The day was sunny, brilliant, and warm!
Together, my family and I were finally able to capture the home of our dreams and this was our first day of “living it up.” It had taken us years to save enough funds for this home and we did it eventually – I knew we would!
Our new home located in Sugarloaf Key was large and demanded nothing but relaxation, warmth, simplicity, and good natured, easy going tenants. The waterfront home faced the Gulf and its calmer waters.
The pier out back held captive our shiny 24ft May-Craft which made my dad and brothers permanently content. Fishing day and night, they would bring home seafood dinners that consisted of a variety of fish, lobster and shrimp. The beach style house, the mini beach with soft, exfoliating sand, and brisk pool made my mom, sister-in-law, niece, nephew and me happy.
The plan was to take one day at a time. Our agendas insisted on barbecuing, soaking up the sun, and relaxing the days away. This was what we had always dreamed for – our very own home in the Florida Keys.
Finally. Finally. Finally!!!
I loved the water but I am deeply afraid of it – of its intense power. So what is the best thing to do when you’re terrified of something? Learn about it so you understand it and know how to handle it.
I picked up some books from the Borders Express in Key West. Books that dealt with wave types and their impact, tsunamis explained, and a book concerning oceanography. I dived in (no pun intended) to the texts and saturated my mind with information.
Of course there was also Google to help me with the basic water rules and through my fundamental learning stages. Every day I leafed through the books and learned something new. My comfort level with the ocean grew slowly but I was still just as afraid and respectful of the water knowing its ability to capture me at any moment it wanted to.
We spent months developing our new home, fishing, and settling in.
I got a part time job working as a Barista at Starbucks. I love coffee so I figured this job would be second nature for me – and I was right. So far so good. I no longer dread going to work every day – this is a job I love.
Hurricane season rolled around in June. Growing up I usually couldn’t contain my excitement when a hurricane was developing, making its vengeful track towards us, the destruction…
But now that we owned an actual home I was distressed and ultimately panicked! No hurricanes! Stay away as you have done for a few years now…we’re okay with hurricane Ike being the last hurricane since 2008.
I grabbed my latest read, Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, and headed out back to our intimate private beach. I lay on the lounge chair under the cooling, shade providing umbrella. The book was slow and steady but calming, the ocean’s sounds soothing, and the birds’ song comforting. I checked my watch – 11am. The guys left for an all day fishing trip early this morning. Why am I even wearing a watch? No more tracking time. I removed the instrument and set it on the nearby table. It’s a solar powered watch – let it soak up the sun too! I thought.
Just then I heard a cry coming from the house. My mom! I got up and ran as fast as I could inside. My mom and sister-in-law stared at the living room TV in shock. My niece and nephew played with their toys, undisturbed by the moment’s alarm.
My eyes were glued to the image on the screen. An 8.0 earthquake off the coast of California caused a massive tsunami. It was currently wiping out the lower half of the nation.
I was shaking as I watched live footage from helicopters following the wave. Reporters along for the ride updated us on the devastating news and prepared us for the worst….death.
Shaking my head I said “No, no this can’t be. This can’t be happening.”
Just then my dad and brothers ran in exclaiming that the waters were insane and threatening so they hurried back as fast as they could.
We sat and watched in silence the horror that filled the 50 inch box.
It’s funny how you can work your whole life for something – just for that something to be swept away in seconds. Your struggling was in vain.
It all happened so fast. The merciless wave would be here in a matter of hours.
Gradually the amount of news crews driving around to find new stories lessened. No more were people resorting to looting. No more anything. At this point individuals reverted to the old saying: it is what it is. The unavoidable tragedy awaited us all. We waited the long, stalling interval to perish.
People were with their loved ones if possible, disbelief inhabiting every adult and confusion on every child’s face. Disappointment in “the end” reflected in each countenance. Reports of suicides repeatedly drifted from voice to voice. Deliverers of God’s word spread this known writing of Revelations throughout the once content yet lively streets. Repent! Repent! Beg for God’s forgiveness as he is your salvation! Allow God into your heart before it is too late! The end of the world has arrived! They would declare.
Thoughts such as but I never accomplished what I wanted to! I didn’t get married nor have children. My children won’t have the chance to grow up and live their lives. I’m too young to die! Why? Why? Why?!
I found myself asking – what do I believe in? Do I truly believe in God – isn’t this the moment to decide? To really succumb? Or is it too late? What if I don’t devote myself to any such God? Or what if I do and He turns out to be a complete hoax?
What about my family? Oh God! There it is again – a god’s name we use in our speech but do we even know this god? How will God judge us?
