We inched down the winding mountain pass toward the ocean, smothered in a thick fog. After ten hours on the road through a fierce thunderstorm, our nerves were frayed. We rounded a curve and our headlights caught a raccoon in the middle of our lane.
The light dissolved his eyes into a watery green glow. He reared up in hapless defiance and raised his little paws as if to fend us off.
My husband swerved, barely missing.
So far, it was the most positive thing that had happened on the trip.
It was our first real family vacation in sixteen years. A generous cousin offered us the use of their beachfront rental for a week on the Oregon coast. Knowing a trip of that length would test our ability to travel with Kevin’s extensive medical needs, we planned as carefully as we could.
Then the week before the trip, The Resistance began. Aaron’s mother had a medical emergency and was ordered by her doctor to go immediately into an assisted living center. The family was inundated with a myriad details to get her moved within a few days.
The day before we left, we were still taking care of her issues while trying to pack. That night, there was a thunderstorm, taking out the power for two hours. Since Kevin sleeps on a ventilator at night, we had to switch his equipment over to emergency power and watch to make sure he was okay.
We left the next day after a few hours of sleep. Immediately out of the driveway, our nearly new van flashed a warning light. We spent an hour in town getting it checked out.
Back on the road again, we watched an ominous storm gather around us. It descended in earnest over the Columbia Gorge. A gale slammed us sidelong and threatened to blow us off the road. Lightning hit so close we actually had to try to keep from touching anything metal inside the van. Thunder boomed above our heads.
We hit Portland during rush hour. “Margie,” our little GPS guide, taunted us by commanding us to crisscross between lanes of heavy traffic. We turned her off and found our own way.
We finally made it to the coastal highway, only to be hit with a heavy rain. As we inched down the winding mountain pass, we were wrapped in a heavy fog.
We arrived at our lovely beach house shaken but unhurt. Our son and daughter-in-law arrived a few hours later, telling much the same story.
“It felt like something out of ‘This Present Darkness,’ ” my daughter-in-law mentioned.
All the time I thought it was just me. The warfare was so intense, it was insane. It didn’t make sense.
My first thought was, “It’s not like it was a Billy Graham Crusade. Why should the devil care that we’re going on vacation?”
Before the week was over, however, I realized why the battle to get there was so fierce. It was a truly blessed time. We played together and prayed together. God spoke to us in the Christian music, the fellowship, the laughter, and the peace. We stood on the beach and listened to the sea. We watched the sun set the water on fire every evening and gloried in the blaze as it sank into the horizon.
I got to see my beloved extended family again. We swapped family stories and laughed and cried until it hurt so good.
In Brazil they use the phrase “Matar saudades.” It literally means, “to kill the longing.” For sixteen years, we have lived in the valley of the shadow. Life has been hard. Many of the simple joys have gone by the wayside as we struggled to make it through each day. For the most part, we’ve adjusted to our new normal and submitted to the discipline it takes to keep Kevin healthy.
We’ve learned to accept hardship as our path. We didn’t expect to encounter something so extravagant, so rich, so abundant. To be blessed with such generosity. To be alive just for the fun of it. To kick sand in the face of loss.
Now I know why it was such a struggle to get here. This was more than a vacation. We came to kill the longing.
Photo courtesy Grace Thorson
Recently I had the honor of being featured in an interview with author Aaron Gansky. Check out the interview at http://aarongansky.com/author-spotlight-pamela-thorson/.