Sun, surf and tears
In late November of 2015 I walked out onto the golden sand of Punta Uva Beach in Costa Rica, dug my toes in, perused the gorgeous, bluish-green cove nestled between a cluster of palm trees and a majestic rock formation jutting out into the Caribbean, and cursed God. Others frolicked in the surf and sauntered down the beach, seemingly without a care in the world, while I searched for somewhere to cry.
I began to walk, the sun on my skin, the breeze in my hair, the waves gently crashing, and the tears began to flow. The last time I was here, Hannah had walked beside me. How could a loving God have taken her? The most beautiful soul I had ever known, and she had been allowed to waste away in such a painful and visually heart-rending fashion. I felt deeply and profoundly unsafe. If this could happen to her, how could I possibly heal? How could I trust? Why would I even want to live in a world that this could happen? I have three other children…who’s next? And then I cried some more.
Every day I would head to the beach and walk and cry and question God, and every evening I would return to our temporary casita in the jungle, surrounded by beautiful trees, tropical birds, and howler monkeys. When I wasn’t crying or blasting away at God, I was reading books about death and the afterlife, mainly Near Death Experience (NDE) books. I was fascinated with the beautiful stories of love and acceptance beyond our wildest dreams that were supposedly experienced by these people who had died and had come back to life. The stories distracted me from my excruciating reality, while ushering in hope that Hannah was immersed in that same love and beauty. I had brief moments where I escaped my pain and reveled in the excitement of heaven and what it might be like if it truly existed.
Somehow in the midst of those days we purchased a small finca, or farm, back in the jungle. Don’t ask me how it happened, because it is another one of those early day blurs, but it worked out (we still live here). I guess we would not have done so had we not felt a sense of mystical healing from the jungle and the ocean. Though it was coming at us in tiny glimpses, this small slice of Costa Rica truly did seem to have a magical touch. And before you get too excited about our tropical paradise, it was only a 450-square foot home on stilts. It took a massive cleaning and sanding and varnishing effort to render it livable, but it soon became home. Phil and I lived in the one bedroom above and our two sons, Kyle and Luke, slept in tents below. And, of course, the howler monkeys roamed the treetops.
Though I had never been what you would call an extrovert, I had also never been afraid to be around people, per se, and yet looking back it is easy to retroactively self-diagnose myself with an erratic form of social anxiety. I needed people who truly cared, who instinctively knew how to give space to someone with a horribly broken heart, possibly beyond repair, but I also craved my alone time where I could decompress. Here I would hibernate with my NDE books and imagine I was in heaven, that Hannah was there. Yes, I was beginning to feel that heaven was real and that there was beauty for all there, but what about for me? In the here and now? Was there any chance of beauty for me on this earth? I honestly had no idea how to even live anymore, and I was constantly attacked by the memories, the visuals still so fresh in my mind. Was there any hope for me?
In early February I was on my computer and came across an ad for a local workshop dealing with the body’s energy centers, also known as chakras, scheduled to start on the following Tuesday. For some reason it piqued my interest, but it would mean being around people, would cost money, would require a commitment of time, and I really knew very little about the subject. Probably not, I thought. But I woke up Tuesday morning and felt compelled to go. CRAZY!
I felt disoriented and anxious as I walked in and joined the three or four others, then the instructor showed up, a woman with gorgeous silver hair and an even prettier smile. Her name was Eva, and we instantly hit it off. I needed someone who could handle my anger and hold a place of light for me in my pit of darkness, and Eva was that person.
We met for coffee between the first two classes and I remember her saying to me, “I see you!” As I got to know her better she would make me mad and hopeful at the same time. It was the first time since Hannah’s illness and death that someone met me where I needed to be met; she had the courage to look at all the shit. She would piss me off, saying things like, “We don’t get to know why…” and “Life is mysterious…” and I would retort stuff like, “You have no idea…” while really wanting to say, “Screw you!” The truth is that I was in victim mode, which is extremely common when losing a child, but not healthy.
I was also sabotaging myself by asking, hoping, almost demanding a miracle from God, whoever he really was. After all he had done to my daughter, or allowed it to happen, I felt that I at least deserved a miraculous touch of healing! I was trying so hard to believe in a benevolent God, wanting desperately for there to be a Higher Power that loved us. My heart was slowly opening. I did not trust or believe yet, but I was open.
I had taken my first legitimate risk. I had gotten out of bed, followed my gut, exposed my battered heart, and felt a glimmer of hope, for what…I was not sure.