When Life Serves Up a Shock Wave



“We are sturdy beings. But in many ways, we are fragile. We can accept change and loss, but this comes at our own pace and in our own way. And only God can determine the timing.”  (The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie)

Dear Friends,

It was my initial thought to title my September blog “It’s a teeny tiny small world”, but something my 36 year old son Ryan said prompted me to change course.  He used the words “shock wave” to describe a certain event that hit the people and town he and his siblings grew up in.

I’ll start somewhat at the beginning to set the scene.  I was taking a beach walk in August with my daughter Meghan and for some reason the subject came up of a young man, A.R., who was the same age as my kids and hung out in similar circles.  He was described as warm, funny, always grinning; and one particular thing stood out – he was passionate about surfing.

Many kids growing up in our little California coastal town could be described that way, as it was easy to try surfing when most of us lived just minutes from the beach.  My kids dabbled in surfing but never got seriously hooked, but this young man, A.R., did.

Whenever the subject comes up about A.R.’s life, hearts swell with heaviness, and we feel terrible sadness, but the thing that tends to blunt the force of grief is the knowledge that A.R. seized onto a whole lot of life during his brief earthly sojourn and he was doing what he loved. In 2008, 25 year old A.R. was surfing in Mexico and was bit by a Tiger shark.  He was in a remote area and his desperate traveling companion had to flag down a bystander who put A.R. in a truck to take him to the nearest medical facility, a military hospital 30 minutes away. Some of the details are simply too sad to mention. The wound was severe, and medical help too far away.  A.R. didn’t make it despite the efforts of friends, strangers, and medical personnel.


A Tiger Shark

Shark attacks are rare (see here), so when a lovable, smiling young man from a tight knit community dies as a result of a shark bite, it’s as if a rogue wave arrives without warning, crashing with tremendous force, delivering shock and chaos.

The news headlines that ran later were “San Francisco surfer bleeds to death, Surfer killed by  shark in Mexico.”

All these memories came flooding back when my daughter and I brought up A.R. while traversing the beach where he learned to surf:

Soon after the walk with my daughter, I flew from SFO to re-join my husband in Palm Desert and get back to retired life.  It’s a 510 mile trip from the beach town where my kids were raised to my retirement nook, so who could predict the startling coincidence that would happen next.

I was sitting in the Sun City pizzeria after a golf game chatting with my golf partner K.Y. when a lovely lady with red hair and a southern accent sat down in a chair next to us and began to chat.  K.Y. introduced me to her – S.T.,  a member of our golf club who couldn’t golf due to a shoulder injury but she was joining us for post game camaraderie.

The conversation turned to K.Y. and S.T.’s  younger days when both of them hopped in a car and drove cross country to California to seek adventure and new vistas. K.Y. drove from Massachusetts and S.T. drove from Texas.  When I heard that the latter drove to San Francisco, I said “I grew up in San Francisco! Isn’t it a small world!”  Then she said, “Well after living in S.F., I moved to Pacifica and raised my kids there.”  My heart skipped a beat, and I replied, “I’m from Pacifica!”  I mean, what were the odds!  We exchanged stories about our little town, where we lived, when our kids were born and what schools they attended. She said she had a son my children’s ages, and I said, “Oh yeah, what’s his name?”   She said, “A.R.”  I paused because the name sounded so familiar but I was caught off guard and it didn’t immediately dawn on me that my daughter and I had been talking about her son only one week prior.

There was something in S.T.’s eyes, a sadness, and then it hit me — I put my hands over my face and couldn’t help myself.  I started crying.  Tears welled up in her eyes, too.  I said,  “Oh my God, I am so so sorry.”

S.T. is in a place where she can talk about it; she shared that indeed the wound severing the femoral artery was so severe that had her son received medical help sooner, he might not have survived.  With beautiful honesty, she said, “Who do I blame?  It wasn’t as if a drunk driver hit him; it was a shark. Am I supposed to be mad at a shark?”

