Dolphins Help Heal a Mother’s Broken Heart

Our family started our year of nomadic living last May, in a little condo across the street from Strand Beach in Dana Point, CA. It was heavenly, truly. I had a profound experience there, which has grown even more significant with our family’s own loss in the past month.

One evening (Tuesday, May 7, to be exact—important later in the story), I got a last-minute hankering to take some photos of the sunset. So I abruptly left my family—and my cell phone—and ran down to the beach.

I was totally worth it, because shortly after I took this photo:

I saw this:

My first thought was “Jaws,” but I quickly saw that there was more than one.

Not a shark—dolphins! Five of them. A little dolphin family!

We were totally blown away. (“We” being me and Random Lady Next to Me on the Beach, because I stupidly told my family to stay behind and hadn’t brought my cell phone. Oops.)
We bonded a bit, Random Lady and I. She lived nearby. She said she’d been walking the beach, thinking about her friend who had recently lost her son, and then these dolphins showed up. Random Lady said she sees dolphins here fairly frequently, but they don’t usually come that close to shore and don’t usually stay that long. 
They came REALLY close to the shore. Barely beyond the breakers. I could have run into the water and swum to them pretty easily, if the water wasn’t so cold and I wasn’t terrified to do so. 

 But seriously, look at where the sand is. They were right there in front of us.

So much guilt for my family missing this. But really glad I had the camera.

We watched them for a good half an hour, and Random Lady felt very strongly that she needed share the experience with the friend she’d been thinking about. She texted her to describe what we were seeing, and then talked to her on the phone while I kept snapping photos. Her phone was too slow to get any good pictures, so we exchanged e-mail addresses and I sent her some of my photos and a link to the post I wrote about the experience. It was neat to share a special moment with a perfect stranger.

A few days later, I got this message, which still makes my spine tingle:

Dear Annie,
My friend, Kelly, is the “random lady.” I will call her that for the rest of her life! I am also the mom whose son, Luke, died on April 23 up in Huntington Beach. He died on a Tuesday night and I found that on both the first Tuesday after he died (April 30) and then again this past Tuesday (May 7) I was really struggling to keep it together. Luke is the oldest of 5 and has left behind two sisters, ages 20 and 18 and two brothers, ages 13 and 11. I truly felt like Tuesdays were going to be Hell for the rest of my life. However, you and Kelly have changed that for me! She started texting me about the dolphins and I thought it was sweet, etc. She kept texting and so I called her. When I heard her voice I realized how special this night was. AND then, when I saw these pictures later in the evening I burst in to tears! These pictures are beautiful! We laughed at the one with the 5 dolphins together. The “oldest” one is jumping out of the surf; the two “sisters” are swimming together and the two “younger brothers” are along for the ride. These are my five kids and this is a gift that Luke sent to me so that I will now be able to celebrate Tuesdays instead of being afraid of Tuesdays. Thanks for running down to the surf. You can let your family know that you gave another family a great gift that night!

Sincerely, Becky



As if it wasn’t already humbling enough to watch these dolphins put on a show for us. At first I thought maybe I’d coincidentally left my family and forgotten my cell phone because this was meant to be a special moment for me, but it wasn’t. If my family had been there, I probably wouldn’t have talked to Kelly, she wouldn’t have gotten the pictures, and Becky wouldn’t have seen that photo that helped heal a piece of her broken heart. 
You just never know when you’re going to play a role in someone else’s story. I’ve been thinking about Becky this month and wondering how her grieving process has gone. I’m reminded again how beauty weaves its way through tragedy, and how we are connected to one another in ways we can’t even fathom.  
So many mysteries in this crazy, beautiful life. 

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

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