When I last lived in Kona I was grieving the loss of our South Carolina farm and all the hopes and dreams we planted there. I ended up spending all my free hours sitting under a certain tree at Old Airport Beach. I had no words for my disappointment so I just sat there soaking in God’s beautiful creation and learning to be quiet in his presence. I began to refer to it as my “office” and my friends knew they would find me there. A few days after the life altering phone call brought the news our precious son had just died in an accident, I began to long for my tree in Kona. I knew I needed to sit under it’s shade again, the tree where I learned to grieve with God.
Two weeks after Caleb’s death, still numb with shock and heavy with the weight of pain my daughter in law, children and husband were suffering, I flew 2800 miles with the hope i would find some solace in my special spot. I only had three and a half days and very little emotional energy, so I planned to focus on alone time and declined most visits with friends (Scott stayed home in order to be present for our children).
My bestie and her husband picked me up at the airport curb, chucked my carry on in the back seat, handed me a water bottle and a baggie of healthy snacks and headed straight for the beach. They understood the mission. We were dismayed to find all the beaches closed due to high surf. Turns out I arrived on the heels of Hurricane Darby; Darby didn’t hit the Big Island, but remnants of it caused the biggest waves I had ever witnessed in Kona. The surfers were delighted but I was quite disappointed -I had been looking forward to snorkeling in my favorite spots as a break from grieving. (Thankfully the waves calmed enough for a quick snorkel the last day:)
We managed to hike over a path of boulders to a beautiful ocean view and carefully sat out of reach of the giant, gorgeous waves. The ice in my heart (that’s what shock felt like) immediately began to melt into tears. This afternoon was a warm up for three full days of quiet, grieving, soaking- whatever my heart needed. I was grateful for the generosity of my husband and friends who made this time possible for me.
The next day (Monday) all the beaches were still closed, so i found some other trees on the sea wall to shade me as I processed and cried. I woke up Tuesday anxious to get to ‘my’ tree, so I trekked along the rocky coastline to find it (beach was still closed so I couldn’t park nearby). There was a fair amount of habitat destruction from the storm, so I should have been prepared for what I found, but I wasn’t. I retraced my steps to make sure I was in the right place; my tree was almost unrecognizable. All the large lava rocks that used to ring it were gone, along with all the other plants and most of the sand. Its roots were laid bare, curling unprotected in the open air, vulnerable tender parts naked for all to see. The sight took me to my knees. I was staring at the state of my heart.
Despite the ravaging damage, she’s still standing. Still upright, in the same place she stood before the storm stripped away the earth beneath her. She’s still alive and there appears a possibility she will continue on. I don’t know how, she must have extremely deep roots, invisible to the eye. More likely, she’s being held up by the Father’s merciful hands.
Maybe the ocean will eventually bring back some of the sand it stripped away. Maybe she will learn to adjust to the barrenness. Maybe her shape and function will be forced to change in order to live with her new conditions. However the story continues, I pray she continues to stand as a testament to the goodness of God and His loving presence.