April 2, 2013

Embracing Life

You've all heard of flash fiction. But what about flash non-fiction?

I watched a surf movie today and it took me back to those days when I surfed. I wanted to write a flash non-fiction piece, so here it is.


I step out onto the cold grit. The soles of my bare feet press into the forgiving sand and a calm washes over me. I know this piece of earth and it knows me. It’s my sanctuary. It’s my home.

Wind pushes against me, sending goose bumps all over my body. It tries to send me back to where I came from. But I won’t give into it. This is where I belong.

I shift my board under my arm to get a better grip, and walk forward.

The ocean roars as it sends another wave to the shore. The white water reflects in the last light of the lingering moon.
My toes dig deeper when I step onto wet sand. It’s like ice. Another flash of goose bumps cover my body.

The water pushes a layer of froth to my feet. The cold bites when it collides with my skin. I let out a puff of air and my muscles tense. It’s crazy cold. What was I thinking?

Out in the black ahead, another wave roars when it slams into itself. It’s taunting me. It knows I can’t resist it. I need it.

I take a deep breath and run into the water. Each step feels like glass. It's hard to breathe.

When I get knee deep, the water meets its match—my wetsuit. Now, it’s not nearly as bad. And the bottom half of my legs are already going numb.

I can totally do this.

I get waist deep and lay my board beside me. A dying wave of white water runs at me and shoves me back a few steps. I plant my feet, grip my board on both sides, and spring off the ocean floor. My body slides onto my board, landing in its spot.

Months of surfing have molded this board to me. There are tiny indents where my boobs lay when I paddle out, and there’s a larger impression where my butt sits when I’m waiting for a set. This board knows my curves better than any man ever has.

I dig my arms into the water and my board glides ahead, effortlessly.

The waves have stopped for a second. This means I have to push hard or I’ll get stuck paddling through a set. I know it’s bound to happen, but I’m not ready to eat salt just yet.

Every muscle in my body is being used, keeping me on the board and moving me through the water.

The water pulls below me. A wave is building just ahead. I have to get past it before it peaks.

I swim with all my strength, alternating my arms.

Faster. Harder. Don’t stop. Almost there.

My board slides over the hump and the wave charges out behind me.

I’m here. I made it to the other side.

I take a deep breath and let it out slowly as I push up on my board and take my seat. My legs straddle my board and my feet swirl below in teeny circles to keep my balance. The show’s about to begin. I made it just in time.

Above me, thousands of stars have come to watch too. And I’m all too aware of the many things below that have shown up as well. But I can’t think about the dangers stalking underneath. I won’t let the fear of death keeping me from embracing life.

I beat death once. I still carry the invisible scars. But I’m stronger now. I’m free now. The chains that weighed me down were broken the day I defied death. It took nearly dying for me to learn how to live. But I understand life now. And that’s why I’m here.

A sliver of orange light peaks over the horizon.

A smile rises on my lips and I breathe deep.

Like a masterpiece being painted before my eyes, the horizon fills with yellows and oranges that grow into reds as the sun sneaks up into the sky. It’s so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes.

It’s something no picture could ever capture because it’s not just the colors. There’s so much more. It’s all God’s instruments coming together in perfect harmony. The cold water that cradles me; the fresh, morning breeze that meets the salty sea and creates a smell no candle could ever contain; the seagulls that sing from the skies; the ocean that hums with its deep bass voice. They are all a part of this living masterpiece. And I’m a part of it as well.

Too quickly, the sun rises high, covering all the stars in a blanket of blue.

But that’s okay. It just means it’s time to go dance on the waves.

I close my eyes. Thank you, Lord for this beautiful day. Amen.

I grab the top of my board and whip it around to face the waves behind me.

This is living.

April 1, 2013

Losing your best friend


Every year, April Fools Day comes and goes. It's a day of jokes and laughs and most people seem to enjoy the humor it brings out in everyone.

