92: Finding Sea Beans

92: Finding Sea Beans

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

Finding Sea Beans

Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone.


I survived the car accident that took the lives of both of my parents. I turned five in the hospital while recovering from merely a broken ankle.

I would only have five year’s worth of memories with my parents; unfortunately most of those would be forgotten because of my age. However, I am grateful to have one favorite memory of spending time with them at the beach. We took annual trips to Florida to escape the cold Wisconsin winters. On these trips we spent much of our time combing the beach for sea beans. These were a favorite of my mother’s and were hard to find. The ones we found were plump, round and dark in color, resembling small pincushions. Little did we know of their rain forest origin or of the lengthy journey they had endured to arrive on the beach.

Our collection of sea beans had grown over the course of several trips, giving my mother enough to have them polished and made into a matching set of earrings and necklace. They were her favorite pieces of jewelry; in fact, she was wearing them in the last photo taken of her a week before the accident. In the years to come I would cherish her sea bean jewelry as it represented a time when we were all together.

Many years later, with a four-year-old daughter of my own, we too would travel to the beach in Florida. Being there with her made me acutely aware of how life had come full circle. At first I was disappointed to see that our beach was barren, offering little for us to collect. So instead we were content to stroll the beach. Occasionally I had the opportunity to go alone. During these private walks I experienced an overwhelming sensation that my parents were there with me. I dismissed this as nostalgia until the feeling became so strong I couldn’t ignore it. As a result, I found myself drawn to the beach where I would feel closer to them. Late one afternoon I simply couldn’t resist any longer. Sensing they were with me, I spoke aloud, “Okay, if you’re there like I think you are, then send me a sign. Send me a sea bean.”

That same day the wind shifted and a strong, steady breeze blew all night and all the next day. The waves were pounding the shore and depositing an abundance of seaweed and seashells. After an entire day of this blowing we woke up to a beautiful, quiet day and a beach covered with treasures from the ocean. After breakfast, we started our beachcombing and I stopped at one point to watch my daughter chase the waves, taking delight in watching her trying to outrun them. Before continuing, I gazed down to see where I was stepping next, careful not to be stung by one of the numerous stingrays now strewn on the beach. That’s when it appeared. Lying in the sand, at the very tip of my big toe, was a sea bean. A perfectly placed sea bean, matching the ones we had collected so long ago. I knew immediately, without any doubt, they had heard me. I was overwhelmed with emotion and love. Tears filled my eyes and I knew this was my sign. I excitedly explained to my daughter that I had asked for this sea bean and that Grandpa and Grandma had sent it to us. She had never seen one. It had never occurred to me to show them to her but now was the perfect time.

We spent the entire day searching the beach, finding only one more hiding beneath some seaweed. Out of curiosity I decided to show our sea beans to some local residents to ask if they had ever seen one before. The answer was always the same; no one had, no one knew what they were.

That night back in our room, we placed the sea beans beside each other, noting one was smaller than the other. I said to my daughter, “I think the bigger one stands for Grandpa and the smaller one stands for Grandma.” My daughter confidently corrected me and pointed to the smaller one and said, “No, this one is for me, Mama, and the big one is for you.” Either way they were meant for us!

~Wendy Delaney

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