Our trip to Hawaii last month was definitely a watershed. We packed as much of life and renewal as we could into the seven and a half days we were there, and that was surely an important thing to do. There was something else going on, though, and I will try to write about it impartially, even though it is the most personal subject of all.
Barbara and I went to Maui for our honeymoon in January of 1989. Her lawsuit over the death of her first husband had just been settled out of court and she received a payment of nearly a quarter of a million dollars a few weeks before we were married. We had money to burn, and we also packed as much as we could into that week, including a day-long private plane tour that took us to all four major Hawaiian islands. I watched in astonishment as we flew directly over the active volcanoes on the south end of the Big Island, then savored lunch on Kauai, at a restaurant with covered outdoor seating around a central courtyard. We enjoyed mahi-mahi burgers at Kimo's in Lahaina, then ate dinner at Chez Paul, the five-star French restaurant down the road. We snorkeled and swam and savored a relaxed dinner cruise on calm seas.
I decided to go to Kauai this time because I had been there for only two hours and had few memories to distract me. Nevertheless, I puzzled the whole time we were there over the location of the outdoor dining site I remembered. On the final day, I was craving one more dinner at a fine restaurant with the kind of food you just can't get in Waco, and Jennifer located one using a mobile app that sounded perfect. We phoned in reservations and showed up at 5:30, our rental car vacuumed and ready to return as we tried to prepare for the red-eye flight to Los Angeles and the two connections that would land us back in Texas the next afternoon.
It was **the place,** and it seemed for all the world as though Barbara had led us there as a final blessing on our week of catharsis. I returned with a deep inner peace that has never entirely left in the three weeks I've been back.
I don't want to claim too much here. Barbara told me that a few weeks after her first husband died, she distinctly heard his voice saying "It's OK; I'm happy." Knowing how much that meant to her, it is easy for me to suggest that she led us back to this place so I could have a similar moment of preternatural closeness with my departed spouse. Skeptics will scoff, of course, and I don't blame them. After all, we crave such revelations, and are all too eager to read purpose and meaning into chance events.
Still, I will say this: I have kept with me a strong sense of Barbara's inner peace, which allowed her to trust and slough off the burdens of stress and uncertainty through circumstances that would have brought most people to their knees. Her deafness and her profound difficulties with balance, both of which I have written about on this blog, were the ongoing symptoms of the radiation damage that ultimately led to her death. How does one maintain trust and faith when visited with such perverse afflictions? How does one find the strength to continue through the daily round of petty challenges and victories that makes up the better part of most human lives?
I don't know the answer, but I do know that in the wake of Barbara's death I have internalized that strength in a way that I had never been able to do before. In the face of bereavement, I have treated myself to spiritual calm, and have let the stresses and worries fall away from me as that source of unknown strength, latent within my inner being but too rarely tapped, has slipped from her shoulders onto mine.