I despaired at the thought of my parents, my brothers, and my sister-in-law being cast into Hell. My niece and nephew were so precious and innocent that I knew their spots in Heaven were waiting for them.
I heard the foreboding music to the next and last news break developing on the TV.
My stomach sank – this was the moment we had all dreaded but yet, at the same time, waited for. The news reporter cried but calmly said their goodbyes and wished the world a wealth of luck.
At this point the wave was near and was said to be as giant and mighty as the Empire State Building in New York. It would be here…soon.
I didn’t know the fate of the world but for us I knew this was it. This was our end.
Meanwhile the water was rising and the tide was moving in on the house. The bottom floor began to flood.
We all gathered together and spread our words of love. We talked of God and knew that deep down we believed even though at the same time we were frightened. We hoped God would forgive us for our multitude of sins (and really – who didn’t have a laundry list of “bad things” they did?). We prayed to be together again, strong as ever, in the afterlife.
I sat with my family and simply watched them, taking in their faces and movements and words – appreciating them for the last time ever. Crying silently I went back over my life and even though it was small and insignificant I loved every part of it and I appreciate everything I have been through with my family because each speed bump helped us to grow closer together and become truly resilient as a whole.
I was grateful to have experienced such a remarkable family. I had wonderful friends that I told all of my secrets to – friends that confided in me as well – that were always there for me. I’ve loved and lost and loved again and I’ve experienced all emotions. I’ve worked hard for and earned what I have. I contributed to this dream home.
I’ve lived. I may not have traveled around the world or had the finest things but I have no regrets. I wish I could have married though…
The time had come. Soon we would be a part of the ocean. The ocean I had feared all along. All this time. The very thing that had fascinated me for months was now coming to kill me.
We waited on the wide upstairs balcony and watched the terror unfold. The tsunami moved confidently, arrogantly, forcefully. The water moved towards us at a steady but angry speed. There was nowhere to run or hide. It was now – there was no never.
This was it … this was it.
We prayed and hoped it would be enough – that we would be saved – that our souls would be set free to Heaven, one of two potential future homes at this point.
We stood in a circle together and held on tight. We were afraid – all of us so scared. The children cried. Tears poured down our cheeks and we whispered words of love. The wave came closer…and closer…moving at its own pace – taking its time in devouring my whole entire world and existence. I wanted to be angry but I just didn’t have it in me. My soul was weak and had given up. I wanted to tell the tsunami to go away – we just got our dream!
But it was no use. It wasn’t a being – it didn’t care or feel. We were at the destructive, all powerful wave’s mercy.
Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.
Tears for loved ones.
Tears for regrets.
Tears for days of life that were stolen – days we didn’t get to live.
Tears for our children and also our unborn children.
Tears for my one love, my soul mate that I didn’t chance to meet.
Tears for our single last collective breath…
I felt a tap on my shoulder – then a bit of cold water splashed on face. A little bit of cold water? What?
Confused (and scared) I opened my eyes and took a long wide look around me expecting a looming, skyscraping wave to crash into me.
No. The world was as it should be. As it was before the chaos and terror. Was I dreaming? Was I in…Heaven?
I saw that the guys had just come back from fishing all day, their skin darkened and slightly rosy from the sun.
My older brother stood over me talking but I wasn’t coherent. He started over again once he realized I wasn’t following.
“Hey you okay? Mom said you’ve been sleeping out here for a while now. Maybe the heat got to you. Anyways. We got fish for dinner. Some snapper, grouper…” he trailed off as he walked toward the house.
I grabbed my watch – 3:30pm. Had I really slept for hours and dreamt the whole thing? I pinched myself.
Never had a pinch felt so good! I’m alive!!!
None of it had happened.
No catastrophic events.
No ending of the world.
The foreboding Revelations chapter was not made true!
I sprinted towards the house and everyone was in the kitchen either cleaning fish or making themselves busy somehow. I couldn’t help myself. I burst into laughter and danced what I now call the “holy crap I’m alive!” dance.
Everyone stared at me like I was mentally insane – as if I should be wearing a binding white jacket.
“You okay there? Too much sun for ya?” My sis-in-law said and handed me a glass of ice water.
“No – yes I’m okay. I just had the craziest dream. Nightmare! It was a nightmare!”
They continued to stare as if they were contemplating whether or not to tranquilize me.
I smiled and said “I love you guys…all of you. So much. I’m so glad that you’re all still here.”
“Hmm.” My dad said, “Must’ve been some dream.”
“It was…it was something.” I said and gave my dad a big hug. I struggled not to cry as I held him tight.
“Well then you should tell us about it over dinner then hm?”
He smiled at me – with eyes as blue as the ocean on a calm, windless day.