Three years ago I had the privilege of watching the release of seven sea turtles on Topsail Island, North Carolina. The turtles varied in size, but their longing to get back to the sea was the same. I don’t remember the names of all of the turtles or what circumstances caused their journeys to be interrupted, but I do remember the last, and least, turtle because he was close enough for me to see the deep yearning in his eyes. I’m thankful for the image I was able to capture because it serves as a reminder of that miraculous moment.
Leonardo was the smallest turtle, and his flippers began flapping vigorously the moment he spotted the ocean. They did not stop beating until he was placed into the water. He was revving up his engine for a fast getaway and wanted to hit the ocean swimming. As I watched his handler trying to hold on to him, I understood the necessity of the restraints around the larger turtles. They needed four adults to carry them to the water. I’m sure ten strong men would not have been able to hold the largest turtle if his giant flippers were free to flap like little Leonardo’s.
This amazing pageant of healed turtles returning home humbled me in a powerful way. I was so happy for the turtles and so very thankful for volunteers, like the lady in line, who are willing to provide help and hope to injured travelers on their way home. I was watching a miracle and sharing the experience with those around me. It was a small crowd because the release took place the day after Labor Day. Tourists had returned home, and children were back in school.
I was standing near a woman deeply connected to this moment, but she was standing with the crowd and not with the volunteers. I could tell by the tone of her voice and her knowledge about the process that she was not just an observer. She told me the direction the turtles would swim and where they were headed. She also talked about the turtles as if she knew them well and loved them deeply. She represented the love that kept the hospital going. I wondered if she had known Karen Beasley, perhaps she was her mom. Whoever she was, she helped me see that more than turtles were being released that day.
I was on the beach that afternoon because God allowed my sister and I to overhear plans for the release as we waited in line for our afternoon coffee and smoothie. A lady who worked at the Turtle Hospital was telling her friend about it while we waited in line behind her. She was very gracious when we asked for details and told us when and where to be the following day. My sister was unable to go but insisted I go and tell her all about it.
Advent is a time of sweet longing as we await the arrival of Christ while remembering His birth. I can only imagine what those who witnessed that beautiful miracle first hand must have felt. I am still in awe when I think of those majestic turtles plunging into the ocean and making a sharp right turn as their built-in GPS directed them to the Gulf of Mexico. I got to see their longing satisfied, and it was amazing. Seeing the Messiah fulfill God’s promise is more than I can begin to fathom.
I long for the day when my spirit is released, and I am able to be with God; but I also long to be more aware of the miracles He places in my path each and every day. As I watched little Leonardo flap his wings in sweet anticipation, I found myself wanting to abandon all, jump in, and swim to the Gulf with him.
His longing was contagious! I pray mine will be too.
You can read more about Karen Beasley’s legacy at http://magazine.wfu.edu/2014/07/10/karen-beasleys-legacy-save-the-turtles/