The Beach That Love Built
By Russ Towne
When our daughter was about 15, she was stricken with an “incurable” disease and nearly died. She spent about a month in the hospital, much of it in intensive care fighting for her life. She had to deal with an awful disease as well as many blood transfusions and the side-effects of the chemotherapy, steroids, and other harsh medications. She met each challenge, disappointment, and setback with courage and class.
Eventually, the disease went into remission and she dreamed of having a party and bonfire for her 16th birthday at the beach with her friends, relatives, and beloved dog Ginger. It took quite a bit of searching, but we finally found a beach that had all the necessary attributes including allowing dogs and bonfires, and with easy to access for elderly relatives.
A week before her party, the disease flared up and fifteen glorious months of remission ended.
Then, at 9 p.m. the night before the party, a friend called with news that turned our plans upside down. He’d just heard that the small beach we’d selected and the surrounding beaches were about to be overwhelmed by a 30,000-person event that would essentially close them to private parties. The beach was out and no other beach within a reasonable driving distance had all of the attributes required to make her dream come true.
Though our daughter had her heart set on having her family and friends, dog, and a bonfire at the beach, as usual, she didn’t complain. In her young life, she had to deal with much worse things than a spoiled birthday party. But, it was just the final straw on a mountain of straws that finally broke the camel’s back. She sat down and quietly began to cry.
She quickly decided she’d rather have the party at our home so she could at least have her dog, relatives, friends, and a bonfire. We began making the calls to invitees about the changed plans.
The next day, when guests began arriving at our home (which is about 30 miles from the nearest beach) they were surprised to find a sign that read:
“Welcome to our beach, where dogs and bonfires are welcome. Where the beach is small and the waves are so far away that you need to close your eyes to see them, but not the love for our daughter and her little dog, too. Happy Birthday!”
Laid out before them was the smallest, goofiest beach you ever saw, but it had been built with love. Our friends had, at a moment’s notice, dreamt up creating a beach in our backyard. They surprised us by arriving several hours earlier with a car loaded with 660 pounds of sand, a palm tree, beach toys, fish netting, Tiki Torches, and much more. Our friends and our middle son helped to lay it all out.
The beach was built with so much love that it quickly became real to everyone there. The birthday girl and her friends frolicked in the sand, had a barbecue, built their own huge ice cream sundaes, and splashed in the water of a little wading pool. Then, as night fell, they lit the Tiki torches and enjoyed a great bonfire. In the darkness, with the light of the torches and bonfire and the laughter and splashing of those playing in the water, the scene had, indeed magically transformed into a beach.
As the girls laughed and played on the “beach” around the bonfire with our funny little dog, I felt for a moment that all was right in the world, and was very grateful to our friends for making our daughter’s birthday wish come true after all.