author: "One More Day: A powerful true story of suicide, loss, and a woman's newfound faith"

Chapter 1 excerpt

Chapter 1
What I didn’t understand this weekend was the importance of the gift I was granted – to truly live life with the breath I was given; to appreciate the magnitude of what was in front of me, and to embrace the happy, the good, the sacrifices and the hard work that got me there.

Because what I didn’t understand this weekend was that my life would never been the same just two weeks later.

*****

I spent hours on the beach in complete solitude. Just me and Jesus, some wine, and with a little Gwen Stefani, Train and some country music blaring in my ears. I let it all go and felt more secure and at peace in my life than I have felt in years.

This was my trip. This was the trip when I felt I had it all, where everything had come together. Finally. Because while rewarding above all, single-mom-life for the past five years had been hard, y’all. That’s the life I lived then, those four days in mid-October 2015.

It was the life of having, and doing, it all on a meager income while some days wondering how many times I would have to charge my groceries and gas, and pull from my paltry savings to pay for everything and anything.

It was the life of feeling emotionally and mentally inept at times, and worrying I wasn’t holding it together enough for my daughter, just age seven when I divorced her father.

“I’m sorry we’re not a family anymore,” she wrote in a second-grade journal. My heart ached for her, for her anger, for her rare outbursts, for her sorrow, and for tearing us all apart. For the immense sadness that fell over our small family.

It hurt. Undeniably. But time heals wounds. And I clung to that hope.

My daughter slept with me for that entire first year.

Night after night, week after week, month after month. Just me, her, and the dog, a stray we named Bo who found us that summer of 2010 when our lives changed. Bo, and a cat named Padme, who I affectionately called “the divorce cat,” and which we brought home from the shelter that same summer.

If I could have, I would have bought that kid a pony.

It was a full year before my daughter decided she was ready to move out of my room and back into her own. My grown up 8-year-old spread her wings, teaching me how to move forward in the process.
How to maneuver through life’s obstacles in a way that showed grace and strength.

This was my trip. This was years of taking care of her, now 12, and of making sure I kept my head above water at the same time. Of shedding both tears and pain from the past five years, and of pulling myself back up from the ground in which I allowed myself to fall.

That hard, cold concrete ground that shows no mercy. That ground that will gladly and willingly swallow you whole if you let it. But I didn’t. But, oh, it was tempting to stay there because of its comfort. It doesn’t take challenging work to stay fallen.

You just stay down. But I refused, and somehow, I got up.

Somehow, I clawed my way back to life. To a life that I slowly began to understand was beautiful and full of hope – and filled with more Jesus, friends, and fewer glasses of wine – and of a promise that the world is good. Somehow, somewhere, I saw light.

And through this, new life and revelation that hurts can be mended.

That hearts heal. That tears stop falling. That joy returns. That minds finally rest.

This was my trip. To be me, to celebrate the victories and to let go. To be content with who I was and with what I had, and to push away the rest. The superficial. To push away what didn’t help me grow and flourish, and what weighed me down.

This was mine.

******

I texted my sister on the way to the beach this weekend.

My younger sister, Katie, jokingly begged me to let her come. She just returned from a cruise with my father and some of his friends a couple of weeks prior, and loved nothing more than spending time on the beach.

A video of her on this cruise shows her carefree smile, her long, brown and purple hair blowing slightly, and her infectious laughter as she raises her fists in the air while cheering as they headed toward Cozumel, Belize, and Honduras.

But she had to work, and stayed home in Texas.

Weeks later, my father would say, “I wish she could have gone with you.”


******
I sat on the Florida beach, and when my eyes weren’t closed, watched young couples wrestle with children, beach chairs, umbrellas, and juice boxes. I smiled as they sprayed sunscreen on small backs, and as they in pure exhaustion followed their child to the water.

Or packed countless cups of sand to make sandcastles.

If my eyes weren’t closed, I watched couples walk hand-in-hand on the beach and wondered if I’d ever have that again. Wondered if I’d ever experience the anticipation and excitement of a new relationship again. Of caring for someone, and being cared for in return.

Of falling in love.

When my eyes were open, they often just found the water. That overwhelming, never-ending body of water that reeled you in, that held you in a trance whenever it wanted to, forcing you to release and to lose yourself.

That’s the power of where I go to heal and to just be. That’s the power of the water for me. You don’t even have to see it to feel it.

When my eyes were closed, walls were torn down. My mind escaped past “Hey, Soul Sister” and “Hollaback Girl” and past the tiny bit of guilt of spending a weekend to myself.

It went beyond responsibility awaiting me back at home, and instead into the act of doing nothing in a world constantly on the go.

This was my spoiled life from a Friday night to a Monday morning, when my only goal was to store enough food in my condo to not have to leave my room at all. For anything, other than the sand and water.

Three nights at the beach. Three nights to figure out what I could figure out, whatever that would be. Three nights to put the phone down, to not worry about work, to only text my daughter, and even then, only if she was in the hospital or bleeding.

Three nights to sit on my balcony and listen to the waves crash over and over morning and night.
Especially at night. Especially when you could only imagine.

Especially when you could do nothing but close your eyes.

Three mornings of waking up and heading out for a run, past tourist shops waking up, and beach chairs set out next to mopeds and golf carts. Bikinis I’d better never catch my daughter wearing hang in storefronts, and families walk back from breakfast at places that serve waffles and coffee.

Two full, 24-hour days with nothing but the sand. And the swoosh … swoosh … swoosh of the waves.

Over. And over. Day. Night.

******

There’s a quote I love that goes roughly like this: When you wake up, you’ve already been through the worst days … and survived.

Divorce aside, my family has woken to many mornings having had experienced the worst. We lost my brother in a hiking accident in 1985, when he slipped while climbing up a crater behind our home in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Three years later, my mother died of breast cancer. Three years after that, I was raped at knifepoint while out on a run.

The year of 1994, when nothing happened, I thought perhaps my family had escaped whatever three-year curse it had developed. That we were on our path to healing.

That we could move forward and know the worst days were behind us. That we could wake up each morning and know because of that, we could – and would – face whatever came our way. That we had already been through the worst days.

That our job at that point would be to take my brother’s memory and hold close to us his love for football, swimming and spending time in the wilderness. And time alone.

We would hold on to my mother’s grit and determination to beat down cancer, to face it head on even in her final weeks. And to remember the strength and courage it took to do so.

We’d carefully tread on the sexual assault, with nobody really knowing what to say or do other than meet my requests for safety measures taken around the house.

We’d be grateful I was alive. Because another death … well, my family couldn’t handle that.