May 1, 2021
Loving. Strong. Honorable. Those are the first three words that come to mind to describe my Dad.
We’d spend our entire summer in Maine when we were growing up. We had a special love for the beach and the sea.
My Dad walked a lot. He loved Old Orchard and frequented the Veteran’s Park and the seven mile stretch of the beach. He had a deep appreciation for nature and a passion for fishing and loved being out on the water.
After he was diagnosed with cancer, we went on a fishing charter out of Ogunquit and I remember him saying, “the cancer isn’t going to get me.” It was stage 4 with a 5% survival rate and he beat it. I believe it was his attitude and strength that saved him. He was tough. Like so many who served and experienced war, he lived in hell for years. He was in Pearl Harbor when it was bombed and ducked gunfire in fox holes while serving in Guadalcanal, Vella Lavella and Luzon.
Not only did he teach me strength, he taught me principles too. And to always be thankful. When we walked on the beach, he’d share his stories and we’d simultaneously collect sand dollars. Sometimes, we’d walk down in Pine Point and visit the Nestling Duck gift store over by the Clambake. They had a great variety of products and arts and crafts. I remember seeing something with sand dollars on it and I just thought it was so beautiful. I was inspired to make my own sand dollar art.
Sand dollars were more abundant years ago, so as I made a few magnets and wreaths decorated with flowers, lace or gemstones, it wasn’t long before I didn’t have enough to continue.
I’ll never forget the huge smile on Dad's face when he returned after a raging storm. He’d gone for a walk at low tide and was blown away by what had washed up from the wild surf. When he approached my front door with four bags full of sand dollars, he smugly said, “I didn’t know what would break first, my back or the bags.” I filled the bathtub and washed the bountiful treasures.
When my Dad passed away, we often looked for signs of him saying hello. My Mom was missing him a little extra one day and went for a walk determined to find a sand dollar. She was sorely disappointed when she returned empty handed. The next day when she’d set out again she came back with the biggest smile as she showed off one of the biggest ones we’d ever seen. I still have it on my counter shelf and it’s the one sand dollar I'll cherish forever.
With every piece of artwork I make and give out, I share the "Legend of the Sand Dollar". It’s comforting to know that a part of my father and his memory lives on in so many homes and hearts. I can’t look at a sand dollar without thinking of my Dad and feel his subtle way of saying hello.
- Linda Urban, Sand Dollar Art