Tears in Paradise

Have you ever noticed that some of the most life-changing stories start with “In the beginning…”?

In the beginning she was one of the most annoying people I have ever come across in my life. A medium sized tank of a woman, she had a voice like Howard Wolowitz‘s mother in the Big Bang Theory, and she used it often. As she made her way down to the water’s at Cockleshell Bay (in St. Kitts) she and her husband kept up a running conversation. Evidently he didn’t hear her very well (though Lord knows everybody else did) and she repeated everything she said. So we got a double dose of the joy.

“Where are you going?”
“I’m going down to the water.”
“I said I’m going down to the water.”
“Can I come?”
“No, let me get wet first.”
“I said, can I come now?”
“No, I said let me get wet first.”
“Will you come back after you get wet?”
“Yes, now you wait there.”
“OK. I’ll wait here.”

At that point she waddled out to the water, turned to look back toward the shore once more, rolled her eyes, and the expression on her face said it all: Exasperation. Frustration. A desire to be anywhere else with anyone else. That dear God please just make it stop look. A look just one dangerous step away from hateful.

So Howard’s mom’s clone walked out up to her knees in the clear blue water, splashed a little water on her chest, talked animatedly to a couple of strangers. In mid conversation, a familiar voice came from behind me.

“How is the water?”
“It’s cold.”
“How is it?”
“I said it’s cold?”
Can I come in now?”

She made her apologies to the couple she had been talking to, looked back toward the shore again, sighed, and trudged back toward us. The sky was clear, but her face reflected the thunderclouds just below the surface.

The Wolowitz doppelganger trudged past us like a slowly building storm and made her way over to the one who had been speaking.

“OK David, are you ready?”
“Yes, please. Let’s hurry so I can get in the water too.”
“Don’t be in such a hurry, David. The water will be there when we get there.”

After a little more interplay the shuffling began. A slow, sand shifting shuffle. Then we saw the owner of the voice.

He was about her age, probably in his sixties, but that is where the similarity ended. He was bent and frail with a tangle of wiry hair. Arthritis had savaged his hands, his legs and ankles were swollen to three times normal size, and he shuffled along in leather bedroom slippers, battling ALS or some similar rebellion of his body.

In short, he was living in a hell not of his creation.

She led him to the edge of the water, supporting his elbow and constantly reminding him to slow down. Then they stepped cautiously into the water. He stumbled slightly, and then I saw Christ.

He looked suspiciously like an annoying woman with a voice like fingernails on a chalkboard.

She steadied him, asked if he was alright, and she touched his face. It was the touch from a mother to her newborn baby. A touch as soft as a whisper and as strong as steel. A caress. The reassurance of one willing to give he strength to compensate for his lack of the same. And with the touch came a look.

It was one of the most loving looks I have ever seen in my life. A look that said lean on me. I will be here until death do us part. You are my life and I will always be here for you. To be your arms. Your legs. Your heart.

And in that moment I understood something of the love of Christ. The one who, in the midst of my weakness and frailty, holds me up, strokes my face, and says, I love you so much I will die for you.”

In that instant I sat on the shore in the middle of paradise and cried.

Just as I am crying now as I write this.

Sitting in a coffee shop near our beach house. Either a thousand miles or a single breath away from paradise.

I can’t help it.

You can’t experience that kind of love and not be changed.

†  †  †

Whew…it’s been a long time. Between retooling, reevaluating, heading to the Caribbean twice in the last month (not rubbing it in…that’s just where I’ve been), and putting extra hours on the ghost project, I backed off of the blog for a while. But I’m back with some new ideas and a slightly new direction. Stay tuned for more on all that later.