Sometimes it’s really hard living inside of me.

In the 65 years I’ve had on earth, I’ve finally learned that life is just a series of tragedies and miracles. It seems you can’t have one without the other, and what kind of bullshit is that?

In 2016, I got over my 20-year fear of flying to take my beautiful sister Jane to the Island of Hawai’i for medical treatment. We were supposed to be there for three months, but she unexpectedly died a few days before we were to leave. Three weeks later, I took the trip for the two of us.

During planning stages of said trip, we argued so much about which side of the island we would stay. I wanted to be on the east side in the rain forest, and she wanted to be on the west side where the terrain varies greatly, from the desert in the north to the tropics in the south.

In the end, I gave in and changed our itinerary so that our last month there would be where my sister wanted to stay.

When I arrived Hawai’i, I stayed two months in the place that I’d chosen—the whole time, I wondered what the hell I was doing there. I was very far from home. I was alone. And my sister was dead.

My last month in Hawai’i, as planned, I moved to west side where Jane wanted to be, and things got even worse.

The place didn’t look like anywhere I’d ever been. I felt like I was on a different planet. I was in a tropical environment, but interspersed among abundant flowers were barren lava fields. The road to get to the house was narrow, yet on each side, there were deep gullies filled with dried up animal skulls and rib cages.

Ten days into being in Jane’s chosen place, I fell in love. Like head over heels in love. Turns out, the tragedy of my sister’s death was that she gifted me with the magic and beauty of the Island of Hawai’i.

Then, last year a miracle occurred.

Sight unseen, I purchased land within a mile where Jane fought for us to stay. Someday, I hope to build an artist retreat on it, so that others can experience the same wonders of working their craft in that holy place.

You’d think I would’ve been deliriously happy to be going to see that little plot of heaven for the first time. But nope. Not if you’re me. You have to fly to get there, and I’m still afraid to fly. It’s the claustrophobia that gets me, not the thought of pummeling 30,000 feet to the earth should something go awry with the aircraft.

I kicked up a fuss for two weeks prior to getting on the plane.

I was terribly anxious. Crying all the time. Grinding my teeth to such aching proportions that I thought maybe I needed a root canal. I couldn’t sleep, which was the worst, because I needed a break from the horror movies playing in my mind. And each day, I tried to find a plausible excuse to back out.

Poor Funk had to live with all this.

“Funk, I’m too afraid, I can’t go.”

“Babe, you say that every time, but you’ve flown 32 times now without a problem, you’ll be fine.”

“I am not fine, and I won’t be fine. Look at me Funk, I’m a mess.”

“You’re stronger than you know.”

“I don’t feel strong. There’s too much other emotional stuff going on to add flying to the mix. What if I get up there and have an anxiety attack and it lasts the entire 12-hour flight?”

“What if a meteor falls from the sky?”

As you can see, Funk only has patience for so long.

Walking into the jetway on the day of the flight felt like I was walking a death march. And it stayed that way until we started down the runway. Because when it comes down to it, I kind of love flying. I especially love taking off. And once we did, I was totally fine, just like the bastard I’m married to said I’d be. All that fussing for nothing. What a waste of time and energy.


Fast forward to the hotel where we always stay for a few days to get over the jet lag. Funk had to work, so I walked the beach alone and thought about my sister Jane. She’d come to Hawai’i several times on her own and had walked this stretch of shore.

With her in mind, I thought back to her journals that I’d read after she died. In one entry, she wrote of walking on this beach, and becoming tired, she sat down on a boulder to rest. Looking to her right, she saw a smooth, heart-shaped lava stone and wrote that she was bringing it home for me. When I read that entry, I wondered why she’d never given it to me.

And now I was wondering that again.

The next morning, I woke up in the hotel and had coffee in bed, staring out at the ocean, still thinking about my sister. Before long, I went out to the lanai to grab my bathing suit. There, sitting on my chair, was a smooth, heart-shaped lava stone.

Here’s to you if you’ve also learned that from life’s tragedies blooms the miracles you deserve for having endured them. I think if we could give in to the fact that life is never stagnant, that there’ll always be cycles of high-highs and low-lows, we’d likely deal with the earth-shattering lows a lot better. My sister let me know in the best possible way that this time, she was making the trip to Hawai’i with me. How do I know? I’ve never seen a smooth lava stone before, let alone a heart-shaped one.

The Photo: My sister Jane. In my mind, this is how I see her, always smiling, looking back at me. And her heart lava stone that she finally gave to me.