She longed for reassurance from above. Then she started seeing mermaid images everywhere.
Posted in , Jun 24, 2022
For most of my life, I lived in New York. But six months ago, I moved to New Jersey to be closer to my daughter. She was fighting cancer, and I didn’t regret my decision to give her all the support I could on a moment’s notice. I was right where I wanted to be. The town was beautiful, and near the ocean, where I could take long walks, just as I had at Coney Island in New York.
Strolling along the Jersey shore, I just wished I felt more settled by now. I was so focused on my daughter I hadn’t had much time to make friends or find a new church home. The ocean was always where I’d felt closest to God, so I’d come today with a specific prayer for myself. It had been a while since I prayed for anything but my daughter’s health, so I was a little out of practice when it came to asking for something for me. I looked out at the turquoise waters. It would really help to feel your undeniable presence in my life today, Lord.
As a child, I often walked the Coney Island beach with my grandmother. She used to joke that I was drawn to the sea because I had mermaid blood running in my veins. Grandma came from a long line of seafaring Irishmen, so she knew all about mermaids. “You know, mermaid tears are blue and green,” she used to say. “That’s what gives the ocean its color.”
“Mermaids are just fairy tales, Grandma,” I told her. “You’ve never seen one.”
“Well, I’ve never seen God either, but I know he’s real. Don’t you?”
Grandma was teasing, but all these years later, her point still stood. I knew God heard my prayer today, like every day, even if I couldn’t see him. I just longed for reassurance that he was with me, even when I was feeling a bit isolated.
I scanned the water for mermaids in memory of Grandma’s lesson, then headed back to my car. I took a wrong turn on my way home—all the streets still looked alike to me. Luckily, I spotted a roadside vendor up ahead, an older gentleman surrounded by a jumble of pots and pans, toys, record albums and knitwear. I pulled up and lowered the window. “Can you help me get home?”
“Sure can,” he said, running a hand through his long white hair. “Have a look around while I look in my truck for a map.”
I didn’t think I’d find much among his wares to interest me, but I got out to be polite. I was examining an old porcelain sink when a painting caught my eye. It was hung up on a fence above my head: a painting of Jesus walking beside a sea the color of mermaid tears.
The vendor came back with his maps. “Nice, isn’t it?” he said, jerking his chin at the painting. “I picked it up from the curb. Hoped it would find its way to the right person one day. Looks like that’s you.”
Before I could object, he was reaching above my head to take the painting off the fence. His sleeve bunched around his shoulder when he stretched his arm up, revealing a tattoo that Grandma would have loved. “A mermaid!” I said.
“Isn’t it a beaut? Got it when I was in the Navy,” he said. “You know, it could be that I even saw a mermaid from the ship.” He gave me a wink and some directions, then loaded up my purchase.
Driving off, I had the distinct impression that I’d just been sent an angelic message from the ocean. God had indeed followed me to my home in New Jersey, where I’d hang my beautiful new painting.
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