I walked into our beach house we were about to stay in for the week, not knowing what to expect, knowing his doctors just informed him he may have six months to live.
I imagined how I would respond if given such news, and I simply couldn’t.We havn’t met yet, and as I looked forward to week of relaxation, surfing, and writing my book, meeting Matthew took precedent.
I stood in the kitchen of the home that was sleeping twenty of us, not yet in vacation mode. A man that appeared too young to be given a death sentence, walked around the corner. He had thick, stylish hair, bright blue eyes, and a radiant complexion. I looked at him and wished my skin was as radiant.
Matthew carried a grace about him. A beautiful grace. A smile in his eyes before we were even introduced. He skipped all the small talk, and made me feel like a friend from the first handshake.
“I am so thankful for today,” his blue eyes seemed to speak with his words. “My doctor gave me six months to maybe a year to live, and when I think about it, I am just so thankful to have lived this long. I think of so many others that have died so much younger, and I am thankful I simply have today.”
While anyone else would be grieving such devastating news, he thanked God for all the days he had lived. Simply thankful for the day.
Thankfulness wasn’t just a word he used, but I could see it actively in the way he spoke. I could see by the way he took in life, the friends that gathered in the kitchen, their stories, and conversations. It was never dull or petty. I noticed him enjoying the present, being in the moment with each person or alone with God. This man is authentic as one could possibly be. He sees and enjoys the moments that matters most.
I breathed in peace as I made my way through the levels of patios, stairs, and walkways to the beach. The grittiness of the sand on that walkway felt so good; so familiar. This was the first step on a beach this year, my heart always long for the sound of waves and sand under my feet.
Tiny pieces of sand told me I was getting closer to where the rest of the sand awaited the crashing of the waves. My first step into the beach, but continued walking directly to the water, quickly folding up my jeans.
It didn’t matter I folded them up, for my first step was greeted with a much more powerful wave than expected, drenching me up to my knees, but it only made me smile more.
I looked out to see how big the waves were and if I had my surfboard, where the best place to paddle out would be. The conditions were quite choppy and overcast, made for listening and watching today; not good for surfing.
So I closed my eyes to listen.
To feel the rhythm.
The gusts of wind threw my blue hair around wildly. I allowed the wind to kiss my cheeks while I kept my eyes closed. Powerful moment, sensing God so close, so near, giving such love and kindness each morning, just like these kisses on my face.
Another sweet reminder why God has hopes for us, to engage with him in the moment. To simply stop and be in His presence and let him romance us.
I walked back up the sandy walkway to the beach house with a full heart, to see Matthew and a few friends still inside. He seemed more comfortable than uncomfortable to talk about his diagnosis.
“I can’t control the diagnosis, but I can control my response and my attitude.” Wow. His character never stops shining.
Many of us enjoyed the evenings with a glass of wine and cigars, looking up at the stars. The freedom in the company was exhilerating to share our walks and journey’s with the Lord, to share the hurts, and deep holes healing in our hearts, to laughing so hard our stomachs and cheeks ached. I don’t remember the last time I laughed this hard.
And Matthew, he still laughed with us; didn’t stay inside to feel sorry for himself.
After most of us enjoyed a cigar and finished our glass of red wine, seven of us made our way back down through the sandy walkways to the beach. Our friend, Matt (different one than Matthew), suggested to crab hunt with flashlights. I was excited for this new adventure. Sure enough, Matt had shown his light down the beach, and we could easily see about one hundred crabs scattering along the wet sand. We all laughed as we attempted catching the pinchy sand dwellers, until Rose looked back at the stars and sat down on a blanket to marvel in awe.
Sitting down next to Rose, mesmerized by the stars, the others began kicking the sand.
“Look! Look! It’s phosphorous!” Matt’s wife, Gina exclaimed.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Never before, have I heard about phosphorous in the sand or in the ocean. We were all kicking and moving the sand around to see all the phosphorous glow. I tried catching them in my hand to have a closer look, this was such a mystery to me!
Rose and her husband Larry organize this trip every year to Duck, North Carolina. Over three weeks, about 40 friends vacation together. She sees this phenomenon many times and it never gets old.
