This is the view from the back terrace of a sprawling home encircled by rice paddies in a suburb of Ubud. I spent a few hours there today. It’s the place F calls home – but I’ll call her Joy (of Wood), because it’s an auspicious translation of her name.
I was among the first to arrive. Joy was dressed all in white, her blond hair tied up, bright red lipstick accentuating her face. Music overhead, a young woman fiddling with videotaping devices, windows and doors open everywhere so air flowed easily. More people entered until a pretty big crowd had formed. Most sat in a circle on the floor, while Joy sat on a couch in a quiet meditative pose – and I, on a well-padded comfy chair directly across from her. I had no idea what to expect, because I had only met her a few days ago, but she looked blissful and radiant.
And then Joy told a story. She recounted how four and a half years ago, on New Year’s Day, her two daughters and ex-husband perished when the plane they were on crashed into the sea. As the telling of her tragedy unfolded, I felt my stomach knot, I heard it gurgle, the air around me suddenly became thick with sadness.
Joy spoke about how she managed to heal through her grief. She described how she chose happiness and love over the only alternatives that seemed available to her; how she was able to help others through the grief in their lives.
When Joy finished speaking, people hugged her, then huddled in groups, some spreading out to other parts of the house. After a few minutes speaking with women seated near me, my body begged for movement. I headed out back, to a sanctuary, a healing garden. I massaged my sacrum, picked frangipani, walked around the pool and closed my eyes towards the sun-soaked sky.
This is what happens when you don’t allow yourself to shrivel up and die, when you choose life, notwithstanding the black hole you’ve fallen into. This is what happens when you decide that you will live your life in JOY for the sake of your daughters who lost theirs. This is what happens when, despite inexplicable and unimaginable grief, you take the road at the fork that gives you strength to move on and heal, one day at a time.