Interesting that I don’t think I ever met S.T. while we both raised kids at the same time in a town of 37,000 people; nor do I recall meeting her adventurous, laid back son, but I could have.   11 years after the death of her son, a grieving Mother has found a semblance of peace.

“Though getting through today might feel like getting through all of eternity, we can remind ourselves that we won’t feel this way forever. We can trust that our Higher Power has a plan for us, even if we can’t see where we are headed.”    

(From Opening our Hearts, Transforming our Losses, p. 15)

When I told my son Ryan of this improbable encounter with A.R.’s Mother,  he said that his best friend grew up across the street from A.R. and then he added: when A.R. passed away in Mexico, it was as if a SHOCK WAVE went through the town of Pacifica and it’s never ended, reverberating, ebbing and flowing, down through time,  over a decade later.

Life is fleeting and precious.  We are sturdy and fragile at the same time; tragedy is served up to us and people we know as an unfortunate aspect of life.  I’m not going to deny that life is composed of terrible pain and loss; yet, on the other hand, life is the most beautiful thing I know.

It turns out that S.T. lives on my street, one block away, in a retirement community of 5,000 homes. What are the odds?  I reached out by email to S.T. and she kindly wrote back, “I guess it was inevitable that sooner or later we’d meet. I’m very happy about that.”  What a wonderful turn of events.

To inject a healing musical metaphor, soon after I met S.T., Sun City ukulele teacher Lori introduced our group to a new song (listen here). I wasn’t familiar with the artist or song, but I had to only hear it once and I was hooked.  The song’s simple poignancy and relevance brought joy to my heart and some moistness to my eyes.  Who couldn’t use a dose of joy that exudes from Keb’ Mo’s song:

“Cause Life is beautiful, Life is Wondrous, Every Star Above is shining just for us. Life is Beautiful, on a stormy night, somewhere in the world, the sun is shining bright.”

Whenever I am back in Pacifica, I take every chance I can to walk at the ocean; in fact, the minute I land at SFO, and drop my suitcase off at the apartment, I’m down at the beach doing a 2-3 mile walk.  I breathe in the fresh salt air and feel cleansed and so blessed to be alive.

My grandkids feel the same way about the ocean:


Riley Grace tries out boogie-boarding.


Way to catch that wave, Lucas!


Little adventurers: Riley, Lucas, Willie

I will close with this:  I was walking on beach cliffs this past week with my daughter-in-law Krysti.  It was  a sparkling September day and I could not contain my gratitude, and while we traversed narrow slippery channels, I shared with Krysti how her husband Ryan’s words, “shock wave” impacted me and how I was going to use that phrase in my September blog.

Krysti turned around smiling and remarked, “Well, there can be good shock waves, can’t there?  Such as learning about a surprise pregnancy even though we all thought our family was complete?”

“Yes, Krysti,” I answered, “that is definitely a good shock wave.

Krysti, mother of 3 boys, contemplating the future, and the addition of a 4th boy….life goes on:

So it looks like my 9th grandchild will be arriving early spring 2020, and I couldn’t be happier.

A.R.:  You will never be forgotten.  All the surfers and non-surfers on our little stretch of coast and lots of other places will always remember you; and, the exuberant and kind life you lived is your legacy that we’ll pass down to our grandchildren.


My grandson, Willie Mac, just a typical Pacifica kid seeking adventure.

With a big shout out to all adventurers, whether you are driving across country to a new life, or catching a wave on a local or foreign beach, may you live your best life and may you be happy, joyous and free.  And… may we never forget to treasure each moment we are given.

Submitted with love and gratitude,







29 thoughts on “When Life Serves Up a Shock Wave

    • Dear Sharon,

      Thank you for reading – your comment is deeply appreciated. Stories like this write themselves and I am just the vehicle through which it flows. Not sure if you know S.T., but perhaps one day we’ll all get to know each other! Sun City is a small, tight knit community, too; when something sad happens to one, it happens to all of us.



  1. Oh Susie this one brought me to tears! We all need to work on living in the moment and being grateful for each day we have ❤️. I myself have been taking daily walks around the Venice Canals or along the beach and each time brings me a sense of gratitude and peace.

