She sat in a rocking chair on an outdoor balcony, gazing at the twinkling stars splashed across the sky. A bright, large October Harvest Moon cast a warm glow of light around her. The white caps of the ocean waves gently kissed the shore below as she watched them melt into the sand. The sea’s calming sounds were all that gently interrupted the quiet, serene fall evening.

“Lynn, I have never seen such a beautiful moon,” my mother said as she slowly rocked back and forth, never taking her eyes off the scene laid before her. I nodded my head in agreement. To this day, I, too, have never witnessed another evening quite as stunning and peaceful.

I knew as well as she did, it would be her last visit to the ocean. She was approaching the time of life when one never knows entirely when the end will come, but somewhere deep within both of us, we knew it wouldn’t be long.

I was surprised she agreed to go with our extended family on vacation to the white sands of the gulf that fall in 2007. But as I watched her relishing the extraordinary beauty, I was so thankful she was there.

That evening was a gift. I never return to the ocean without seeing her in my mind rocking back and forth, viewing God painting a canvas just for her.

In 2007 my granddaughter was a giggling toddler who, along with her elementary-age cousins, caused their great grandmother to laugh with glee. Mom’s dark brown eyes twinkled as she saw them chase each other in the sand or tease one another at dinner. The matriarch of our family was surrounded by those she loved, and we enjoyed making her happy.

Today, Mom is gone. She left not long after that beach trip to travel to heaven’s shores. The toddler is now a junior in high school, and today her cousins are grown men, carving their paths after college.

Life is full of stages. As time passes, I recognize, with clarity, how we go from one passage to another as the days fly by. We are ever-changing, seeing things we didn’t notice before and understanding that each road we take in life has its blessings and sorrows.

We watch as people come and go. We love, we lose, we fail or we triumph. We never know what a new day will bring or what another day will take away. Often life hurts and scars us, but we must not let it ever defeat us. Our passages from one stage to another are never easy, but we must travel through them to recognize the artistry God lays before us.

Often, near the end of my mother’s life, I noticed her speaking less and studying those around her more. By 2007, Mom had lost her only son and her husband. She was in her last stage of life. There was nothing more to teach, nothing more to say, and no task left to do. She had experienced all the passages and was thankful she had.

Today, perhaps we all need to travel to the beach and watch the sun mystically fall, and the Harvest Moon rise. Maybe we should settle ourselves down in a rocking chair and be quiet. Because I believe it is in those times when we recognize that the stars, the ocean, and the moon will be here long after we finish our last trip and complete our final stage.

Most of us will one day speak less and listen more as we pray for others to have a safe and productive life journey. In the end, our lives are summed up by what we left here in the hearts of those we watched go from one passage to another. How’d we do? Did we give all we had, teach all we could, and do so with a kind heart? Were we unselfish, did we aid others, did we help another to see the beauty of faith, and encourage those who struggled?

On my last trip to the ocean, I hope to hear my children laughing in the background as I watch the sun fall into the water while I quietly rock back and forth. I pray I will feel the peace my mother did, knowing she had given it all as God painted the perfect night in the glow of a beautiful Harvest Moon.

“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” Proverbs 27:19

Lynn Gendusa’s latest book is “Southern Comfort: Stories of Family, Friendship, Fiery Trials, and Faith.” She can be reached at www.lynngendusa.com.

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