After sailing farther into the open sea, the Mexican waters rumbled underneath us, making the boat rock left and right. The sun beat down and a few fish jumped out of the water in front of us, their scales sparkling like a frozen margarita I drank the night before.
As we skipped across the endless ocean, I sidled to Isabela's prow and instantly remembered a story I had told my daughter after my son passed away.
My Dad took this picture in that moment.
“Why did he leave us, Mama? Why?” My daughter asked years ago. I couldn't believe how she could ask such hard questions, even at the age of four. She sniffled and I held her closer.
“Hush,” I crooned as she clung to my arm.
“I don't understand.” She cried hard. “Why didn't he wake up? Why did he go away?”
I wanted to tell her it's because life is hard, because life isn't fair. It's because I couldn't keep my baby, no matter how hard I wanted to. But, even though I wished I could tell her all that, I didn't. I remained quiet for a long time. Then I cooed to her, sang into her golden curls. That's when I told her Zeke's story one more time.
“Once, in a faraway land, there was a strange castle by the sea. In that castle lived some very special children named Ruby and Zeke.”
“I like this story. Can Zeke stay with me this time?”
“I wish he could, but that's not how the story goes.”
She hesitated. “Well, then, I want to go with him.”
That made my heart tighten. I hugged Ruby. I couldn't imagine her following her brother--couldn't comprehend losing her too.
“Tell me the part about when the witch comes,” Ruby said.
“Well, one day, a deadly, powerful witch found the castle. She was cunning and wise. She knew how amazing the children living there were, and that's when she decided to take one of you deep into the ocean.”
“But I was too smart.”
“Yes, you were,” I said. “You outwitted that witch.”
“He had to go away.”
“Why, Mama? Was it because the witch was too smart for him?”
“Oh, no,” I said. I always had to breathe deeply when I got to that part. “Zeke let her take him.”
“Because he knew how to really defeat the witch. He knew if he went, he'd bring about her doom. You see, she thought she'd take his life, but he knew better. He knew that, if he went, he'd get to meet pirates, mermaids. He'd have sword-fights and battle sea creatures.” I looked at the cloudy sky. It reminded me of my conflicted emotions. Somehow, every time I told the story, I saw something symbolic to Zeke's months on Earth. “Adventure awaited him.” I sighed. “If he went with the deadly witch, then, and only then, could he truly live.”
I blinked the memory away and looked out at the glistening Pacific Ocean. Death can be terrible. I felt so alone then, wondering if anyone sailing in the ocean that day knew what it's like to lose a child. For a moment I wished someone on that boat could understand. Was I just hurting because it was Mother's Day? And why was I still hurting about something that happened so many years ago? I stood straight and told myself to knock it off! "God," I silently willed Him to help me celebrate life that wonderful day in Mexico, "please let something amazing happen." As I prayed we cruised into an entire army of birds. They dive-bombed the water's surface, cawing and splashing. I thought one might poop on me. I couldn't help laughing--was this God's idea of irony?
Then Captain Joaquin suddenly yelled and pointed. "Ballena! Ballena! Delfíns!" I looked to the side of the boat and saw two humpback whales and a group of dolphins.
My dad ran up next to me and we could hardly believe our good fortune. Whale watching season had ended two months before--yet a mother and baby swam right by the boat on Mother's Day!
Then it was Mariano's turn to yell with excitement. "We've hooked two big fish!"
My dad and I started reeling them in. With Pablo and Mariano's expert help, we were able to pull them in rather quickly.
My dad is such a Viking--he makes fishing for forty pounders look easy.
Well, I bet you're wondering what this has to do with random acts of kindness. It's all because of the crew, especially Mariano.
Whatever fish are given to Mariano, he gives to people in need. We caught ten big tuna, and he planned to give them to Mothers on Mother's Day. He knew one woman in particular who'd just had a baby and couldn't find a job. He hoped a large fish like that would help them for quite a while.
He laughed and joked with my amazing father. Then it was my turn; I told him how I'm an author and how I wrote a fantasy story about pirates and mermaids--about a boy who went deep into the ocean. "I'm writing the sequel," I confided, "and I think the three of you might end up as pirates!"
He laughed so hard.
I thought again about Zeke and decided it had been so silly to wonder earlier if anyone sailing the ocean that Mother's Day knew what it's like to lose a child. Why had I been sad when so much joy was waiting there the whole time?
It wasn't until later, when we were about to say goodbye, that Mariano pulled me aside. He said he felt like telling me something; that's when he shared the story of his courageous daughter who'd bravely fought cancer before she went to Heaven at the age of fourteen. "Hard times can happen," he said, "but they happen for a reason."
I wanted to hug him. A load lifted from my heart. He smiled, seeming like he knew exactly how I felt. He was a kindred spirit, an amazing fisherman, and a generous soul.
It was the most wonderful fishing trip ever. I'm heading over to Tripadvisor HERE to leave a special review for Mike's Fishing Charters. I'm taking Janie Junebug's lead on this one, and asking for you to help me with this week's act of kindness. If you have time, would you go leave a positive review for Mariano, Pablo and Joaquin--the fishermen who made my father's and my vacation even more wonderful than I'd dreamed of.
Here's that direct link if you need it: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g150793-d2446348-Reviews-Mike_s_Fishing_Charter-Puerto_Vallarta_Pacific_Coast.html
Also, check out the Random Acts of Kindness Blogfest HERE.
I'd love if you'd join up.