    Sending you love all the way from Los Angeles.

    Xoxo Veronica


    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Veronica,

      I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to read this and comment! You were and are part of this small Oceanside community. Everyone knows everyone. When one part is affected, the whole is affected.

      You know I think it comes down to this: it is true that we live on borrowed time. When your uncle Dan’s brother went to work on his police beat one day, we never knew that would be the last time anyone would ever see or talk to him. So love and hug hard!

      I’m so glad to hear you are taking walks that give you peace – it’s so wonderfully therapeutic. I think I might be in a straight jacket if I didn’t have my walks in nature and fresh air to set my head on straight ! 😂

      Love you,
      Auntie Susie


    • Dear Donna,

      Thank you so much for your kind comment and support…as always. I felt it was too extraordinary of a story to keep to myself.

      I was telling someone about the story today and couldn’t help but cry. It really affected people but S.T. knows her son was loved and admired and not forgotten and that keeps her going too.

      Yes it’s going to be exciting having a new baby! My cup runneth over!


      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is an amazing story. You tell a sad and poignant tale that demonstrates how intertwined we all are– with fate, with nature, with other people. I’m glad you have a new companion, but like you said: what are the odds? Life is filled with shockwaves, I suppose.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Ally,

      I love your comment about being intertwined with fate, nature, and with each other. How beautifully stated!

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting – it’s not easy to share such a sad story but life is a broad spectrum of both joy and woe. It took me since September 3 (when I met S.T.) to pull the thoughts together, and then finally try to sit down and let the story tell itself.

      It’s an honor to be able to blog and share these kinds of stories with other kindred spirits like yourself!

      As someone said recently, love is never lost! The spirit of A.R. lives on in every crashing wave all over the planet, wherever intrepid surfers gather.


      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a beautiful posting, and you masterfully brought together grief, chance, healing, and life paths intersecting. It is impossible to even begin to fathom the timing of chance encounters and episodes and the rationale behind it all. But you provoked reflection through your words and meaningful photos. Thank you! — Suzette

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Suzette,

      WOW, you captured and shared so much depth and insight yourself in this very thoughtful, penetrating comment.

      Yes, we can never fully fathom and grasp the reasons or why’s behind life’s mysteries; sometimes all we can do is be a witness and offer some reflections.

      It is an honor to have you stop by – you help me to be a better person and better writer!

      Life is good with a friend like you in the world! 😄



  4. I was blessed to be born into a very large family, and we have experienced our share of tragedy, heartbreak and loss. But, love and joy trump the hard knocks that come along with living. We’ve learned to cherish each other and to celebrate with gusto our times together. We know too well that the rhythm of life can be shattered without notice.

    Beautiful blog with a beautiful message. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Virginia,

      Thank you so much for your kind and moving comment. I love the phrase “the rhythm of life can be shattered without notice.” Isn’t that the truth? I think most of us can share stories of traumatic loss in life. Not everyone reacts by living and loving more with gusto, but if we can, it’s a triumph.

      I loved hearing your thoughts and look forward to seeing you again!



    • Dear Jennifer,

      It means so much that you stopped by here to read and comment and that the story hit you on a deep level. Thank you also for the compliments regarding my writing. I feel so blessed to be able to share thoughts, feelings, and stories on these pages of WordPress and that they mean something to someone else.

      You and your children are a gift to me! My life is superiorly enhanced and blessed by having you all as my family members. Life is so precious and such a gift. It’s a tragedy that some waste this gift but everyone handles things differently. It’s obvious to me that A.R.’s Mom is trying to live her best and happiest life ~ I’m sure A.R. would have wanted that!

      Thank you for your love and support!

      S.G. (Nana)


  5. What an incredible piece of beauty and poignancy! Congrats to your son and his wife. How exciting for them and you! I feel for the mother who lost her son in such a tragic way. I always think of people who lose loved ones in such sudden shocking ways.

    nobody escapes this life without suffering and sorrow.

