The beaches here in Ireland are unbelievable. The sand is soft, the scenery is breathtaking and the water is clear and sparkling. When the sun shines, that is. We have friends visiting with us right now and Tuesday was the day to spend at the beach.
Nick has always loved being near the shoreline. Sitting at the water’s edge, he likes to throw rocks or sticks into the waves, watching what happens. Sometimes the waves will bring the item back rolling up onto the sand. He laughs and laughs. This hasn’t happened for years.
Between his trouble walking over uneven ground and his “aging” parents not being strong enough to push him through the sand, we have taken him to parking lots or cement paths overlooking the beach, but he hasn’t been down on the beach.
One of our favorite beaches here now has a ramp that extends part way down the path to the beach. The rest is hard packed sand, so with help from our friend Matt Stevulak, we got Nick down on the sand. I thought that this was a major accomplishment, but gazing at the water across the sand, Nick began rocking his wheelchair forward. “I go there” he said. Looking at everyone, he said, “Let’s go.” Each taking a big breath, Matt and Arden began to drag the wheelchair, across the sand. You can see the path in the picture. You can also see the big smile on Nick’s face.
After a few minutes, he said, “I throw sticks, I go in?” I didn’t see any sticks there, but I did spot a few shells that I thought he could throw in. I gathered them up and then helped Nick to his feet. The sand was pretty packed down, so we began to move slowly towards the water. With the waves lapping his ankles, he threw the shells one by one. Then we returned to his chair. I had thought Nick would never be able to do that again. Tears streaming down my cheeks, I asked, “Did you love that?” Rapidly nodding his head in true Nick fashion, he asked, “I go again?” It was an amazing moment.
He got to spend two glorious hours at the shoreline. We all kept gathering small shells for him to throw into the water. At one point, our friend Lorna from Derry had gathered up about 30 shells. With Arden and I holding him up, he took the shells from her one by one, savoring each throw.
Then it was time for us to go. Reluctantly, we gathered up our things as we faced the challenge of dragging Nick back across the beach and up the sandy path to the parking lot. I turned to Nick and said, “You ready to go?” Looking up, straight into my eyes, he said, “I walk.” “Are you sure?” Nodding he replied, “Yes.”
Arden had been shaking off the blanket and hadn’t heard our conversation, so when I said that Nick was going to try walking, he was surprised. But we do try to help Nick be as independent as he can be on any given day. Nick’s capacity and strength vary even hour to hour. So off we went. Arden and I supporting Nick’s arms like outriggers. In addition, Arden was dragging the folded up wheelchair in his other hand. On our journey to the parking lot, we stopped five times to let Nick rest in his wheelchair. Nick did it. He walked from the shoreline, across the shifting sand, up the hill to the parking lot. He was so pleased with himself. I was thrilled with the miracle of the moment. It was our own little “Make A Wish” experience. If you are not aware, Make-A-Wish International grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.
Without Nick’s request, we probably would have remained observers, up at the benches near the parking lot overlooking the sea. Because of our strong desire to help Nick have a fulfilling life, we overcame our fears of catastrophe and forged ahead. It was an afternoon I will never forget.
Sometimes it seems that the easier thing would be to stay back in our comfortable place and not challenge the unknown. I believe that we would have miss some of our choicest experiences with Nick if we had not at least tried what seemed to be impossible. Without the attempts you can’t tell what is possible. Look for your own “Make A Wish” experience no matter what it is, to enrich your own life experience with hope, strength and joy. and make it happen.
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