Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer's Sunset

"The setting sun, and music at the close, As the last taste of sweets, is sweetest last, Writ in remembrance more than things long past." -- William Shakespeare

This picture of Mary Ashley, taken as the sun set on our family's recent beach vacation, makes my heart ache today. I remember so well how I felt that evening as we lingered on the beach. Knowing that our carefree, unhurried days were drawing quickly to a close, I pushed my feet into the sand, determined to soak up every last moment of summer sunshine. I sat on the beach for hours, watching the brilliant blue sky soften as the sun slid from view, leaving streaks of orange and purple in its path.
In the sunset's warm glow, the children gathered shells and built sand castles. Mary Ashley walked along the water's edge, dipping her toes into the surf and giggling as the foam lapped about her feet. I snapped this picture just before Mary Ashley turned and ran back down the beach to me. In that moment, I was struck by the beauty of her silhouette bathed in golden light.

Yet waves of emotion wash over me today as I look at this picture with tear-dimmed eyes. As the sun sets on Mary Ashley's preschool days, I find myself digging my heels in, wanting to catch the sands that slip so quickly through the hourglass. As she takes her first steps toward independence today on her first day of kindergarten, I put on a brave front. We talk about all the fun she will have in school as I fasten little apple buttons, and I smile as I tie red ribbons on the end of her braids. But hot tears bubble beneath the surface, and I know they will spill over as soon as she steps out of sight.

Looking at her picture now, I want to rush to her side, calling, "Come back! Come back! Please, don't grow up. Just stay here and be my little girl forever."

And yet I know she must grow. Time will not wait. And deep, deep down, I know that she is ready. She giggles as she dips her toes into kindergarten today, excited to embark on this new adventure.
That last night on the beach, I lingered long past sunset. The orange and purple sky deepened, and darkness seeped in -- moonlight casting a soft glow across the water as a million tiny stars twinkled overhead. And as much as I had longed to hold on to the fullness of the day, I recognized the beauty of the night. The cool of the evening brought tranquillity as the crowded beach cleared. Voices faded, and I could hear the gentle waves roll across the sea.

Today finds me quiet, too, as memories of my sun-kissed days with Mary Ashley roll through my mind. And I am so thankful. Because although the hush of evening allows us to ponder the past, it also reminds us that a new day dawns -- with the promise of new joys that await discovery.
So this afternoon when Mary Ashley runs into my arms after her very first day of kindergarten, I will smile, struck by the beauty of my child bathed in the golden glow of youth -- the promise of her future sparkling in her eyes. And I will thank God again for the privilege of being a mother, so blessed to share this journey with her little hand in mine.

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