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Paradise and Dolphins

It was a warm August morning in Hawaii when my cousin Keyara and I boarded a tourist boat to go snorkeling. We found a spot on the top level of the boat and situated ourselves to watch the beautiful waves roll across the deep blue sea. My eyes felt tired and heavy from waking up at the break of dawn, but my heart felt light for the first time since my stepmom had passed away a few weeks earlier. The sun was warm on my skin and the boat felt like it flew across the ocean waves; the sweet salty ocean spray brought comfort, and the wind whipped my hair around my face.

I wished she could be experiencing this paradise with me. If there was a storm in my life, it was when she passed away. It’s difficult to explain what it’s like losing someone close to you, someone who you deeply love. Each beautiful experience on that trip was shrouded with guilt that I stood in paradise and she would never have the same experiences as I. She passed away too young, just a week after her 42nd birthday.

She was free spirited, unconditionally loving and always joyful. As a young girl, I looked up to her. We even looked alike. Like me, she had long blonde hair and piercing green eyes. We danced and sang in the car together while listening to Aqua, one of our favorite bands. Whenever it was time to visit her and my dad, she would stock the house with my favorite junk food and rent Mary Kate and Ashley movies from Blockbuster. I loved visiting and looking at the pictures of dolphins leaping in the air that hung on her walls and the dolphin statues and trinkets that littered the shelves. She even had a dolphin tattoo arched over her ankle bone. To me it represented freedom.

Keyara returned to the top level of the boat and told me to come down to the bow to listen to an informational talk about sea turtles. I got up and trotted down there hoping desperately for a distraction. I leaned against the side railing and I looked out on the ocean and half listened to what the friendly staff said about sea turtles. Just as I began talking to God, begging him to help me keep it together, I saw something leap out of the water ahead. People pointed at it and gestured excitedly, then I heard someone say, “It’s a dolphin!” I saw something else in the corner of my eye, a dolphin’s fin was peeking through the water right next to my railing, gracefully swimming with our boat. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Two more joined that dolphin and three of them guided us along in the waves.

On the boat speakers, a staff member cheerfully announced that we had come across a pod of dolphins. At certain times of the day they come together to group and nap for protection. This time they had decided to play with our boat in the waves. About 100 dolphins swam chattering and playing in the water together. Across the ocean we could see their gray bodies glistening in the sunlight as the peaks of their fins slid through the deep blue sea.

Sometimes we find God’s love shining down on us when we least expect it. It can be in the sun’s rays warming our faces, the ocean waves whispering sweet salty songs, or free-spirited dolphins. Finally, I didn’t feel so alone. God chose to give me a special memory that day. A second chance to say goodbye to someone I had loved so much.

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About Madison Bortfeld

Madison Bortfeld

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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