Light Notes

Pink connected the two strangers, but then they found there was more

For more than six years, Lucy Luginbill has kept this seashell among her collectibles as a reminder to pray for Melissa.
For more than six years, Lucy Luginbill has kept this seashell among her collectibles as a reminder to pray for Melissa.

Pink connected us on the beach back then. A coincidental meeting on a sun-kissed stretch of vacant Texas sand, a place where the memory still gives my heart pause.

As I studied the newly arrived text, my pulse quickened. Could this be the same Melissa I’d prayed for continually since 2013, her name written inside a tiny seashell as a daily reminder?

Looking back, my pleas for her healing had felt unanswered, my hope wavering as months passed … and then years. But within a few moments of the musical text alert, I learned of God’s grace and this young mother’s cancer journey since the Sunday afternoon our lives intersected.

“When you saw us at the beach, it was one of those days we were doing ‘Mommy and Son-day’ I called it,” Melissa Lopez said as we talked on the phone, recalling their special playtime on nearby South Padre Island with then 8-year-old Eddie. “It was cool how you came up to my son and I, and how I had the bright pink on my tee-shirt. Then you commented that you had a car with that same design on the hood.”

Just a chance meeting of two strangers? Or was there more? What she said next reaffirmed what I had believed about that day, as well.

“It was God-sent,” the 33-year-old mother of three said, her voice catching at the memory.

Melissa’s words resonated, taking me back to the winter getaway more than six years ago when my husband and I needed a brief respite from the Pacific Northwest chill.

Tucked safely into our hotel after our flight and then anxious to explore in the sunshine, we’d driven our rental car along a two-lane roadway that skirted the long arm of Gulf Coast beach. Without too much thought, we had randomly parked our SUV roadside to venture beyond the sand dunes. It looked like a perfect place to meander in flip-flops and wiggle our toes in the brisk surf.

We walked, searched for seashells in the receding waves and were about to turn back when Bill spied something in the distance – fishing poles anchored in the saltwater. We’d explore a little farther down the beach, we agreed.

But just as we were about 25 yards from the fishermen, a young woman and little boy approached from the sand dunes above us, our paths intersecting at water’s edge. As the two paused near the water, it was the color pink that made me hesitate, almost a nudge to reach out to another cancer survivor.

“We were out at the beach with that funny looking tricycle-car that day so Eddie could have fun,” the lively brunette reminisced. “It was just about freeing his worries and bonding again now that I felt better. Just trying to get away from all the troubles we had been going through.”

Back then, Melissa had been diagnosed with metastatic uterine cancer, not breast cancer as I’d first thought from the pink bling given to her by friends. As our conversation on the beach became more personal, I had learned this mom’s journey included surgery and traditional chemotherapy treatment. But recently she had decided to try a holistic, naturopathic approach … and a lot of prayer. A plan similar to my natural approach to breast cancer.

For the next few minutes I had shared my experience and resources that had helped me on my path, books like “Anticancer: A New Way of Life” by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, followed by my intention to text a few more. Then with a hug between two new acquaintances, now friends, we parted with my promise to pray for her every single day.

“In every moment of my life when I’ve either been down or up, he’s been there to guide me,” Melissa said, thinking back to her thoughtful decision. “When I’ve needed to hear a message, he has sent it to me in some kind of form, which is what I felt when I met you. A reaffirmation that ‘You’re doing the right thing.’”

Thinking back to that chance meeting so far from my home, what was the probability?

An empty beach. The color pink. A connection to offer hope.

In my heart, I know the answer. With God, it is never just a coincidence.

Lucy Luginbill is a syndicated Tri-City Herald columnist, religion editor and career public television producer and host. Her popular Light Notes column reflects inspirational and faith-focused stories. She’s been working in journalism for more than 30 years.
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