    Your pictures are beautiful as always and this piece,despite its tragic story, is wonderfully uplifting in the end.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear S.H.

      Thank you so much for your support and kind comment! I agree with you that life is full of both joy and sorrow.

      There’s a quote from the poet Robert Blake about this:

      “Man was made for Joy & Woe
      And when this we rightly know
      thro the world we safely go
      Joy & Woe are woven fine
      a clothing for the soul divine
      under every grief & pine
      runs a joy with silken twine”

      There’s just no way of getting around life’s shocking twists and turns; as the saying goes, one is either busy living or busy dying.
      I choose life for as long as the dear Lord ordains it.

      Warmest wishes,


  6. What a beautiful post! Shock waves can be both positive and negative (wise words), yet I seem to only focus on the bad ones sometimes. I need to work on that. I love how small our worlds are, and the random connections we make with others. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Margiegf,

      I am so grateful that you stopped by, read and commented! I thought this episode was too unique to keep to myself. I did not want to violate S.T.’s privacy and at the same time, the story is so riveting and unusual, that I could not help but to share with others.

      Some of the good shock waves in my life have surrounded the announcement of pregnancies! Go figure!

      Each day I wake up and the sun rises, it’s a rebirth, a chance to try again, live again, rejoice and be grateful. We all experience sadness and loss, but I hope to not forget the gifts that are given along the way too! I constantly need that reminder myself😄

      I’m grateful for these random connections and how small our worlds are – so true Margie!



  7. Hi Susan, (I just found your post in my spam email. Weird. I rarely check this file and this has not happened to your posts before. New phone and transferred all information over the past couple of weeks. I am glad I checked)

    I immediately started to brace myself when I read the words “shock wave.” As I continued reading I had an immediate visceral reaction to the name of her son. “what were the odds!” Yes, a “shock wave” even to me, the reader.

    OMgosh……where S.T. Lives now!

    You have written a story about a tragic situation, yet, imparted it with such beautiful words and phrases and quotes. I am in awe of the coincidences and synchronicities.

    We had a very unexpected family death (not under tragic circumstances like this story) although the youngest of four adult siblings passed away this past Saturday. We have out of town guests with us right now trying to sort through next steps, and dealing with grief.

    Possibly, I needed to read your words more today, than when you posted this story September 27th.

    Love all of the stunning scenic photos and the photos of your family. I usually try not to make comments and responses too long, although, you bring out depth of feelings and responses, Susan. Kindred souls. 💕

    Love all of the stunning scenic photos and the photos of your family. I usually try not to make comments and responses too long, although, you bring out depth of feelings and responses, Susan. Kindred souls. 💕

    Yes, “blessed to be alive.” Yes, “treasure each moment we are given.” 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear E,

      You are free to write a comment as long as you would like 😁.

      Thank you so much for reading and offering your perspicacious feedback. It is always welcome and helps me to understand how my words affect others. Of course I always hope they are received favorably.

      I felt moved to share this synchronicity with others although I was hesitant about sharing the sad subject matter. Someone asked me why do I think things happen to me like this (the incredible coincidences, etc) and not wanting to sound like I have a bloated ego, I replied that perhaps a Higher Power wanted me to write about it. If one person is moved, touched or inspired, then I guess I’ve done my small part and feel I’ve been of service.

      I am sorry for the death of a family member. Under any circumstance, it’s difficult and a loss. I had dinner with an old friend last night who one evening went to check on her 96 mother and found her dead, face down on the carpet. My friend was traumatized and so unprepared even though her Mom was an advanced age. It was still a shock- her Mother was gone. But about two years later, she has found perspective and understands that her mother went very quickly, and did not suffer. Plus her mom went the way she would’ve wanted to, living in her own home, under her own terms.

      So, I feel for you and your family and offer my condolences and prayers.

