Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Coincidence? Eeerie? Spooky? You Decide

I was going to post a stitching update today, but I think I am going to save that for tomorrow, because the weirdest thing happened to me yesterday. I opened up my email and found this story that had been forwarded to me by a friend from high school. She received it from her dad.  Here's the story:

The Sandpiper

by Robert Peterson

She was six years old when I first met her on the beach near where I live.

I drive to the beach, a distance of three or four miles, whenever the world begins to close in on me. She was building a sand castle or something and looked up, her eyes as blue as the sea.

"Hello," she said.

I answered with a nod, not really in the mood to bother with a small child.

"I'm building," she said.

"I see that. What is it?" I asked, not really caring.

"Oh, I don't know, I just like the feel of sand."

That sounds good, I thought, and slipped off my shoes. A sandpiper glided by.

"That's a joy," the child said.

"It's a what?"

"It's a joy. My mama says sandpipers come to bring us joy."

The bird went gliding down the beach. Good-bye joy, I muttered to myself, hello pain, and turned to walk on. I was depressed, my life seemed completely out of balance.

"What's your name?" She wouldn't give up.

"Robert," I answered. "I'm Robert Peterson."

"Mine's Wendy...I'm six."

"Hi, Wendy."

She giggled. "You're funny," she said. In spite of my gloom, I laughed too and walked on. Her musical giggle followed me.

 "Come again, Mr. P," she called. "We'll have another happy day."

The next few days consisted of a group of unruly Boy Scouts, PTA meetings, and an ailing mother. The sun was shining one morning as I took my hands out of the dishwasher. I need a sandpiper, I said to myself, gathering my coat.

The ever-changing balm of the seashore awaited me. The breeze was chilly but I strode along, trying to recapture the serenity I needed.

"Hello, Mr. P," she said. "Do you want to play?"

"What did you have in mind?" I asked, with a twinge of annoyance.

"I don't know. You say."

"How about charades?" I asked sarcastically.

The tinkling laughter burst forth again. "I don't know what that is."

"Then let's just walk."

Looking at her, I noticed the delicate fairness of her face. "Where do you live?" I asked.

"Over there." She pointed toward a row of summer cottages. Strange, I thought, in winter.

"Where do you go to school?"

"I don't go to school. Mommy says we're on vacation."

She chattered little girl talk as we strolled up the beach, but my mind was on other things. When I left for home, Wendy said it had been a happy day.  Feeling surprisingly better, I smiled at her and agreed.

Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state of near panic. I was in no mood to even greet Wendy. I thought I saw her mother on the porch and felt like demanding she keep her child at home.

"Look, if you don't mind," I said crossly when Wendy caught up with me, "I'd rather be alone today." She seemed unusually pale and out of breath.

"Why?" she asked.

I turned to her and shouted, "Because my mother died!" and thought, my God, why was I saying this to a child?

"Oh," she said quietly, "then this is a bad day."

"Yes," I said, "and yesterday and the day before and -- oh, go away!"

"Did it hurt?" she inquired.

"Did what hurt?" I was exasperated with her, with myself.

"When she died?"

"Of course it hurt!" I snapped, misunderstanding, wrapped up in myself. I strode off.

A month or so after that, when I next went to the beach, she wasn't there. Feeling guilty, ashamed, and admitting to myself I missed her, I went up to the cottage after my walk and knocked at the door. A drawn looking young woman with honey-colored hair opened the door.

"Hello," I said, "I'm Robert Peterson. I missed your little girl today and wondered where she was."

"Oh yes, Mr. Peterson, please come in. Wendy spoke of you so much. I'm afraid I allowed her to bother you. If she was a nuisance, please, accept my apologies."

"Not at all --! She's a delightful child." I said, suddenly realizing that I meant what I had just said.

"Wendy died last week, Mr. Peterson. She had leukemia. Maybe she didn't tell you."

Struck dumb, I groped for a chair. I had to catch my breath.

"She loved this beach, so when she asked to come, we couldn't say no. She seemed so much better here and had a lot of what she called happy days. But the last few weeks, she declined rapidly..." Her voice faltered. "She left something for you, if only I can find it. Could you wait a moment while I look?"

I nodded stupidly, my mind racing for something to say to this lovely young woman. She handed me a smeared envelope with "Mr. P" printed in bold childish letters. Inside was a drawing in bright crayon hues -- a yellow beach, a blue sea, and a brown bird. Underneath was carefully printed:


Tears welled up in my eyes, and a heart that had almost forgotten to love opened wide. I took Wendy's mother in my arms. "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry," I uttered over and over, and we wept together. The precious little picture is framed now and hangs in my study. Six words -- one for each year of her life -- that speak to me of harmony, courage, and undemanding love. A gift from a child with sea blue eyes and hair the color of sand -- who taught me the gift of love.

NOTE: This is a true story sent out by Robert Peterson. This happened over 20 years ago and the incident changed his life forever. It serves as a reminder to all of us that we need to take time to enjoy living and life and each other. The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less.

Life is so complicated, the hustle and bustle of everyday traumas can make us lose focus about what is truly important or what is only a momentary setback or crisis.

