The first time I saw the ocean, I was fifteen. I walked up a slight hill. The water was not yet in view, but the sky already seemed different, as if it knew what I was about to behold. No buildings, no trees obscured my view. I reached the top of the hill and there was the ocean — magnificent in its vastness, in its power.

I was thunderstruck. To this day, the sight of the ocean astounds me and fills me with wonder. Perhaps, if I was fortunate enough to have a house on the beach I’d get so accustomed to the sight of the ocean I wouldn’t really see it anymore. Not so fortunate after all.

But that is what happens to all of us at times. We see something extraordinary and beautiful and magnificent, and because we see it so often it loses its magic and becomes so ordinary that it might as well be invisible. Once we start naming things — that’s a tree, that’s a bird, that’s my neighbor, that’s a pasture — we stop trying to sense the wonder that lies within it.

But when someone we dearly love passes away, we remember them with wonder. We remember the beauty, the mystical nature of who they really were, perhaps what their purpose in this life might have been. We feel how they touched us at our core. They were more than just a living body.

So I do my best never to so casually take for granted the bird that flies overhead, or the wind in my face, or the sound the apple makes as it falls from the tree and thunks on the ground. I pause even for just a second more to smile at the colors of a flower garden, or the chipmunk scurrying under the pine tree. And I try never to be impatient with others, no matter what they are doing that is costing me my time or my money. Instead, I imagine them as having dreams still yet to be answered, as having hearts that may still be broken.

And when I imagine my loved ones who have passed, or my future without them, I see them and myself and my future as the ocean — vast, immense, alive.

Paul Coleman

Dr. Paul Coleman is a psychologist in private practice for over thirty years and the author of a dozen books including his most recent “Finding Peace When Your Heart Is in Pieces” (ADAMS MEDIA, 2014). He has appeared on national television shows such as “OPRAH” and “TODAY” and has appeared on dozens of national radio shows including NPR and WABC. Dr. Coleman specializes in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as well helping people through grief and other life transitions. For fun, Paul enjoys acting and has appeared in over forty community theater stage productions. He recently appeared as a grief counselor in the HBO series “I Know This Much Is True” starring Mark Ruffalo. He has written several stage plays—as yet unpublished—but has had readings of his plays performed in New York City and Austin, Texas. Paul and his wife have three children and four grandchildren.

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