“The stars are below us….. AND above us!” Gina continued moving and kicking sand.
But it was Matthew who stood at the end of the waves coming in. Only light from the moon and stars showed themselves, the colors of the night behind him, to show his silhouette looking out to the ocean. His hoodie keeping him warm, then tilting his head to the stars.
“What are you thinking?” I asked as his head was tilted back, mesmerized by the clear sky and the Milky Way.
A slight pause as he was wondering how to put into words what he was thinking.
“I’m just in awe. I’m in awe of what I see…. and what I don’t see.” I could almost feel the philosophical wheels turning in his mind. He answered without taking his eyes from the stars. Even though it was night, I felt like I could see his blue eyes gaze in such the awe that he spoke of.
I wondered if he realized he described faith. “That’s a definition of faith; its a great example of such faith in the physical sense.”
He stopped looking at the stars and turned his head towards me, “I didn’t even think about it like that.”
His gaze went down to the sand to explore his thoughts that were still forming and building in his mind.
“I’m also thinking about being in the present. Like right now being on the beach, and looking out to the sea, everything in the past, behind us, behind the beach…. it doesn’t matter. Everything behind us doesn’t matter. Or way out there in the ocean ahead of ourselves; it doesn’t matter. What does matter, is to be here, on this beach, feeling the sand on my feet.”
Excited at what he was tapping into with his thoughts, the beautiful mind that God gave him. A beautiful mind that he gives us all, if we even slow down to be in the moment to connect with it… and especially to connect with him. “Matthew, do you ever write down your thoughts? I don’t think you realize how profound these things are!”
He seemed like he was blushing, but I couldn’t see the pinks in his skin, even with all the glow power coming from the stars. “No, no… I havn’t actually.”
“You should! In fact, I challenge you to journal and write your thoughts. You have amazing and beautiful things to share.”
“Ok, I will have to do that….” I could see him thinking and smiling, “Yes, I will have to do that.”
Meanwhile Rose, Gina, and Rick were sitting on the blanket enjoying conversation, and I was intrigued by what Matt and Jeana were talking about. They carried a beautiful conversation that I would not hesitate to call heavenly and divine.
I caught Jeana make the observation how bright the stars were directly above us.
Matt puffed on his cigarette as he looked out to the horizon and impressed us with his knowledge on the density of clouds in the horizon. He pointed as he explained the consideration of the round earth, the oceans mist and humidity, and its thickness at the horizon, but as we looked up, the density lessens, therefore the stars more visible than what they would be in the thickness of the ocean’s humidity.
Moral of the story: Always look up for a clear perspective.
Lord, thank you for the millions of moments you give us to connect with you. You speak to us with your voice, with your love, with the rhythm of the ocean’s waves and its mist. Help us to have a perspective where we look directly up to your clear skies. Give us the view to look not at the sea ahead of us or the beaches behind us, but being in the moment of the sand under our feet and between our toes. Slow our minds to engage with you, to feel your breath and kisses on our cheeks. To find life where it matters most. Thank you for Matthew, and the world you showed me through his eyes. Comfort his wife and family, give them strength and continue surrounding them with support, love, and remind him of that challenge to write and share his thoughts, for you have blessed him with a beautiful mind.
Help us to live life to the fullest, for life is short, our days are short. Help us to cut out distractions and engage on the ways and moments that truly matter the most. You are what gives a deeper meaning to life and purpose.
Your purpose is alive in me.
Awaken in it in all of us.
Remove the fears from anyone who doesn’t know what it looks like to engage with you and simply be with you. For all the moments and places I have seen and experienced around the world… being in your presence is the sweetest of them all.
Thank you, to all the wonderful friends I had the amazing opportunity to spend a week with in Duck. You are all amazing. I thought it would be a week of me writing my book and being alone, looking for waves to surf… but God had other plans much better than my own. I cherished each hug, each conversation, each moment, and each tear. Love you all.
A video that Matthew didn’t know I was following him around to capture these candid moments of talking with his family on Face Time, untangling a kite from the briar bush, to flying it so freely on the beach, to capturing his authentic smile that matched his authentic spirit laying by the pool. See Video here: #iamwitnessMatthew