      Life is short – let’s seize it. When I go, I always tell my loved ones “have a party, toast me, and tell funny stories.” I’ll be in a better place. 🙏❤️🙏

      Bless you kindred soul,


      Liked by 1 person

      • You remind me of the concept of “sharing” again, Susan. This word continues to appear everywhere for me this year. I, too, am cautious about what to share and how much to share. Then I am constantly getting feedback that at least one other person genuinely appreciated a story or a personal note. Likely with you, too, Susan, I sometimes get private notes and emails that I don’t share on any public forum.

        Your story was exceptionally poignant and goose bumpy! You are also a great story teller, Susan. Not just a newspaper article with facts. The emotion is palpable.

        Authors I greatly respect speak about the concept of creativity, and how the story (or any form of artwork) comes through the writer (I don’t have all the words, ‘conduit?’). You have written about this concept in the past.

        Your words and thoughtful sentiment bring tears to my eyes…………in a kind, loving way. Thank you kindred soul💕

        Liked by 1 person

    • Dear E,

      thanks for the comment you wrote on October 9th. Yes, conduit is a great word for what happens during the creative process. I also use the word “vessel”.

      I don’t wish to live a life that is without goosebumps and emotion, but one thing I’ve learned (often the hard way) is to tone down/turn down unnecessary drama! Now that’s a whole ‘nother subject, ha ha.

      I hope you and your family are doing well in the aftermath of your own loss.

      I’m back in the desert reunited with hubby and so I’ve been offline for a bit.

      Sending you the cheeriest of cheers on this lovely Sunday,


      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Susan, Good and often healthy to be offline periodically. Thanks for your kind wishes. Our Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and I always am thankful for a great deal in my life. Enjoy your time with your hubby. xo 💕

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Susan: Wow!! What a beautifully written post!!! This definitely brought tears to my eyes in a very loving way! Sorry it took me a while to read!! Congrats on the additional grandchild. I especially loved the clip from “opening our hearts” So wonderful- you are such a beautiful and thoughtful person!! and a dear friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Bonny,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Your kind words really lift my spirit! I hope I can return to you what you’ve given me in support, encouragement and friendship! Life is good.



  9. Doesn’t life throw us some amazing curveballs sometimes? I can imagine how the death of a young man in the prime of life in such a bizarre accident would send shock waves through the community. How terrible for his family. That you should find yourself as neighbors to the young man’s mother after all these years in a different community is amazing!

    Congratulations on the impending birth of the new grandson! How wonderful!!!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Laurie,

      It’s truly a remarkable story that I wanted to share, and I deeply appreciate you stopping by and taking time to read this story. I always think there’s a far grander plan orchestrated by a mammoth intelligence (that I call God) than our little brains can comprehend. I wish I could understand why certain tragedies happen, but it’s like pounding sand and wasted energy because we really don’t know. We think we can come up with possibilities, but the why and wherefore is ultimately incomprehensible. When my kids and others would see the young surfer, A.R., around town all during their formative years, who could predict what would happen – the odds of being attacked by a shark are 1 in 3.7 million. It wasn’t as if A.R. came from a city of 4 million like Los Angeles; he was from a little Pacific coast town of 37,000 as I wrote.

      I felt it was an honor to be able to pay tribute in some small way to A.R. and to his Mother.

      And thank you for the note of congratulations re my son and daughter-in-law expecting. We are excited for another bambino and Nana’s (me) work is never done. Ha ha, I’m still needed.



  10. Wow. I love this story so much. I am sure meeting you was in some ways, very healing and comforting for S.T. Just amazing.

    The world IS small. I have had a few experiences like this in my life. In fact, I’m posting about in a few weeks. It’s a goofy story, but brought me soooo much joy!!!

    Additional shout outs: Keb Mo – LOVE and a 4th baby for your daughter? Wowza. Congrats.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Pam,

      I’ve had a chance to see S.T. a few times since meeting her and she mentions to others how I reached out to her via email after our meeting with a nice note that showed her that her son is NOT forgotten. She doesn’t run or hide from memories of her son; she does talk about it and I think you are right, it is healing for her. She shares that she is certain she will see him again one day in another world.

      I look forward to hearing your story, too!


      Liked by 1 person

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