Maisey didn’t know how long it had been since she last set foot on Topsail Island. When she left all those years ago, she had no intention of returning.
In the end, all it took was one simple phone call to bring her back.
“Is this the granddaughter of Jean Anderson, of Topsail Beach, North Carolina?”
The monotone voice didn’t need to say another word. Maisey already knew the call meant Grammy was dead. As much as she dreaded it, she knew she would be at the funeral. She was a true “Southern daughter,” and they always showed up for their grandmothers’ funerals. Especially if those grandmothers had raised them.
The funeral was pure torture. It stirred up feelings Maisey thought were buried far deeper than her southern roots. When Maisey left home at the tender age of seventeen, she had been running away from herself more than Grammy or Topsail. Her whole life she had been the girl whose drug-addicted parents had dumped her on the steps of her grandmother’s beach cottage never to be seen again. She had wanted a new identity far from her painful past. But, the sad truth was she abandoned Granny just as her own parents abandoned her.
The service was filled with God-talk. When Maisey walked out on Grammy, she walked out on God, too. Why would she be interested in eternal life, anyway? Life was filled with pain. Why would she want that to go on eternally?
Now, she sought solace in the only place she could ever find peace on the island: the sea. Maisey stood alone in the quiet night and looked out over the ocean. She remembered coming here as a child to pray. She didn’t bother calling out to God now. She knew no one was there.
In the beginning, the Sprit of God hovered over the waters. I am still here, my child.
The rolling tide moved in and out. Its steady rhythm seemed to call out to her, like an invitation.
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters. Give ear and come to me, that your soul may live.
Maisey waded into the surf. The salty water swirled around her ankles. She began to feel a strange sensation, a cleansing of sorts.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.
Maisey was afraid. She was beginning to feel things again. It was unsettling, especially after all the years of voluntary numbness. She quickly moved back onto the sand. After an emotional day like today, she probably needed her feet firmly planted on the earth.
In my hands are the depths of the earth. The sea is mine, for I made it, and my hands formed the dry land.
Maisey walked up toward the dunes and sat. She picked up a fistful of sand and let it sift through her slender fingers. As she watched it fall, the ground beneath her began to swell and shiver. Maisey stared hard at the ground, looking for answers.
The earth will be filled with the knowledge of my glory, just as the waters cover the sea.
She gasped as she saw something push up through the sand. It was the tip of a flipper. Then another, and another. Hundreds of sea turtle hatchlings plowed their way up and out of their sandy nest. Maisey couldn’t believe it. She had heard stories about nests maturing for her entire childhood. But she had never been lucky enough to see one for herself. Until now.
Maisey watched in amazement as more and more turtles scampered toward the waiting water. Life was bubbling up all around her on her lonely stretch of beach.
This day I set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life.
As Maisey watched the tiny turtles disappear into the sea, she couldn’t help but think about their mother. As a native islander, she knew the story. The mother turtle hatched on this very same beach, a lifetime ago. Years later, she had returned to her home and buried her treasure in the sand. Her babies would one day return to this special place and bury treasures of their own.
In the midst of all the life swirling around her, Maisey realized she, too, had finally come home. She was the prodigal turtle.
For this daughter of mine was dead and is alive again; she was lost and now is found.
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