As we walked down the beach, the waves came in and out. The sun was shining, the birds chirping, and I listened to the constant chatter and laughter from all the people we passed. My husband’s family had gathered in Florida to celebrate the life of a woman who was the reason we were all there.
Nana was 85. What more of a reason did we need to assemble all 26 family members, from her children to great grands, all in one location? Six days of joy, chaos, and exploration.
As we walked along the beach with my 3-month-old strapped to my chest, I saw the footprints of Nana, her daughters, her sons, their partners, my nieces and nephews, my husband, and my children. All different sizes of feet. All different stages of life. And it hit me.
This moment is the last of its kind.
No one will ever be this small again, this young again. The waves rolled in and washed away the footprints that had just been left. And they were gone. They continued down the beach—each step erased by the water, never to be recreated the same.
It rushed over me like the water rushing over the grains of sand. This life is always changing, always continuing on. Always rushing away. I stopped. Put my cheeks towards the sun, closed my eyes, and let the sun warm my face. I listened to this sweet baby breathing on my chest, the squeals from children finding a jellyfish, the adults babbling on about memories. This is a moment we will never get back.
Yet it’s a moment that will play in my head forever.
It makes me appreciate the tiny things, yet how all of those tiny things created this huge moment. Watching all different stages of life enjoying the simple outing of walking down the beach. And how fast all of us can fade into the water. I am completely guilty of feeling rushed, pressured into thinking every adventure must happen now. Every day must be planned. Hurry up and get there.
Watching everyone’s footprints just disappear into nothing grounded me.
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That night, lying in bed after a day packed full of cousins playing, eating each other’s cooking, card games, laundry, packing suitcases, and then setting my alarm for 3:30 a.m. to ensure we made our flight home, I shared this story with my husband.
“Did you take a picture of our footprints?” he asked.
“Pictures like that never turn out—the footprint in the sand never looks like it does in real life,” I replied, and we both smiled at having the same realization.
The snapshots in our minds will always be better than the picture.
Slow down. Try to remember the snapshots in your mind. They are only that small once, they are only that young once. Try to look for the footprints in life. They may be washed away before you can see them if you’re not careful.