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Even in Paradise Things Go Wrong

Susen Hickman is a frequent contributing writer for the Sacred Sorrows blog, where she shares deeply from her grief journey and life experience. She lives in Northern California with her poodle, Woody, and is the mother of Michele (who passed to heaven at the age of 17), and sons Mike and Matt, and a grandchild, Max. In addition to her involvement with several supportive, non-profit organizations, Sue has published one book - a memoir about the loss of both her husband and daughter.

For many of us, the COVID pandemic stopped all thoughts of travel. As a matter of fact, I basically became a recluse. Travel? No way! Really, I didn’t venture past my front door for almost two years. Home deliveries--whether it was from a grocery store, Amazon, or ready-to-prepare meals that came in a box with every ingredient you needed to make a meal, staying home was my norm. One could manage without leaving home. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t have. Nothing except companionship and family. Holidays were celebrated over FaceTime or Zoom. Sunday services were also over the internet. Something I had a hard time handling. With all that free time on my hands, it didn’t surprise me that I was also missing my deceased daughter and deceased husband all the time! Although far from perfect, on some level, it was doable. Whether this was a healthy thing to do, or not, is still debated.

For the first time in two years, I made plans to travel with a dear friend. We had come out of the pandemic ‘shut down’ for over a year now. It was time. I desperately needed a change of scenery.

Since we are now in the midst of a very cold winter season, I needed to go someplace where I could soak up the sunshine. It didn’t take me more than a few minutes to know where that was Hawaii--specifically, the island of Kauai. Paradise!

We spent two days in paradise enjoying the sun and the surf with palm trees swaying. I know that sounds a little like a TV commercial, but it was true. And then,

Paradise wasn't paradise anymore

The island was hit with a thunderstorm so fierce that even the locals couldn’t remember a storm as violent in the last 15 to 20 years.

The storm started in the wee hours of the morning--3:00 a.m. Thunder so loud it made my heart jump. It was kind of like my life--sunny and warm one day. fierce with flood warnings the next. The one constant in life: There are ups and downs.

Sunshine and Rain

Rain can bring flowers and the island of Kauai has beautiful plant life growing from heaven’s teardrops. In a storm like the one I was experiencing, it was more like a river of uncontrollable sobbing. I know both feelings.

But then the rainbows came. Like the symbol of God’s biblical covenant and promise. A covenant is a promise between two parties. While God promised to never flood the earth again (one can only imagine Noah and his family after 40 days of rain), the Israelites promised to be faithful to God. My question is: Why did I have to go through such an intense storm--the loss of my child? God’s promise was to be faithful, merciful, and loving. I remind myself that God hasn’t abandoned me, but a huge thunderstorm did hit my life. When my daughter passed, I realize in hindsight, that I was resting on that promise. Although I have to admit, I didn’t do this with thoughts of rainbows and covenants. It was trusting in the belief in God’s love.

But grieving, like thunderstorms, isn’t easy. I wait, sometimes impatiently for sunny days and there are some--and over the course of years, many. The island of Kauai closed the road that circles the island and closed its bridges--life interrupted. Just like the storm that hit me when my daughter passed. Interrupting the sunshine of my life.

So, I sit sipping spiced tea watching the lightning and pouring rain waiting for the thunderclaps as palm trees sway. I’m inside, protected from the storm. It’s warm, so I’m wearing capri pants and a short-sleeved top. Breezes whip around my neck cooling me down even with the humidity.

Living in the present is what I’ve learned to settle on. There’s no going back. Forward--one step at a time. Even in paradise things can go wrong. But there are rainbows--a reminder of a covenant of love.

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Wow Susen, pretty dramatic weather, I like the way you came to the conclusion to live in the present, and I so can relate to the one step at a time, (if your'ed like me, there are some back steps too) The rainbow was I'm sure a huge relief. Like a big sign saying: "God is still here!"

Feb 15, 2023

Thanks for the reminder Sue - that God’s faithful love covers us in the absence of rainbows. Your words remind me that - even in a wild storm - a comfy chair, spiced tea and a different vantage point, can bring peace to my soul.

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