I know, I haven’t written for awhile. Each time I write this on my blog, I have full intentions of writing more often. But changes in life happen to delay me from getting back to writing more. This time I guess you could say I have a very good reason for having no desire to come back to writing for awhile. I experienced a tragic loss last October, and dealing with my grief has been a priority. I am still grieving, but trying to move forward now . Writing about this is therapeutic.
I will try to keep it short. On October 10th, my son Ben and his girlfriend of more than 10 years came to visit us here in Panama. It was the first time any of my family had come to visit us since we moved here over 5 years ago. We met them in Panama City and had a wonderful time for 2 days visiting many sites of interest including the Panama Canal. Then we came to Pedasí. Ben has always loved the ocean since he was a child. We lived in Southern California near Newport Beach then. He now lived in Arizona, so getting to the beach was now few and far between. So each day he wanted to go to the beach. We took him to local beaches at first, Playa Arenal & Playa Toro. Then on the morning of Sunday, October 14th, we went to Playa La Garita, another local beach and our favorite. Ben & Mikkel walked out into the water. The water was calm, the waves small. I stayed on shore with his girlfriend. Suddenly a huge rogue cross-wave appeared. Both Ben & Mikkel dove under. For a little time, I could not see them. Mikkel’s head finally popped up, but Ben’s did not. People nearby heard my screams and came to help search. Someone finally saw him about 500 feet down the beach, but it was too late. He had drowned and died before our eyes. They were able to retrieve his body onto the beach where we sat in shock waiting for authorities to finally arrive. Mikkel sustained injuries to his knees and shoulder from being thrown against a rock which probably saved him because he was able to grab onto it and keep his head above water. Soon after, the waves were calm again as before, and he was able to swim, then crawl back on shore.
God had taken our 45-year son in an instant; the grief has been overwhelming. For the next 4-days, we fumbled through all the Panamanian protocol when there is a death of a U.S. Citizen. Actually, we were blessed by many who made everything happen so quickly. Many locals and expats in our small community came by with condolences, support, hugs, and food. And with the help of a friend’s attorney (ours was out of the country), the U.S. Embassy, our driver and friend in Panama City-Luis Arce, the funeral home in Panama City, and Copa Airlines, I was on a plane with his girlfriend and Ben’s ashes to the U.S.
I spent a month in Arizona, trying to take care of Ben’s assets since I was considered Next of Kin. (Arizona does not recognize common-law marriage.) Mikkel chose to stay behind in Pedasi to recover from his injuries; many friends in Pedasí checked in on him most every day. Ben worked as a mechanic for the Medi-vac helicopters in Southern Arizona and was friends with many first-responders. So when we finally arrived at his home in Tucson, we were greeted by them saluting and standing at attention in front of a fire truck; I still come to tears just thinking about it. I and Ben’s girlfriend were able to plan a “Celebration of Life” ten days later at the clubhouse for the housing association where he lived. Since my son served in the U.S. Marine Corp, a military presentation was provided. My brother, sisters, nephews, and niece all came to Tucson, Arizona to support and console me through this time, along with my daughters, grandchildren, and many of Ben’s friends. It was great to see them all, but not for this reason. While there, I learned that my son was considered a good and kind man, a giving and caring man, a friend to many. But as time passed, eventually I knew I needed to come home. Pedasí is my home and I consider my friends here to be part of my family. I needed to be back with Mikkel to support each other through this tragedy. Although we spoke with each other every day while I was away, I needed his touch and comfort. We both have experienced PTSD from what happened and we are slowly dealing with it.
Most of all, I am grateful that I have my faith in Jesus Christ. His words have continued to comfort me through all this, even though I may never know why it was Ben’s time to leave this world. I rely on this hope that I will see Ben some day along with my parents and youngest sister. As parents, you always think that you will die before your children. The grieving process will continue for a long time; the least little thing will bring me to tears suddenly. I have experienced all the emotions associated with grief: sorrow, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, anxiety, guilt, confusion, and eventually acceptance at times. These emotions don’t come in any order and come back many times. But I have God, my husband, and my Pedasi family to help.
So we are moving forward toward “our third life in Pedasi” again, one day at a time. I know Ben would want me to continue to enjoy life here. I am grateful that I got to spend time with him before he passed. I was told he had come to see that his mother was okay living here in a foreign country, and in the few days he spent with me he shared that he had been assured that I was, seeing all the friends I had who were like family. I am glad he knew that before he died. So am taking time and slowly joining in activities with my friends here; occasionally walking on the beaches with my girlfriend Sue (just not Playa La Garita). I spent a day with friends at Isla Iguana. I joined in the Cart Parade, once again wearing my traditional Pollera. We decorated the house for Christmas. I even continued the tradition of leading the Christmas Eve Carole Sing-Along at Smiley’s. And we celebrated Christmas Day with 30 other friends at my friend Bev’s home. New Year’s Eve was special; many of our neighbors (local Panamanians) came to our front gate, hugged us, and wished us “Feliz año” while we all watched the fireworks in the sky being shot off from both ends of the street, behind our house, and right in front. Everyone here has been so understanding and patient with us. This is our family now.
I intend to continue writing in this blog starting fresh with a new perspective. I am not sure where my journey will take me, but I would like to share it with my readers. I have enjoyed writing in the past, so I will continue to pursue the things I enjoy. Life is too short to not enjoy it while you are able. Here’s wishing you all a Blessed New Year!