There is a “rule” about life in the aftermath of death – you either keep everything the same at holidays, or you do something totally different. We decided early on that Sarah would get to decide about Thanksgiving and Christmas.
So for Thanksgiving, we went across the street to our dear neighbors’ home, and we ate and ate and ate, and then we all piled on the couches downstairs for some football-watching, and we dozed and awoke, and dozed again. Their basset hound was beyond ecstatic with all the snuggle-buddies to chose from. And we did it all clad in our PJ bottoms. If only Mark could have been there. He would have loved it. Every single second. Every single bite.
For Christmas, Sarah had asked to “go somewhere warm, to be on a beach on Christmas day.” It soon became apparent we would not be able to swing the week between Christmas and New Years (and the thought of vacationing with a billion people demanding to have the perfect holiday getaway was more than we could stomach). I was having trouble even figuring out which “warm place” to choose. I’m the planner, the organizer, but I was trying to think through a brain that felt stuffed with cheesecloth…or maybe wads and wads of Kleenex.
Just after Thanksgiving, I had lunch with a lovely woman – a friend of a friend – who had lost her teenage son…her Mark…several years earlier, in a motor-scooter vs. car collision. She asked me, “What are you doing about the holidays?” and I explained my dilemma. She asked “What are your top 2 destinations right now?”
“Cozumel and Puerto Rico,” I replied, “but I know nothing about Puerto Rico. I’ve just heard people love it.”
She smiled at me like I’d just won the lottery. “Go on Costco.com and book the El Conquistador package. We just got back from Puerto Rico and it was just perfect.”
Perfect. Did she say perfect?
So I went on Costco.com. And while I ultimately found a cheaper deal by booking directly with the hotel (turns out that day we met, the Monday after Thanksgiving, is something called “Cyber Monday”….!), I’d booked our hotel and air tickets within 48 hours. Done.
After spending Christmas in Atlanta with the “outlaws” – my brother’s wife’s family, who we adore – we flew to Puerto Rico on January 3 and enjoyed every moment of the next several days. It was exactly the right thing for us three. Get the heck out of dodge. Sit in the sun. Drink some violently colored drinks. Marvel at the gigantic iguanas stomping around on the beach, at the roosters and chickens that seem to be everywhere. Eat. Read. Sleep. Repeat. And the balcony of our room became my new sanctuary.
Armed with Starbucks coffee (from a shop in the lobby…this proof that God does love me personally was not lost on me. If there is one thing I “must” have every day, it’s good, strong coffee) that grew in size each day, I snuck out there early each morning while Sarah and Steve slept, and just…sat. The ever-changing water and sky, the coqui frogs singing, and little black birds that would zip around…the one that eventually came for a shy visit. These things, these gifts restored my soul, at least just a little, at least just for a time. And I wrote in my journal that I need to start over. From the blast zone where I sit, I need to come to a new understanding of God.