ON the eve of a special person’s birthday, I remember what has been denied by the Lords of Time. This is something I don’t experience alone, for many have pass through it too. A final goodbye is considered as a way of healing and a chance to move forward without regrets. In this lifetime of mine, that only covers three decades and three years; I have been denied of some important and needed goodbyes. And the question always lingers near, what if?
In August 22, 2005, I had the chance of being part of a creative writing online retreat on a marvelous place called Soul Food Café, and made a journey to the Island of Ancestors. In this exercise I got a chance to say goodbye, more of a farewell, to someone I love dearly. This piece is for those that I love and have been denied my last goodbye. My grandfather, for whom this piece was first created; my loving grandmother, I know you waited for him those three months you laid on that bed, that sacrifice will never be forgotten; my dear brother, who last time we saw each other we laughed, who I see through the round dark brown eyes of my son, to you I would love to say happy birthday. Even though they him and abuelita have been gone for almost four years, I never will forget their love.
Enjoy this story, warning, grab a tissue. Read you soon, my friend, and don’t forget: Always say I love you to someone special. Love you!
Journey to the Island of Ancestors
The meditation room in the hermitage gave me enough time to get in tune with myself and my soul. It truly was a peaceful experience and at this point I’m waiting for more. I think of myself as a complete unit- mind, spirit, body and soul –and that all of them are getting to a state, were each can live in peace with one another. Especially my mind, it is always in the clouds and not where it belongs, but still I love when it takes me to places I never been or want to be.
There was in front of my room door a piece of paper lying in the floor. I pick it up and opened it. The journey was going to take me now to another place, this time an island; but for what it’s called it seems this is not a regular island. You see it is called The Island of Ancestors. A chill ran down my spine for no reason I can explain. I figure it this will be an experience I will never forget. If it was an island of ancestors, maybe I might find great philosophers of old, like Aristotle or maybe Pluto. Who knows!
I went to the stables to see Güarionex whom was waiting for me and was ready, Rob, the Horse Whisperer, was holding him. When Güarionex saw me, he got much exited moving his head up and down. I smiled and went to him immediately giving him a kiss on his forehead. He made a sound with his nose that tickled my neck. The Horse Whisperer climbed his horse and I climbed Güarionex. We set out as we did the first time we met going as fast as the wind, like we were on a race against it. It was really lots of fun.
As we slowed down Rob told me a thing or two about the island. He explained that weird things happen to those who visited it. Some come out full of joy, others are traumatized by the experience. None are allowed to tell what happened there to them, for that will decrease the curiosity in people and travelers alike who want to visit the island. But it seems it is a most popular place for the waiting list is long. Only especial invitations are granted like the one I had. He instructed me not to pass this opportunity.
“Have you been there?” I asked him curious for he spoke of it as he knew it very well.
“Yes,” he answered looking ahead watching the Island from afar.
“How long was it that you visited it?”
“Many years ago,” his voice sounded sad and his expression changed completely. I wanted to asked, but remember what he had told me of not speaking of the experience gain on that island. I wonder if he was one of those who where traumatized by it. It seems that was not the case, for if it was like that he would not have accompanied me here and would have stayed in the hermitage.
As we approach the coast a ferry was visible from the top of the hill we were standing. A beautiful island was visible in the distance. It was all covered with nature and looked as an emerald was drop in the middle of the river. I breathed deeply for I was a little nervous for I didn’t know what to expect.
We went down the hill and got closer to the port. A woman was waiving her hand to us and we approached her. She was very happy and a little weird I might add. Well this woman was not a woman and you could see that after getting closer to her. Her skin was covered with scales, green ones and she had no ears. Her hands and feet were a strange mix of fingers and fins. Her arms were like those of a human being, but she had no nose and her mouth was of a round shape like those of a fish. When we got down of our horses and stood in front of her I smiled slightly. Rude of me, of course, but I was perplexed with what I saw. To think I should expect to encounter everything in this journey.
