Sharla Dawn Gorder

Writer – Speaker

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© Jem Sullivan

A few days before my daddy died last month, I wrote this story shortly after sunrise one morning.

The seashells on the beach are so broken up — crushed actually — by the recent storms, that they kind of feel good under my feet this morning.  Almost like scratching an itch I didn’t know I had.

I like the broken ones.

I used to find such delight in the whole, unbroken seashells. I am the fabled She-sells-seashells-on-the-seashore girl.  I would comb the beaches searching for the perfect scotch bonnet (my favorite) or unchipped sand dollars.  The unbroken ones are so rare.  Only the olives seem to consistently wash up on the beach whole, and that’s only because they are so thick, and closed in around themselves — protected.

But now I like the broken ones.

I am a broken one.  And so are you probably.  You are my favorite.

I don’t mind that I am broken.  I don’t mind that you are.  More light and air and truth gets in that way.

I walked east in the crunchy sand toward my daily rendezvous with the sunrise. A gray flannel robe of clouds cloaked the horizon.  I suspected He would be late.  We were scheduled to meet at 6:05 AM sharp.  Sometimes He is late.  He can get away with it.  He is God.  He gets away with lots of stuff.

I turned back toward the house enjoying the feel of the shells between my toes, the sight of Shuba jamming her snout into crab holes, the sound of the Gulf, now finally relaxing after too many storms.  And then, I felt some pink in the air.  Yes, you can feel the color of a sunrise even before you see it, and I looked back.


6:05 AM.  Magenta rising.  Another favorite.  In the big box, the Crayola 64, magenta was always my favorite color.  Light broke the dark horizon line in a glowing pink arc.  And then it was gone, shrouded behind the heavy drape of clouds.

But it rose for me, and showed itself for a moment to me — this broken girl at dawn on the shore.

And yes, I am more broken today than usual.  Crushed, actually, like those shells.  I fear I will be sand soon.  It has only been a few months since Mom died.  Seems like a week ago.  Today, we gather at the hospital to do what we must, what Daddy has specified in his living will.  We must remove the IV’s that are keeping him alive.  I will not be able to watch them do that.  But I will authorize it.  We all will.  We can do hard things.

I see out the window, my young neighbor, Alana coming home with her cup of coffee.  She is one of those old souls. I think she already knows that the broken ones are the best.  That gives her a head start in life. Maybe she won’t waste time searching for perfection.  She made a wreath last year, a stunning circle of glorious brokenness.  Every single shell, damaged, weathered, worn —beautiful.  Broken ones lend themselves more readily to the creative impulses of the artists of the world.


So, if I do become sand, before all of this is over — maybe I will be the gorgeous sugar white quartz sand this island is famous for.

Bring a pail and a little shovel.  You can build a castle out of me on the beach.  I don’t mind.  In fact, I think I’d like that.

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