Have you ever written a name in the sand?
This morning, on a beach far from home, I stood in the early morning light. The sun was beginning to warm the sand, gentle waves lapping at the shore. The beach was almost empty, the sea clear and calm. It was so peaceful. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, the sun on my cheeks as I raised my face to the sky. And in that moment of stillness, I felt her with me, my heart full of love for the baby I never got to bring home. It’s where I find her most often now, in my rare moments of quiet, especially when I’m somewhere so beautiful.
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I bent down to write her name at the water’s edge, as I have done so many times before. It became a ritual in my early days of grief, a need to write it over and over, wherever I could. As if it would somehow keep her real when she seemed as fragile as a dream. Etched in the sand at a beach has been my favourite place to see those five special letters. It has never mattered that the waves washed them away. Her name would linger in the memories of those who saw it. And even if nobody happened to glance at that single word in the sand, in writing her name, she became part of the beach, as she is part of this world, and nothing can ever wash that away.
In the months and years since she died, my little girl’s name has been lovingly written in the sand on beaches around the world. Her name has been written by me and by those who have come to know her and her story. Some have sent me photos, and I have kept every single one. Those images help to calm my greatest fears: that she will be forgotten or that because five years have passed since she was alive, she somehow no longer matters.
And so on the beach this morning, I bent down to write Maeve’s name. I love to create those letters: A sweeping M. An extra wee flair on the v. I stood back to admire my creation before the waves carried her away. I thought of the many other babies I have come to know since she died, those special little ones who couldn’t stay in their parents’ arms. I started writing their names too, side by side along the beach. A roll call of loss. A register of remembrance.
The water began to steal my words as I made my way along the sand. With each name, I paused to think of its owner, of their warrior parents and a life gone too soon. There were so many names. My back began to ache, my heart heavy and my eyes full of tears, stinging with the injustice of this world in which so many babies die. I drew a heart for the little ones whose names I don’t know, sending my love across the seas to those aching with the pain of their loss.
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Perhaps it’s something you could try?
If you find yourself on a beautiful beach, the weight of grief upon your shoulders? Or if you know someone whose heart aches with the pain of loss, you could maybe take a few minutes to mark their existence. For a name written carefully in the sand says “I remember” and is a gift of great love.
Image credit: Author’s own