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.

Join the discussion 20 Comments

  • Amy robins says:

    Amazing, Lisa, ALL OF IT!
    Love you sweet friend xox

  • Jamianne says:

    Dearest Lisa and Michael,
    I am so grateful that Sophie tapped me on the shoulder the week before Anna joined Sophie in the greater, bigger, more magnificent picture…
    Their signs to us are the active-placing of yellow bricks, paving the path home … what a glorious sign in an extraordinary trip!!! Thank you both so much for sharing your journey. Xxx Jamianne and Leila

  • Susan Gartin says:

    Bravo, Lisa!!! What courage you had/have. I am with you that there are no coincidences. Faith, hope and miracles. I love that the ship Sofia was there. Stay well?

  • Vanessa Dunnet says:

    Thank you for inviting us to share your blog, Lisa, and the wonderful words which help others to understand your journey so far. We too will never forget our time at Kicker Rock – the hammerheads, the turtles and afterwards the appearance of the boat, Sofia. I think there were lots of goosebumps on our boat.
    How different our world looks just a few weeks later – keep safe. xx

  • Mitzi Chafetz says:

    Thank you for sharing your brave, beautiful adventure and inspiration. I love you, my dear friend.

  • Janie says:

    Oh, my, Lisa !
    I so love this story and your familiar courage to try something that seemed impossible at first . . . we’ve talked about the power of giving ourselves a pat on the back when we show up to the impossible and make it . . . all the way from gathering our courage at the support group door or hiking the Grand Canyon or snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean with sharks !!! You are such an inspiration to me . . . I’m so glad we met, but ache at the reason. I love Sophie showing up for you that way. No doubt about it ! I hear her saying it . . . “Way to go, Mom!”

  • Diane says:

    Thank you for sharing your magical and meaningful story — it was great to remember there is healing, hope, and love everywhere. I’m very happy to hear you and Michael enjoyed a long-awaited dream adventure. This has been such a confusing time that I’ve lost track of the days. I meant to send you a message yesterday when I saw April 8 on my calendar…and then the day slipped by. I have thought of Sophie often during this time and her plans to become a doctor and possibly being on the frontlines of this crisis. So far, we continue to be blessed with good health. Tom and I are sheltering in place in NC, while we worry about Timothy’s business being shuttered in Michigan and Kristen being on an island with growing cases and almost no healthcare system. Take care and stay strong on your journey. Love to you and Michael.

  • Debra Berman says:

    Love the story and the memories!
    Love, Deb

  • Erin Brandt says:

    I was one of those five other people who had the absolute privilege and pleasure to meet Lisa and Michael in the Galapagos. It was on that snorkel boat that we first learned about Sophia. I was struck by their immediate willingness to share their incredible joy and incredible pain with us – rarely are people this generous with their stories. But this is what makes them both so unique and so human. To know Lisa and Michael is to know the stories of both of their children, their love and their grief. On March 8, we are blessed to have shared an awesome day of snorkeling (don’t let Lisa fool you, she was super brave and did great!), but also to have had the opportunity to first learn about an amazing young woman named Sophia who brought such joy and light to the world. Lots of love from the Island crew:-)

    • Lisa M. Kurek says:

      It is a gift to be with people whose hearts are open to hold not only joy but also pain. Thank you, Erin, for your kind words and your open heart. Both are cherished.

  • Lisa, as always, your words touch my heart. I wish I had known Sophie, I can tell she was an amazing young woman. I love that the Sophia came to visit you on just the right day. Because of your musings, we all can share in the love you have for your daughter and the world. Thank you sweet friend. ???❤️❤️❤️???