How a Martha’s Vineyard Sunset Fueled My Family’s Fresh Start After A Devastating Blow

sunset at marthas vineyard. Gold and orange colors in the sky and a beam of light acrosst the water to the rocky beach
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I am such a morning person.  I love to wake up before the sun and sip (okay more like gulp) some fresh brewed coffee while I get to work writing, reading, and planning my day.  I love the quiet of the morning and feel so energized as I watch the sky slowly light up. 

I also love to watch a beautiful sunset in the evening.  In my hometown of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, we get some beautiful, colorful sunsets over the local farms and in our beautiful tree lined neighborhoods.  My favorite sunsets to watch, though, are the ones over large bodies of water, especially the ocean.

There was a time, however, when I did not love sunsets.  I have shown this picture of a sunset to many audiences and it usually brings me and the audience to tears of frustration and sadness as I talk about what this particular sunset represented in my life and thousands of others’ lives for a small period of time.  You can read about that here.

small boat with thtree people on a peacful ocean at nearly sundaown. Orange sky very low golden sun

But like I said, that was a small period of time and I work everyday to eliminate that specific scene in families’ lives.

Now, let me take you to one of my most favorite scenes in my Mom-life, which happened at a gorgeous sunset, that I experienced with my three kiddos… and I had the most extraordinary conversation with my son Mitchell:

If you are my age, nearing fifty (but not there yet!) you may remember the line in the movie “The Outsiders” where two kiddos, Cherry/Sherry and Ponyboy, from very different parts of town, meet and later briefly discuss a sunset.  Robert Frost’s poem is used in the movie and one of Cherry and Ponyboy’s interactions emphasizes the title of that poem with the line:

“Nothing gold can stay.”

My son Mitchell never heard that poem but that was kind of his perspective two summers ago on a beach on Martha’s Vineyard.  My children and I had never seen Martha’s Vineyard, we had only heard about it and all of the celebreties that vacation there. So when the opportunity to go there presented itself in the most serendipitous way, we jumped at the chance.  It was the first summer of my separation from my husband of nearly twenty years and I was looking to take the kids on a small vacation that my very limited funds could afford.  My challenge wasn’t just financial.  We had always spent our summer vacation time at the beach in New Jersey and we wanted to continue that.  However, I didn’t want to do the same vacation we had always done and have the kids feel that same loss that slapped them in the heart every single day.  We had been a party of five for their entire lives and now there was an empty seat at the table, in the car, etc.

I didn’t want to do the same vacation we had always done and have the kids feel that same loss that slapped them in the heart every single day. #Divorce #MovingOn #Hope Click To Tweet

As I was stressing over ideas and finances, I got an email from a good friend that I met in my rare disease advocacy journey and she happened to have just purchased a home on Martha’s Vineyard and happened to have a few days open for my kids and I to use it – which happened to be the only five days we had available in our  back and forth custody arrangement!

Off we went to the new destination to create new memories for our party of four!

My trhee children and me with Marhta's VIneyard shirts on smiling on the beach
Me and my kiddos Marhta’s VIneyard 2017

We had the most incredible adventures exploring so many different beaches on that island.  On our very last day, we drove across the island to park ourselves on the beach best known for its sunsets.  Menemsha Beach (I drove my kids nuts because I kept calling it the Muppets song “Mahna Mahnam”!)

Unlike most beaches where it’s crowded in the early hours and fairly empty in later afternoon, this beach was empty early and started getting more and more crowded as the afternoon winded down. My kids noticed the odd discrepancy from what they are used to. I told them it was because of the sunset. Everyone was coming to see it. My daughter, Karissa, made the point that it looked very much like our beaches on the East Coast where everyone crowds on the beach at night to watch the fireworks.

We got into a big conversation about sunsets and why so many people were there to see it.  I had been excited all day for this and was getting more and more excited watching the crowd grow.  My son Mitchell asked why I like sunsets so much when he found them to be a bit depressing.  He said, “Mom, you watch an ending happening right before your eyes.”

True.  We discussed his thoughts on it being the end to a day.  The end of brilliant light.  End. Final. It’s over. How depressing… but not for me.

I explained that I look at it completely differently.  I have good days, great days, and some hard days.  At the end of a good or great day I feel like the sunset is nature’s own fireworks celebrating all that I could celebrate in that day.  The colors are extraordinary and the slow, peaceful setting helps me wind down.

I also explained that at the end of a bad day the same colorful display lets me know that in all the dark, hard times, there is so much brilliant color and light that is still in me ready to shine every single day.

At the end of a bad day the same colorful display lets me know that in all the dark, hard times, there is so much brilliant color and light that is still in me ready to shine every single day. #sunset #Mindset #Hope Click To Tweet

As we were talking, the sun got lower and lower and then my favorite part happened: The reflection of the sun on the water at the angle where we were sitting made a path of light from the sun right to us at the water’s edge. 

sunset at marthas vineyard. Gold and orange colors in the sky and a beam of light acrosst the water to the rocky beach
Sunset at Menemsha Beach

I described it to Mitchell and he was actually able to see some of the path.  I explained why that’s my favorite moment…

I see that as hope’s path.  Yes, it’s getting darker.  Yes, the colors are dimming. But at that moment I feel like the Universe is saying “Here’s is a path to stay on. Keep your eyes on the light at the end.  Keep walking in and toward that light.”

I see that as hope’s path. #Sunset #Hope Click To Tweet

He said, “Yeah Mom, but then it goes dark and the path is gone.”

To which I replied “But Mitchell, that’s simply to tell us to pack up, go home, and rest.  It might be hard work to follow our path tomorrow, it might not.  But we need to rest and enjoy the good things that come in the morning and tackle the hard things with full energy. 

There was a brief time when sunsets were hard for me because I saw them as an end to my great day, to my plans, to my dreams.  I feared the dark that was coming.  But once I armed myself with the tools I needed to take control of where my life was heading, to dream big and get going to accomplish those dreams, my perception of sunsets changed.  I now take every opportunity to watch them and enjoy the spectacular, colorful ending to the day, good or bad, and use it as my cue to wrap up and rest to start again in the morning.  I hope you can have that perception of sunsets too.

PS – I am not sure if all of my kiddos look at sunsets the way I do, but I can say that when we are together and I am taking in a sunset, they give me peace and quiet to experience it.  In my life that is very loud with my kiddos, I’d say that’s pretty dang magical!

**If you have a favorite place to watch the sunset, please share it on Twitter or Instagram and tag me @KristinSmedley or Facebook and tag @ThrivingBlind. **

Kristin Smedley is a 2019 Champion of Hope Award winner. She is an author, non profit leader and TEDx speaker.  She originally planned to be a third grade teacher… and then two of her three children were diagnosed as blind.  Kristin now shares her journey of raising her kids to not just survive challenges, but to thrive!  She speaks around the globe regarding blindness and resilience,  and she just launched her new series teaching people to SEE: Set Extraordinary Expectations!  Watch her TEDx talk here and order her new book here.  If you  are interested to have Kristin speak at your upcoming event,  email her at smedtalk@gmail.com or contact her here!