Suddenly, the fish-woman opened her arms wide and went to Rob who was doing the same thing. They both grab their hands up high and hit their foreheads. Then they laughed hard.
“It is good to see you again, Rob,” the fish-woman said, but it sounded more as if she was underwater than in land.
“It is good to be here, Trucha. I’m here to take her to the Island of Ancestors.”
Trucha turned to me and did the same as before. Probably that was the way she greeted people so I did the same. The hit in the forehead was not that hard and it was a cool way of salutation, for you feel like you are under water for an instant. Then just like that you feel you are back on land.
“I have been expecting you, my dear. You may leave the horses here, they will be taken to a place where they can relax and stretch their legs. Come on board for everything is ready for you, but we have to wait until nightfall. It’s the best way to navigate for the guardian of the Island is sleeping. He gets a little cranky during the day for the spirits are sleeping and he doesn’t want anybody disturbing them,” Trucha said much exited.
We got on board the ferry and ate on the deck that had been prepared with a dining area. We chat, drank and laughed for hours until the stars appeared. That’s when Trucha got up and said to me, “It is time. You may wait here while I navigate.”
Trucha stood up from the table, then she went up some metal stairs and got into the cabin on the second floor of the ferry were the control room was. I stood up and walked towards the rail as I admired the elegant night covering us completely. The stars looked like tiny diamonds sparkling elegantly. The breeze was soothing but it carried a strange smell that was sweet. Maybe it came from the island, were flowers bloom at night and perfumed everything around them like a special gift for those who dare to go to the island.
The journey on water took approximately fifteen minutes and the island was very visible indeed. A port could be seen getting nearer as we got closer. It was lighted by torches that made visible the beginning of it for the ferry fish-woman to see her way to it. When we got to the port Trucha came to me, as I was very nervous for the time had come for me to live and start my journey into the depths of the Island of Ancestors, and said, “We will wait for you here until you come back, we cannot go any further. Follow the torches until you find an apple groove. There is a path that goes inside the groove, take it. Keep walking forward; do not take any other paths, only the one that goes between the apples trees. If you do take another path you will be lost. When you reach the end of the groove you will find a mound and there a door, you must go through it. The rest is up to you.”
“What will happen if I take another path?”
“The ancestors will claim you. I do not need to say more.”
“Very well, off I go.”
I got down from the ferry and walked to the path as instructed, always looking at the trail beneath my feet. I didn’t want to get lost and be claimed by the Ancestors of the Island. Passing the apple groove I took one apple to eat it as I walked. At the end of it I saw the mound and in it the door. Two large torches lighted the way, I made my way through.
The passage was narrow and dim, it went downward. At the end of it I saw a light like that of a fire. I hurried my pace so I could find out what was in that room at the end of the corridor. Once there, in front of a great fire, sitting on an armchair there was a person covered with a black hood. Slowly I got near the figure, once in front of it I sat down on a marble bench. I waited for him or her to say a word, but nothing happen. Nervousness ran my whole body as I stared at the person in dismay not knowing what to do. My head was trying to understand the situation, but it was too complicated for it had never been in this kind of situation before.
Then, the person’s hands removed the hood and there I was looking at his face. My jaw dropped as I was astonished and out of breath. For in front of me was a man that still is the love of my life. The person that even thou passed away many years ago, still had a special place in my heart. Tear drops came from my eyes as they could not believe what they were seeing.
It was inevitable, an explosion of sentiments took over me completely. He approached me and hugged me tight as he used to do when I was a little girl. His smell was already gone from my memory and I could not remember it as I smelled him when he got closer. I cried more and more trying to hold on and didn’t want to let go of his grip. I was not letting go ever again.
When he died the only person he wanted to see was me, but the doctors at the hospital did not grant his last wish for I was a little girl and wasn’t allowed to go to the rooms. I knew he was gone for his sister, my great-aunt, came down crying inconsolable. But it did not hit me until my mother explained to me what happened. Then and there I knew the Lords of Time had denied me of a moment that was mine, of a wish that might have changed my life and my healing process. Now that I was there holding him tight no one was going to deny me of that moment.
