Facing Life

IMG_8223Before me- the ocean and crashing waves, palm trees, our long dock leading to our picturesque palapa with its thatched roof.   Before me- the unknown of cancer,progression, sickness, fear, loss. Sadness.

This is vacation with stage iv breast cancer.  I say cancer doesn’t come on vacation because in the midst of the snorkeling, fishing and cave tubing – it doesn’t cross my mind.  But in the still of the morning asI watch our kids digging for hermit crabs in the sand in sneaks in.  It clenches my heart.

Yet, it doesn’t have hold. Happiness and hope run deep.  Being with our family and facing days of adventure fuel this hope.  Stoke it like a fire inside me.

Yesterday we kayaked out the reef in front of our villa where we found a shipwreck full of fish and brilliant coral.  The hallowed out hulls of a catamaran arched toward the sunlight as yellow tail and blue tangs darted in and out of the shadows.  Nervous at first our kids clung to the kayaks peering down at the shipwreck. Bennett hugged my neck, his snorkel dangling beside his face and asked if there were skeletons down there.  With a little laugh I assured him there were not. I pictured what was going through his mind, a  skeleton with an orange life vest wedged in the cabin, a  full table setting before him…. He’s seen Goonies about 10 times.  Once we had that settled – the boys were all about it.  Diving down, gazing at the world of life that came from this disaster.  After about 10minutes I told Jay, “I have to swim through it.”  The arch of the hull was about 15 feet down and about 4 feet high.  I tested my breath and my speed and was sure I could do it. This is how I live now – I long to push myself.  To risk. To feel exhilarated.  To show our kids how “adventurous” their mom is!

Diving down and swimming through the dark tunnel I felt strong and daring. I felt alive!  Coming up, gasping for air, full of a sense of accomplishment – this is living!  I encouraged everyone to try it and we did –one by one diving down and racing through as the fish scattered in different directions.  My dad was the last to go through.  Calm and observant he dove down slowly to take in all the fish and coral (unlike the rest of us – who were much quicker in our attempts).  When he came up he looked at us and said, “Did anyone see the shark?” We all laughed at one of Grandpa’s many jokes…. “No, really. There is a shark in the crack of the hull right before the arch.”  Immediately the boys hightailed it back to the kayaks.   We each dove down again to get a better look.  In the dark crack of the hull you could make out the outline of a giant nurse shark – resting inches from the opening to the arch.   I looked directly into his beady eyes.  Laying there in the shadows- a good 6-7 feet.   It wouldn’t hurt us,nurse shark are docile – but it was terrifying to discover.

There it is- life, joy, accomplishment.  And- lurking in the shadows…fear. But, you have to dive down.  Take the risk, live the life, have the adventure.

Because if you don’t all that’s left is fear.

A life wrecked in fear is a life only half lived.

Dive down!

8 replies
  1. Sue MacGregor
    Sue MacGregor says:

    You always inspire me, dear daughter-in-law. Have been struggling with whether I’ll start horseback riding again this spring. You’ve helped clarify it for me. Dive deep and stay strong!! Love the photos from all of you. I can almost hear the laughter. BTW — snowing here 6″ of wet slushy snow . . .

  2. XO Aunt Patty
    XO Aunt Patty says:

    I felt like I was there as I read your description of this day’s adventure. I can picture each of your faces, knowing your personalities, and I smile. That observant calm brother of mine has always had a way of pushing you to wonder if he is really serious or pulling your leg! ( I still believe that the creature from the black lagoon resides in the mucky canal at Fish Lake.)
    I love the parallel that you share and the challenge to all of us to live big and dive deep.
    Thank you. Love you. Have a wonderful time!

  3. Mary Anne Tinnell
    Mary Anne Tinnell says:

    OMG, it breaks my heart over Jessica and those who have gone before her with this nasty C!!! God bless you and all you do to help find a cure!! God Bless! xo

  4. Judith
    Judith says:

    Your thoughts and your writing never fail to be thought-provoking and inspiring. I am struck by how incredibly blessed you are to be able to afford get-aways like this or others of which you have written. I imagine it is a much harder thing to face cancer when you can’t manage a change of scene or of treatment. May you continue to inspire those souls as well.


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