks like just the perfect Medicine. Perfect.

  14. Yup – it pretty much was. Even the tiredness at the end of such a day has a completely different quality to it than the fatigue I had been feeling all weekend after being with my mom.

  15. God is so good to give us multiple people in our families–ones to soothe the hurt and hurting ones to love.

  16. Yes, Megan – the mix is a gift. I am grateful.

  17. Diane, this makes my heart so happy and fills my eyes with tears at the same time. What a gift in the midst of such aching. It’s such a wonder this holding moments giving thanks and letting go again. Thank you for your writing about it here.

  18. Also, that picture with the hermit crab puppet is priceless!

  19. Thanks so much, Annie, for taking the time to read and scan these words and pictures – and then leave such kind words.

  20. Yup – it is one of my favorites. And that girl is priceless, too.

  21. What a pinkalicious day with your sweet Gracie. Wouldn’t it be a wonder to have your Gracie and my Gracee together? Maybe one day. Maybe in heaven. I’m so glad you got to make such memories with her. She will cherish these times.

    My heart aches with you for your mom. Yes, she’s not lost to God, but still these days of grieving her gradual loss hurt. Hurt big. Love you friend.

  22. Carol J. Garvin says

    Such wonder in a child’s smile! I especially love that toothless grin… our eight-year-old granddaughter is missing the same three top teeth, with the fourth barely hanging on, and she can’t wait for it to go so she can “talk funny”.

    Your time with her was obviously a God-gift, so needed at what is a very difficult time for you. I lost my mom relatively suddenly (one month from cancer diagnosis to death) and that was hard, but I lost my dad years later from Alzheimer’s and then a final stroke, and I decided that was much harder. It’s a blessing to be sustained by other family joys along the journey.

  23. It was a lovely day – and we’ll get those Graces together in heaven for certain sure. :>)

    Yesterday, mom walked right into a wall on the way to breakfast. By last night, she had NO memory of doing so but did admit her head was a little sore. But then, she’s been claiming a sore head from a very slight fall in the beauty parlor where she lives back in JANUARY. So who knows?

  24. Thank you, Carol – for these lovely words and for taking the time to leave them here. I find this age to be just delightful – they’re old enough to make and appreciate jokes, they love life and learning and they’re seldom moody or irritable. Perfection.

    And yes, I think I might find a relatively rapid time from diagnosis to death easier to deal with – but then I have friends who are still struggling with regret and loneliness and grief because there was no time for it then. Either way, losing a loved parent is rough. Thanks so much for your kindness.

  25. Diana, rejoicing with you for the gift of grandchildren and toothless grins and the opportunity to paint the world PINK. And I am thankful that you are able to grab hold of these moments in the midst of such heartache. Grace and peace on your head, dear friend.

  26. Thank you, Holly. I am grabbing what I can these days. :>)

  27. Tara_pohlkottepress says

    oh my goodness. she is just adorable. but more than that the love that you have for one another came shining through. So sorry for the hard with your mom. Life is full of these hard and soft places, no? i hope you have many more days full of hot pink 🙂 {my daughter does the pink thing too, i don’t understand it, but i smile because she likes it…}

  28. Thanks, Tara. She is adorable – and smart and fun and thoughtful, too. And we are grateful to be near enough to see her with some frequency. And you’re right – life is full of hard and soft, fun and frustrating, sad and joyous. Keeping upright in the midst of it is what we’re called to do, I think.

  29. I am jealous for my kids, of the way you revel in your grandgirl – they don’t have anyone in their lives who loves them like that 🙁

    She is just lovely! Have you come across a book called Double Pink, by Kate Feiffer? It’s a kids storybook that I got for my daughter when she was about the same age, going through the same pink phase!
    I am glad you get to have the ‘happy tired’ in the midst of the ‘sad tired’.

  30. We are blessed to live so close to all our grandkids – but especially to this girl and her younger sister as they’re only 15 minutes away. Is that book in the Pinkalicious series?? I’ll look for it – thanks for the tip!