“I have missed you so much!” I sob.
“I know.” He said.
“Grandpa, I wish so much you could still be alive. Sometimes I think life would have turned so different for me if you just been there. I know I would have been someone else with you by my side.”
“But think of all the things you would have lost if our story was written differently. Think of my great-granddaughter. She reminds me of you so much and it made me so proud that you thought of me when naming her.”
I laughed full of joy and looked at his blue eyes. They were as I used to remember.
“Well,” he said, “you are here to ask me a question. What would that question be?”
“I just want to talk a little longer. I don’t what to ask questions right know. Can we just talk, please?”
“You see, mi reina, we will have time for that in another life. When God sends for you I will be waiting at the entrance to greet you and forever be together. Know we have but little time to spend and I want to answer whatever question you have for me.”
“Then I shall stay here with you. So we could have an eternity know and not later!” I exclaimed crying.
My grandfather dried my tears and his hand felt soft. Looking at me straight in the eyes he said, “I can’t let you do that. There is too much at stake. Besides you are needed back there, Versaly needs her mother and our family too. Think of your grandmother that loves you as much as I do. Your mother, your husband and of your brother that even thou he sometimes looks as there is no hope for him there still is. But you must be there and as always be strong for them.”
He kissed my forehead gently and I finally stopped crying understanding that my time with him was limited. I grab his hands tight and smiled once again not knowing what to ask.
“I have always asked myself if you were proud of me. Of what I have become and what I wanted in life. You have always been in my thoughts when I think of my life. What would you say or do or advice?”
“There is no doubt that I have always been proud of everything you have accomplished in life and of what you want of it. I know sometimes you feel alone and without guidance, but I’m always there for you. Look for me inside your heart and feel the warmth of my arms hugging you whenever you feel alone and lost.”
We both smiled and I kissed his hand. The fire dimmed a little and my grandfather looked at it and said, “Time is running out. Know I have a question for you.”
“What is it?” I ask curiously.
“Will you promise me to take care of yourself and our family?”
“Then, please heal your heart of my loss. Do not cry for me with sadness, but with joy for I am in a better place know. A place you will be when your time comes. So no sad faces only happy ones, ok.”
“I promise.” As I said that, we hugged for a few minutes and I felt in peace with myself as I accomplished one of my most desired dreams. To see him one more time before living my life to the place he is now.
“I have a gift for you grandpa. It’s a lock of Versaly’s hair from when she was a baby, I always carry it with me to feel her closer. I want you to have it so you could have a little of her until you can finally meet her.”
“Thank you. I see her every day you know, even thou is from afar I’m always watching over her and praying for her. Here’s something for you too. I think someone lost this and couldn’t find it.”
He opened his hand and inside it was a small image cover in plastic of the Sacred Heart he used to wear every day. It was lost when my brother and I argued about who should have it. My heart rejoiced when I saw it for I thought it was lost forever. He had taken it to guard it and to give it back when the time was right.
“This means so much to me. I’m just sad I have to go.”
“Me too, but we’ll see each other again and spend eternity together.”
“We’ll do that; I will hold you to it.”
We hugged me again and he gave me his blessing. My heart, my soul and my spirit felt like crying again, but I hold it back. I had gained what once was denied to me, a final goodbye and a farewell. That moment right there could never be replaced.
So I got up and walked away only looking back once to see him smiling and throwing a kiss to me saying, “This is for your grandma, but don’t tell her is from me. Just give it to her.”
“I will. Love you.”
“Love you too.”
I walked away feeling the tears come down my cheeks. I kept walking toward the port just looking at the relic my grandpa had given me. When I looked up I saw Rob, the Horse Whisperer, waiting for me at the port smiling happy to see me. I stopped to look back to the trail that had given me such an immense gift hoping to see a final glimpse of him. But he wasn’t there. Smiling joyfully and content I turned back to Rob and climbed aboard the ferry.