We were standing on the beach, just hours from our final stop, Disney World. We were soaking up the last moments of salty air, sandy toes, and listening to the sound of the waves. I was trying to enjoy the moment, but was also stressed and saddened that my husband was missing it.
You see, like most family road trips, something usually goes awry. For us, it was a pesky flat tire. A simple fix, but it meant that instead of enjoying the last few hours on the beach, my husband was stuck in a tire shop waiting on the repair to be completed. Not ideal, but also not chaostrophic.
I stood on the beach watching all three of my children run carelessly. Enjoying the wind, the waves, and the freedom. Looking around, it seemed we were the only ones on the beach. It was near perfect. It was beautiful.
But in beauty, I often find myself grieving the loss of my mother. I find myself caught up in the reality that she misses moments like this with us. I found myself aching for her and searching for her in the sunrise. I found myself tearful and joyful all at the same time. Joyful of the smiles on my children’s faces, and tearful that my mother wasn’t here to see it, as she should be.
I stood in the sand praying silent prayers.
And just like that, an answered prayer arrived. It came in the form of an old lady’s voice, lightly telling me that she’d take a picture of me with my children. She must have seen me taking endless amounts of photos of them frolicking around the beach and thought I should be in one.
After the small startle of her voice, I called back to her, thanking her for the offer but declining the photo opp with my kids. If there was ever a time I didn’t want to be photographed it was now. Straight out of bed, emotional eyes, distressed hair, and an outfit that could be confused for pajamas.
She refused to accept my rejection and insisted that we get together and smile for the camera. I am not the kind of woman to ignore a gentle old lady, so I gathered the kids and instructed them to smile. We all listened as this sweet lady counted down from 3 and then snapped a picture.
As she handed my camera back, she looked at me with kind and compassionate eyes. Looking intently at me like she had just seen an old friend. She grabbed my hand, and said, “May I pray for you? I feel called to pray for you in this moment.” It left me speechless. The tears were flowing before I could answer her question. All I could do was shake my head yes.
I had been standing on that beach, praying for my mother. Knowing it was a prayer that couldn’t be answered. But I prayed anyway, and somehow, it was. My mother wasn’t there, but her spirit was flowing through this stranger that stood in front of me. I’m not always as faithful as my mother. I’m not always the truest believer, but in this moment it could not be denied. I could feel the comfort and love of this stranger, and I knew it was an answered prayer.
She sweetly prayed over me, our family, and our upcoming trip. I explained that this trip was the last gift made by my mother. I told her how I had been praying for my mother, and missing her fiercely in the very moment I heard her voice. I shared a brief sample of our story and explained why the tears were flowing so freely. After pouring my soul, she poured hers. She explained why she was on that beach and where she’d be traveling to after. She shared pieces of her story, both samples of her struggles and also her joy.
We stood there on that beach, holding hands, just the way I used to with my mother, and we were strangers. Strangers connected by the power of prayer. Strangers connected by the stories on our hearts.
It wasn’t a lengthy visit. It was simple and quick. But there on that beach, holding hands with a stranger, I was reminded of my faith. I was a believer again. I felt God. I felt my mother. I felt hope.
I will never forget that prayer. I will never forget that woman. And I will never underestimate the power of a stranger.
A wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.