This week, be sure to give your loved ones an extra hug, and by all means, take a moment...even if it is only ten seconds, to stop and smell the roses.

This comes from some one's heart, and is read by many and now I share it with you.

May God bless everyone who receives this! There are NO coincidences!

Everything that happens to us happens for a reason. Never brush aside anyone as insignificant. Who knows what they can teach us?

I wish for you, a sandpiper.

Here is the story I wrote in 1979 or 1980 (please remember I was only in 10th grade at the time):

God's Gift

I was sitting on the shore of the icy New England coast, drowning my sorrows in the beauty of the sunrise when suddenly I felt that I wasn't alone.

Wondering who would brave the cold blustery morning, I turned and saw a small child of six or seven wearing faded blue jeans and a dirty ski jacket. She sat down beside me and asked me my name.

I said, "I'm Sara. Why aren't you at home? Won't your parents be worried?"

"No. They know I come to the beach every morning to watch the sunrise. I'm Elizabeth and I'm seven. Are you  new here?"

I didn't want to talk and didn't feel like going into my problems with a small child, so I was abrupt with her and told her I had to get home. Oh, how I hated lying to those innocent blue eyes, but how could I explain the emptiness I felt from the recent loss of my husband and the grief that was keeping my feelings locked up inside of me?

I trudged up the beach to my lonely house, which I had rented for the fall, leaving Elizabeth standing at the edge of the water, gazing wistfully out at the ocean. Although I wouldn't admit it then to myself, I loved the friendly little girl who so obviously loved life as I hated it.

 When I next saw Elizabeth, it was a week later. I was taking a walk on the beach in the afternoon sun. It was warm for October, with the last days of Indian Summer lingering on and, with all the tourists gone, the beach was a wonderful place to be.

As I strolled along the beach, I saw a small figure playing in the sand. When she saw me approaching, she ran up to me and begged me to come see her castle. Charmed by the thin blonde hair and large haunted blue eyes, I allowed her to tug on my hand and lead me to see through a child's eyes the wonders of the sand.

She then begged me to come meet her mother and have some coffee. I refused, but asked her to show me where she lived. She pointed to a large, old house on a rocky ledge overlooking the sea.

Seeming indifferent now, she went back to building her castle and I continued my stroll.

Three weeks passed and I didn't see Elizabeth again. Although I was reluctant to admit it, I had missed her idle chatter and unspoken sympathy for a grief she couldn't understand.

Finally, I decided to go to visit her at her house. When the door was opened, I observed the resemblance of Elizabeth to her mother. I told her I had come to see Elizabeth. She asked me to come in and sit down. As I glanced about the room, I noticed how bare it was of any toys, even though it seemed to be a child's playroom. The woman followed me into the room with something in her hand.

"I'm sorry, but Elizabeth died two weeks ago of leukemia. We brought her to the beach knowing how she loved it. We wanted her final days to be happy, so we brought her to the place she loved the most."

I was struck dumb with shock.

"You must be Sara?"

It was more a question than a statement. I nodded.

"She wanted you to have this."

It was a small picture of a seagull etched into sand baked hard by the sun. I thanked the woman and left the house wondering how a small child could have given herself so freely to me when she herself was dying.

Now the years have passed and I walk alone on the beach. But I still remember the small child who so willingly extended friendship to one as remote as I and I marvel at the gift God gave so freely and so quickly took away again. The picture holds the place of honor in my small house, not rented now. It hangs proudly above my fireplace, a bold statement of the brief friendship of a small child.

So there you have it. The story written by Robert Peterson is over 20 years old. The story I wrote is over 30 years old. My story is fiction. His story is true. The stories are so close in plot and character, it's almost as if I had a premonition. The story, God's Gift, was typewritten and graded by my English teacher, who gave me an A-/B+, which wasn't bad considering the lack of development of character. It was never published anywhere.

So what do you think? Mr. Peterson lost his mother. Sara lost her husband. Wendy gave Mr. Peterson a picture of a sandpiper. Elizabeth gives Sara a sand etched picture of a seagull. It is almost the same story, except that I didn't have as much dialog or character development. And mine was not a true story. Or it wasn't at the time I wrote it.

The strangest thing to me about the email story I received yesterday is that I had forgotten about my story until I read Mr. Peterson's. I had forgotten I had saved it, even when Justin's best friend lost his three year old daughter to leukemia in 2010. I wrote The Butterfly Princess (click on the link on the illustrated picture on the right of the blog for the children's story) in honor of Juliana. In high school, I did not know anything about leukemia. Now, I know more about cancer than I would ever want to know. Life is short. And I don't believe in coincidence either.

Today, I wish for you, a sandpiper.


  1. Wow! How DID that happen? Maybe Robert Peterson was your classmate or the teacher's aide and was so impressed with your story that he saved a copy for hmself, or remembered your story if it was read aloud in class. Then he rewrote it later and claimed it was true. You should contact him and ask!

  2. Wow, that is eerie. And also kinda wonderful.

  3. The date of my story pre-dates Robert Peterson's by about 12 years. I cannot explain it. My son read it and said it was incredibly similar. And he hates reading!

    JenMarie, I agree. It's eerie and wonderful all at once!


  4. Wow, amazing!Both are beautiful stories.


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