From Chicken Soup for the Child's Soul

Throwing Stones

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.

Lao Tzu

When I was eight, my dad built us the perfect house. Not just a house—a home on a cliff top overlooking the ocean. It was a happily-ever-after kind of home. But life isn’t always a fairy tale.

I remember arriving home from school one day with my mom and little brother, our excited chatter spilling out of the car and filling the empty house. We were laughing at a joke my brother had told—he always got the punch line wrong—when we found Dad’s cheery note:

Have just gone for a short run. Will be home soon. Love, Dad

But he didn’t come home. Eventually, Mom set out looking for him, and my brother and I went next door to my best friend’s house to wait for her. The news, when it came, sprang at us from out of the blue. My friend’s mom hung up the phone and had one of those concerned-adult looks on her face.

“Your dad has been taken to the hospital,” she said, holding my brother and me tightly.

I could feel the rough lace of her shirt rubbing roughly against my cheek. I was confused by her concern because I thought hospitals were places where people went to get better. Kids at school returned with colorful casts on their arms, and we would sign them. They would come to school with crutches that we would borrow in the playground.

That afternoon, my friend and I jumped on the trampoline, sailing high in the air, and delighting at the way the warm breeze lifted our hair and tickled our cheeks. We talked about what we thought had happened to my dad, and when he might come home. We laughed about the future and planned what we would be when we grew up.

Unfortunately, my dad never left the hospital. He died that afternoon. Mom came home late that night, and before she could even say a word, I read the news in her eyes. Time slowed, and the world stopped spinning. My world went dark and silent.

That night, I lay in bed beside my mom, listening to her breathe into the dark. My whisper cut through the silence: “I can’t believe he’s gone.”

“Neither can I.” She sounded miles away, even though I could feel her warmth next to me. There was a long silence. Neither of us cried because that night we had no more tears to give.

“What do we do now?” I asked.

I still can’t believe she had the strength and courage to answer such a big question. “Well, I guess we just keep trying to move forward. Together.”

I wasn’t sure if I could do that.

I had always loved the beach, but that year it became something sad for me. I had spent many days strolling along the salty shores with my dad, chasing seagulls and collecting shells. We had always shared our love of the beach—so how could I continue to love it without him?

Although I could no longer bear to walk along the sand, I often found myself down at the beach all the same. Instead of taking long walks in the tide, I began scrambling across the rocks at the top of the beach, often stumbling and hurting myself, but not really caring. One particularly difficult day, I picked up a small stone, threw it against a large rock, and watched it splinter into a million pieces. I could relate to that stone—I, too, felt broken and shattered. Again and again, I returned to the beach to throw stones, hurling all of my grief and sorrow and hurt against those rocks. They took all of my pain, but gave nothing back.

Having always been close to my mom, I turned to her one bleak day, telling her something that had been bothering me for a while.

“I never got to say good-bye to him.”

She looked at me with her beautiful, searching eyes—eyes that knew me in a way no one else ever would. “Have you tried speaking to him?” she asked. Speak to him? For so long he had felt lost to me. Gone. Unreachable. How was I to find him?

One windy morning, while I watched my anger break against the rocks, one of my stones missed its target and sailed through the air to land with a soft patter on the salty sand. It lay not far from where Dad and I used to fish, pretending to be castaways catching our supper. I watched the ocean wash over the stone. When the waves receded, it was gone, as if my thoughts had been heard.

After that day, I started writing down my feelings on those stones and throwing them out into the ocean. They were like little messages to Dad, and for the first time since he had gone, I felt reconnected to him in some way. At first, the messages were sad and often angry. “How could you leave me?” I accused him. But, slowly, they changed. I told him that I still loved him and missed him, but that I knew he was watching over us. In time, I learned again to tell all my hopes and dreams to him.

In this way, I was able to keep moving forward as my mom always knew I had the strength to do. I never stopped throwing stones, but I learned to throw them out into the blue, toward the future. The beach came to mean something more to me after that—still sad, but hopeful. Knowing my dad was watching over us, I learned to enjoy the beach again, and often wandered hand-in-hand with my mom along the shore, watching my brother trail tiny footprints along the soft, pale sand ahead of us. Together.

Katherine Battersby

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