March 8, 2020 was the first month in my now 70 month journey that I didn’t write a post. There is a reason why and a story to tell, and I am going to share both with you. I had planned to do so sooner than this, but writing doesn’t come easy to me, and before I knew it another month had passed. I could never have envisioned that, as I write this, the entire world would be grieving, which gave me pause as to whether or not it was now appropriate to share this story. However, for me it is story of strength and spirit gleaned from the depths of grief and so I share it in the hope that those who read it will find their boat too. Here goes….
My husband and I awoke on March 8, 2020 on our first full day in the Galapagos – part of a long planned dream adventure trip. We almost didn’t go because there was so much snorkeling involved, (to say I am a bit afraid of the water is an understatement) but I took a deep breath (no pun intended), and a snorkeling lesson before we left, and plunged forth (again, no pun intended). As it was the 8th, I felt my self-imposed need to write a blog post but the glorious isolation of these unique islands means that internet bandwidth is spotty at best. Therefore I promised myself I’d write something as soon as I could, and gave myself permission to, for the first time, miss posting on the 8th.
We met our amazing guide and five other soon-to-be best friends and boarded a small boat to go to Kicker Rock, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, to snorkel. Google it… and you’ll understand why I was beyond scared at what we were about to do. The promise of snorkeling with the sharks loomed and I remained doubtful at my ability to literally plunge ahead. I painstakingly pried on my wet suit (one of many firsts for me on this trip) and as I was about to peel it right back off I stopped, closed my eyes, and told myself that I wouldn’t let her down. “Her” of course is my daughter who, in her brief 23 years on this earth, never cowered from an adventure or a challenge. Mask and snorkel were quickly donned and I shocked my husband (and everyone else on board who by now knew of my mounting fear) by being the second one to plunge into the Pacific!!
Fast forward 45 minutes, during which time we saw everything (including hammerhead sharks, thank you very much!!) and feeling very proud of myself, I was also feeling very, very tired. I raised my hand and our guide was quickly by my side with a life ring to hold on to and an assurance that the boat would be there soon. Within 5 minutes it was in sight. After being the second in the water, I was first out of the water (fits with my competitive nature), with the rest of the group still happily riding the swells and admiring the fish. While to many this may seem like an overstatement, once I was back on board I was overwhelmed with immense feelings of both relief and pride in addition to exhaustion. I had done it! I had snorkeled in the Pacific. As I began to struggle out of the aforementioned web suit I looked up and there it was. My sign. My message. My gift. It was a boat pulling up behind us. She was the only other boat in sight across the vast Pacific, and she was named “Sofia”. There are no coincidences. There is only faith and hope and love.
I am smiling as I relay this story, for I envision her scrambling to find a boat called “Sophia” and finally deciding that one small deviation in spelling wouldn’t get in the way of her letting me know she was there. She had to be, for if not for her I would be sitting here now never having seen a hammerhead shark.
Since safely (and gratefully) arriving home on March 16 I have watched as the world has spiraled into unknown places that will inevitably bring an element of grief to every single person. I wondered how I could now share a story of a grand adventure in what so quickly has become a harrowing time for all. Yet my adventure was embedded in my larger world of the profound grief of child loss. It is a world no one ever wants to be in, and most of us think we can’t survive. Yet I have learned that with time, an open heart, and an unwavering faith in the unknown we can.
I hope that those of you who graciously took the time to read this story find a way to breathe through each of the coming days, and may you one day look up and see your boat.