Everything in our lives had led us to this moment. My heart was full to the point of bursting, grateful even for the trying events that had brought us here.
The whole theater went dark, and thunder crashed again, this time all around us. A flash of lightning ripped through the night sky. The sound of wind whipped through trees. Islanders screamed.
A mother cried out frantically, trying to save her child from the hurricane’s anger.
Agwe’s rushing waters overpowered her.
Mother and child were torn from each other’s arms.
She had sacrificed herself so that her daughter could live,
And she slipped into the surging seas.
We weren’t even five minutes in, and another wave of emotion crashed into me, threatening to drown my last shred of composure.
How many times had that same scene played out less than three months before in the terrible chaos and devastation of Hurricane Maria? My mind flooded with thoughts of the thousands of people of Puerto Rico who had lost their lives.
This was only a representation of the real tragedy they had to endure.
Loved ones swept away in an instant.
Homes destroyed, everything lost.
An entire island still without power.
I could only imagine their complete heartbreak.
Then somehow, they had to pick up the broken shards of their lives and fuse them back together, but like a puzzle with missing pieces, their lives could never be the same.
In this theater, we were, in some small way, paying homage to their loss through the telling of this story. I sat in my seat, the pain of mother and daughter losing one another sinking in as I thought of how we’d almost lost Jessica. My heart ached for this mother and all those mothers she represented. We had been lucky. Papa Ge had granted us more time.
But the gods are fickle and mischievous. How many more days will we be given? We have to live each day grateful for every new sunrise with each other and all of our children.
On the island, Agwe, played by Quentin Earl Darrington, commanded attention with his impressive physique, looking like he could hold up the heavens with one hand. His booming voice poured “Rain” down on us and then the “skies” above in the theater opened up, and as if by magic, real rain showered the island and soaked Daniel as he lay unconscious in the sand. It even smelled like a beach after an evening rain. All my senses were immersed in the island.
The villagers, hearing Ti Moune’s cries for help, raced to the beach where Daniel had crashed his car on the slippery street. Some of them carried torches, illuminating the scene of the accident. We were so close that the heat from the fire warmed my face and I could hear the breath of the flames as they sucked in the surrounding oxygen. Like the fire, the actors seemed to feed off of the crowd’s energy, creating a synergy that connected everyone in the room. It was as if for a moment, all of our hearts were beating as one. We had become a part of the story they were weaving. No longer divided between audience and performers, we had crossed over, transcended the boundaries of self, and merged into one being.
You can’t get that from a TV or an iPhone screen.
Sitting in the front row, we were so close to the action that when the actors danced, grains of sand shot through the air and landed in my lap, so close that when Tonton Julian, played by Phillip Boykin, shouted at Ti Moune, I jumped too. Phillip’s deep voice rumbled through the theater like thunder.
The normally jovial, soft-spoken Tonton wasn’t raising his voice in anger but in fear. Fear has a way of changing people. Tonton, afraid of losing his precious little girl who had given his life new meaning, yelled at her.
My heart practically stopped. Jesse, sitting next to me, dropped his head and brushed a tear from his cheek. I knew he was thinking of Jessica and Alyssa. I was too. I reached over and held his hand in mine.
It’s impossible to look at our amazing daughters, now young adults, and not see them as the chubby-cheeked little girls in yellow ballet tutus they used to be fifteen years ago. Where had the time gone? How is it already time to step back and let them make all of their important life decisions? I’m not ready to let go of these precious creations who are so much a part of me. I want to wrap my arms around them and keep them safe, to protect them from pain and heartbreak. When they suffer, I suffer too. Our hearts are forever bound together.
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