JUST got back in from our anniversary cruise. After nearly a week on a boat, I’ve felt the house swaying back and forth all night long, even though we’re very much on land.
The past week has been such a blur, I still don’t know if it’s Monday or Tuesday or Friday. It all began when I had the honor of officiating a wedding on the Gulf of Mexico in the St. Petersburg area. It was especially meaningful because it was the very shore where Amanda and I were married nine years ago, almost to the day. It was strange being there again at a wedding. It doesn’t feel like nine years has passed, let alone nine months. It was as if the wedding I was at was my own and I was living it again.
During the reception, I walked over to where our reception was held that day. I went through all the pictures on my phone that were taken there and smiled the biggest and the realest of smiles. I stared at each picture, savoring all that was going on within them. Second only to my baptism, it was the greatest, most perfect day of my life.
In one of them, I noticed my grandfather (in the upper left hand of the picture below), who we lost nearly a year ago, and my heart instantly sank, my eyes clenching shut as tears plummeted down my face as if Amanda had just come into the room crying with the phone in her hands to tell me the news.
Studying the picture, I counted the number of hand rails on the steps and stood exactly where he was as we drove off as husband and wife. He looked so happy. I clasped the rail in the very spot where his hand once was and somehow, it brought happiness to my heart knowing that he was there.
From there, we drove from the Gulf to the Atlantic for our cruise.
Months ago, Amanda found the greatest deal on a Bahamas cruise so we jumped on it. It was the first time we had been on one since our wedding, which made it feel all the more like a 2007 time warp.
It was so good getting away from laptops and smart phones and Ipods and Ipads and social media and television, as well as the world as we know it. I’m noticing life is so much fuller and simpler whenever I get away from them.
There’s just something about looking out and seeing nothing but water and sky that I love so much. I would wake in the middle of the night thinking we were at home or in a hotel somewhere only to open one eye and see the hazy black sea. It looked so ghostly through the misty window; almost as if I was dreaming.
Our days were spent exploring the Bahamian culture and soaking in the sunshine with a frozen drink and a towel on my back. Our nights were spent eating romantic dinners and taking in either the entertainment aboard the boat or a quiet evening in our stateroom. She looked so beautiful in the dresses she wore. And when I came to get her at the spa after her haircut, I fell for her all over again when I saw her smile.
The ocean at night kept calling to me.
Late last night, I spent an hour in the Jacuzzi on the roof of the boat, staring out into the darkened ocean while it gently swayed. I remembered the breathing exercises my anxiety therapist taught me and did them as the breeze of the sea caressed my face.
I was so high up, when I stood, I felt clouds pass through me. Literally! Clouds were going through me.
…Or maybe it was more that the clouds were lower than the deck was high. I don’t know?
I could have stared out into the ocean till the sun rose. I was enthralled by it but also felt sad.
While I don’t live with many regrets, I have always felt this heavy sadness at the end of most days, no matter how much I put into it. No one but Jesus seized a moment fully. No matter what happens, I always feel sad of what I could have done or what could have been said or what could have happened that I hardly remember what actually did happen.
I love that it’s a step closer to heaven and at the same time, I hate it when days and trips and events and seasons come to an end.
Workshops. Getaways. Vacations. Seminary. Weddings. Sermons. Jobs. Youth. Gatherings…they all come to an end. Friendships and relationships are made along the way and some of them last and some of them die fiery deaths. Seasons come and seasons go just as quickly as they came.
All of this swept over me as I stared out into the sea late at night. Just as I did 9 years ago on my Honeymoon – my future felt as vast as the ocean. But, like the dark, I couldn’t see it. I knew very little of the dangers that lurked beneath the surface. I looked out that night all those years ago and thought about all the uncertainties of what marriage would be like. Where we would go. What we would do. What would happen…
I finally decided to return to the room for the night. I walked down the hallway through a black tie affair with nothing on but my beach shorts and sandals and everyone acted as if it was completely normal.
From there, I heard music coming from one of the rooms and saw someone singing Ordinary People so marvelously, I forgot that it was karaoke. He wasn’t merely singing the song, he was feeling every single word – the only way songs should be sung. He was so enraptured in the melody and in the words, he didn’t even care when he occasionally went off key. He was too busy smiling and losing himself in the euphoria of the art. Another takeaway for me.
From there, a salsa band was playing in the darkened clubroom next to it to no one but themselves. They too performed beautifully. So beautifully it made me wonder why no one was in there. I sat down and listened for a couple of minutes. They played as passionately as if there were ten thousand people listening. Yet another takeaway.
I awoke early this morning and couldn’t go back to sleep.
Longing for one last glimpse of the ocean at night, I wandered the empty halls at three o’clock in the morning. The giant dining room that looked like a Hollywood ballroom scene…the cafeterias…the hallways that were teeming with people and loudly ringing with the sound of gladness and life all week long had now fallen silent and desolate. It felt like a ghost ship that I was the lone passenger upon.
After nearly half an hour of looking out into the dark and feeling the chilly breeze as I prayed, I looked for a pianist playing moody chords in some empty tavern. But there was none.
As I reached our floor, I noticed a couple of room service trays laying on the ground and thought I’d give the staff a hand and took them to where they needed to go until one of them, with a baffled smile, told me I had better cut that out and go back to enjoying my vacation. What little bit of it that was left at least.
I could have spent a month on the boat…probably much longer than that. It’s sad to let go of everything we experienced day after day this week. But you know you’re blessed when you go back to do what you love to do, and we can both say that. Few things are greater than that.
And yes, we had to leave the boat, the top deck Jacuzzi, the frozen drinks and the ocean breezes.
But I got to keep the girl.
All is good in the world.