Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Riding the Wave of Resilience: How My Trips to Hawaii Help Me Cope with Grief

My favorite poem by Yeats has got to be "Lake Isle of Innisfree." The poet -- an Irishman -- is living in dark, drab London. He longs to return to a lake island to hear the water lapping on the shore, but not with his ears alone. "I hear it in the deep heart's core." 

As you know, when Becky passed away 10 years ago, I began making annual trips to the land of my birth and youth. 

What was it that drew me to the shores of Kailua Beach? 

I have no doubt it was, largely, grief. Having been married for 37 years, Becky's death had left a gaping hole in my existence. A tectonic shift had occured in my "deep heart's core." Travel emerged as a way to transform loneliness into independence and purpose. 

One out of four people 65 or older are widowed. The loss feels impossible to overcome. We need a way to rediscover equilibrium, to get to know ourselves again. For some of us, travel becomes that escape route, especially if it's to a place we know and love. There we reclaim something we loved before -- a part of who we are at our core. "Am I brave enough and bold enough to embrace my new life without my spouse?" we ask ourselves. Deciding to travel brings simple distractions that nurture vulnerable souls even as we seek to honor the memory of the loved one we lost. For me, annual trips to Hawaii are:

  • restorative 
  • contemplative
  • active
  • commemorative 
  • cathartic

The journey changes me somehow. It's been an essential part of the grieving process and my grief journey. I travel to Hawaii knowing that Becky would want me to live my life fully, find happiness, and not exist in a continual state of suffering. No, a "griefcation" will not cure all of your pains. Only God can do that. But it can help you to cope. Kailua Beach, with its breaking waves, always reminds me that life, however painful it can be, is undeniably beautiful. 

The first and ninth lines of Yeats' poem are especially relevant here. Here he writes:

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.

I will arise and go now.

The allusion to the Lord's parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 is unmistakable. Just when does the prodigal say the words "I will arise and go"? When he's poor, suffering, and starving. He decides to reform his life and arise and go back to his native land, his native people. When Yeats quotes these words from Luke 15, what does he imply? He implies that his current life is not right. He needs to return to his origins in Ireland, which are beautiful, authentic, and nourishing in a way his bleak, gray existence is not. Hence this allusion to Luke 15 brings the reader into the poet's "deep heart's core." 

In his "Prayer for Entire Love," Augustine wrote, "When we cast ourselves upon Thee, and weep in Thy bosom, after all our ragged ways; and Thou dost gently wipe away our tears, and we weep the more for joy; because Thou, Lord, who madest us, dost remake and comfort us." Every visit to the islands is a time when the Lord gently wipes away my tears and replaces them with tears of joy. 

Thank you, Father, for showing me such love and aloha.