I don't ever participate.

It's not because I don't have a good sense of humor. And it's not because I don't enjoy a good practical joke.

It's because today, 17 years ago, my best friend died.

Let's back track.

I'll never forget the night that bonded me to Cheryl. I can't remember exactly how old I was, maybe eight, but I do remember the conversation.

We were riding in a church van. It was dark and we were traveling to some sort of church function, I don't remember what it was either. All I remember is HER.

She was a soft spoken, thin girl who looked about my age. She sat next to me in the back row and like most young girls, it didn't take long before we were chatting and giggling like old friends.

After a little time had passed, and it was clear a friendship had been formed, she asked, "Can you keep a secret?"

My eyes grew big. Even at that age, I knew by her tone and facial expressions, she had a HUGE secret. And while I could keep a secret, I was terrified it might be one of those really bad secrets that you're supposed to tell adults. In that moment I had to make a decision whether or not I wanted to carry the burden of her secret.

I slowly nodded my head.

"I have a disease," she whispered.

My heart fell to the my feet. "What kind?"

"It's called Cystic Fibrosis."

I shrugged, having never heard those words before. "What is it?"

"It's in my lungs. It makes it hard for me to breathe."

Tears formed in my eyes, but I refused to let them fall. One question lingered in my mind. The question. But I couldn't ask it.

I think she sensed my hesitation. She shook her head. "Oh don't worry, you can't catch it. I just don't tell people because they all treat me different."

That wasn't the question on my mind, but I let her think it was. "I won't tell anyone. I promise."

It was a promise I kept, though it wasn't long before I realized her secret wasn't really a secret. Every adult knew, and in time, all of us kids knew too.

But, Cheryl was easy to love and she didn't have trouble making friends.

When I was in sixth grade, I went to a very small, private school with Cheryl. There were nine of us in the entire school!

I loved getting to spend so much time with her, but there were many weeks when Cheryl was absent because she was in the hospital.

My mom told me one day that Cheryl probably wouldn't live much longer.

It was the answer to the question I'd had so many years ago, as a little girl who wondered if her new friend was going to die.


One day, a group of us (11yo-13yo) were walking down the road and one of the boys pulled out a cigarette and lit it up. He asked if anyone wanted a cig. Like any wanna-be-cool sixth grader, I perked up and said, "Sure."

Cheryl stormed off.

The next day Cheryl wouldn't even look at me. It broke my heart. We'd NEVER had a fight before!!!

The first chance I got, I cornered her in the bathroom, while she was on the toilet and no one else was in there. "Why aren't you talking to me?" I asked.

"Like you don't know."

"What?" I puffed. "I have no clue what I did to make you so mad. Was it the cigarette?"

"YES!" she yelled.

"It's just a cigarette. That's no reason to be mad at me!"

She flushed the toilet and came storming out of the stall, her face red. "How can you say that! I'm going to die because I don't have good lungs. And YOU have perfect lungs and you're messing them up!"

My eyes flooded with tears. It hadn't even crossed my mind to put the two together.

I sniffed and wiped away a stray tear that rolled down my cheek. "I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking. I won't do it again." I couldn't bear the thought of hurting her feelings. How could I have been so stupid?

She smiled and threw her arms around me.

That was the only fight we ever had, in over five years of friendship.

A year later, on April 1st, she went to be with the Lord.

There are so many more stories like this I could share about the times I spent with Cheryl. She was a light in my life. She was wise beyond her years. She often spoke of Jesus and Heaven and I don't doubt for a second, she is with the Lord now.

At such a young age, she understood more about life and death than most people ever do. She knew her life would be short. She loved well. She lived well. And she taught this little girl so much about what it is to be human.

Every year, on this day, I remember the amazing person she was, and I thank God for the time He gave me with her. The way she lived, loved, and died taught me more than words ever could!

"I love you, Cheryl. I miss you. And I will see you again."