Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Time for Sunshine

A Sunrise for Marie (or from Marie!)
Three short years ago, Joa, Quena, our dearest friends, and I sat helplessly awaiting the unavoidable visit of "La Catrina". For over a week, we had been told by the hospice nurse that this would most likely be Marie's last night, that she had no strength left to make it through the night. Goodbyes were said again and our plan was in place to get Joa and Quena back into our room at the moment of Marie's departure. And each following morning for a week, Marie awoke with a mischievous smile and asked me, "Am I dead yet?" One morning, however, she awake in a rather serious state. She told me in no uncertain terms that
"Am I dead yet?"
today was the day she was leaving. "Now", I asked. "Yes" was her determined reply. So I woke Joa and Quena and we all gathered on the bed to share our final moments together. After a while, Marie told us she needed to be alone to do this, and asked us to leave, which we did. We discreetly checked on her from time to time as she lay on the bed with her eyes closed. Finally after a few hours I saw that her eyes were open and walked into the room. "It's not easy to die!" she complained. So I proposed to get her some mango and pineapple chunks to suck on and she accepted, although somewhat disappointed. It was not her style to give up without having gotten what she had aimed for. This, however, was out of her control. Not even a hard-headed Bretonne could outsmart "La Catrina".

Bon Voyage Marie
But weeks did not turn into months, and on January 9, 2011, Marie was able to let go and Move On. It was a cold, dreary, winter day. There had been many of them leading up to this moment. But it was a relief to all of us, including Marie. The painful days of watching cancer take someone you love so dearly were over for us. And Marie was free of a body that was holding her hostage. Despite the pain involved, it was a moment to celebrate.

The thought of Quena, Joa and me reuniting the following Christmas season in the throes of an Oregon winter was not inviting. We decided that whenever possible we would meet in a warm, sunny place to remember the winter of 2010-11. Marie would be with us no matter were we were, and she always did love love escaping the States at this time of year. So, Voila! A new family tradition was established.

"El Grupo" - Puerto Angel, Oaxaca
December 2011 found the three of us happily reunited in Puerto Angel, Oaxaca. We were staying with Alonso and Aurelia, some old friends that Marie and I had met  twelve years earlier. Quena and their daughter, Magda, had spent a good time together on the beach, and Alonso showed us how to dye wool with la caracol purpura, a snail that lives on the rocks off the coast. It was a great way to spend our first year without Marie. The Pacific was lukewarm and inviting. Joa was able to get some good waves in Zipolite, Mexico's renowned nudist beach, (he wore a suit surfing!), and we entertained ourselves with an ample supply of Negra Modelos and card games of 22, of which I was the clear victor (it's my blog J & Q!).
22 on the beach

The last two years we have all been in sunny places, but not together. Joa is working in Mali with Save the Children and cannot get to Mexico during Christmas. Quena has come the last two years and we have spent wonderful times in San Agustanillo, a laid back beach not far from Puerto Angel. We stay in a dream apartment with an unbelievable terrace that overlooks the sea. Marie would have sketched for hours there.
La Mora Posada - San Agustanillo, Oaxaca
Joa and Evans celebrating in Bamako
Even though Joa cannot be with us, he has managed to find time to stay happy and celebrate in a way that would have made Marie proud of him. 

Hopefully next winter we will be able to rendez-vous in a place where the sun warms our hearts and let's us remember all the good things that happened to the four of us during the hardest time of our lives. Even in death, there are good times to be had, laughter in the air, mezcal mingled with tears. "La Catrina" would have it no other way!

Happy Anniversary, Marie. Hope you are filling up volumes of sketchbooks and meeting scores of interesting and unique people. You always do. And if we all get together in the sun next winter, besides playing 22, we will even play a few games of "Bull-sheet" in your honor!

Ana, ice cream vendor, Puerto Angel
Empanada vendor - Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

Pescadores, Puerto Angel
Marie's Sunset, 2013