Ah, vacation! Everyone needs one now and again. For rest, renewal, exploration, or just shenanigans. No one needed a vacation from reality more than Tim/Blanket and me after a hellish few months. It has been so hard for him, shouldering the burden of taking care of me and even still, he has to take care of me. A wheelchair at the airport, assistance getting in and out of cars, onto boats and ladders, filling in missing words for me, making sure I remember to take my medicine, it goes on and on.
So–off to Aruba. Of course we are the adventurous types and things don’t usually go as planned. We arrived, after a two-hour delay, and checked into a room with zero view of the ocean and a big view of the trash under our balcony. Calls were made, we were promised a change by Friday. With that we headed to the beach for a night swim. My purse was stolen. Not such a great welcome. A very nice guy from Revere helped us search the beach and we found my bag behind a stack of chairs with the cash gone. Gotta roll with it. After we got the messy stuff out-of-the-way we got into some serious relaxing. I slept a lot of course, but we swam, snorkeled, ate lots of fish and went on a UTV adventure all over the island that started out in the pouring rain–soaking wet and cold–always a twist.
Instead of time management we were on energy management so we planned activities on alternate days so I could recover in between. On our second day of snorkeling, I felt myself really relax as I floated in 60 foot waters, breath in, breath out, my happy place. I could have stayed there forever.
At some point I realized I was actually having periods of forgetting I had cancer. I was in a place where nobody knew that about me and there was little talk about it. Tim and I kid around a lot about our situation –I will say I’m dying of cancer and we both in unison, will say “but not today.” It reminds me to live in that moment, to be present.
On the beach one day Tim was chatting with a lady from Miami sitting next to us and he mentioned I had died and come back in April. The lady simply said “it wasn’t your time.” That resonated with me. It was not my time. I have stuff to do, memories to make, time with my family. The coconuts and limes still need me.
Then an odd thing happened. We were on the rustic, wind-swept side of the island in our UTV. We came upon the chapel on the hill, Alto Vista. Small, wooden, plain, sitting in the middle of nowhere. I went in and kneeled. I am not a religious person at all. But something shifted in the universe. I felt as if I were split open. The immensity of the burden I have welled up in me in that moment. I began weeping, something I rarely, if ever, do. I felt compelled to get up and walk behind the little altar and touch the feet of the statue of Mary holding Jesus. And then, I felt the overwhelming grief and sadness that I will be leaving behind Tim, Kelsey and Bridget, the people I hold closest and love most. Who will protect them? Who will guide and love them?
I sat down and felt the magnitude and then another shift. I thought about the love, prayers and intentions that have been channeled my way by so many. That is what allows me to pack away my feelings and keep moving forward. I thought “I can lay it down here in this windy chapel overlooking the wild, rough sea.” With that I walked out the door, buckled into the UTV and drove away. I am dying, but not today.