To Save One Life

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of Your Hand
And Eternity in an hour

William Blake

It was not a world I saw on the beach at Brant Lake. Only a black elongated shell partially embedded in the wet sand. Only a mussel. Then again, perhaps that mussel symbolized one world lost forever, another waiting to be redeemed.

I drifted gently on the quiet lake when suddenly the broad wake from a powerful Garland motorboat swept under my canoe. The wave lashed the shoreline and carried a tiny mussel in its wake depositing the shell inland. Nearby, Sharon, a young mother, and her three year old daughter Beth, looked at the mussel trapped in the sand

Sharon was a visitor at Brant Lake. Months before, her husband of four years had died of an aggressive cancer. Sharon, inspired by his determination, an athlete who surfed the ocean and ran marathons, had searched for a cure. There was none. This was a race he could not win, a challenge leading into eternity. And, shortly after his death, Beth, the golden child with long blond hair, contracted a disease with an unknown prognosis.

Lives buffeted by the irreversible waves of time.

Sharon had come to Brant Lake seeking a respite from mourning, searching for healing. Now, she and her child had taken an interest in the plight of the solitary mussel. Carefully they uncovered the mussel that had landed too far from the water’s edge, distant from the wet rocks on which it normally clustered. Too far away to survive. Soon it would dry out. Die.

Sharon spoke to her daughter: “Dearest, we must save the mussel. Here. Take the shell and toss it back into the lake.”

Beth, her little fingernails painted with pink sparkles, scampered to the lake’s edge and threw the mussel into the shallow water. Back to its home. As the mussel sank, the child, smiling through her freckles, called to her mother: “Was that good mommy? Was it?” And Sharon smiled, even as a single tear flowed. “Yes, Beth, my love, yes, that was good. Very good. We saved a life Beth. A tiny life.”

So the poet wrote, “To see a world in a grain of sand–––to hold infinity in the palm of your hand. And eternity in an hour.”

It was only a mussel but, for the moment, that would suffice–––It was a beginning on the journey to restoring life.


Brant Lake

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