I visited Cozumel recently, and on one of the happiest days there, I met a couple in the pool area. The man was in a wheelchair, and his wife was an expert at putting him in the pool. I could tell from the look on his face that the lightness of his body in the water was soothing. He looked happy being out of the chair. I felt a little guilty, watching the woman struggle getting her husband in the pool, but she looked strong and determined. When she was about to get back to her poolside seat, I spoke to her and confessed, “I’m sorry I didn’t help you. I didn’t know if it was appropriate to ask.” She turned around and said to me, “Oh, don’t worry about it. We’re all set here. Thank you for asking now.” Then what happened surprised me.
She introduced herself as Lucinda, and her husband was Bill. “Short for William,” she said with a big smile on her face. She then proceeded to tell me the story of her life. Her warm, comforting voice had me craving to know more about her. It was about 4 or so when we started talking, and I returned to my room close to 9. I had such a blast hearing her story and falling in love with it.
Lucinda told me Bill was a veteran, and she believes what caused the breast cancer she had and later on Bill’s progressive, paralyzing disease was his exposure to a nuclear warhead he had to work around when he was deployed to the Gulf War. She told me how they met, about her beautiful children and grandchildren, and even about her German daughter-in-law. She talked about how happy she was about life in general, despite all the losses and the continued deterioration of Bill’s health. “He lost control of his right side this year, you know,” she told me. It broke my heart to hear her talking about this. But then we talked about being thankful, about how happy I was to see him walking around the pool, and how he made me feel grateful for all the blessings in my life: the ability to walk, to move around at will, to have my health.
Then Lucinda moved on to the amazing story of why she and Bill were in Cozumel. It turns out that Bill belongs to a diving club, and he was traveling with a group of people who have all kinds of injuries that cause them to be in wheelchairs, as well as people with cerebral palsy. Right when we were talking about this and how they all actually dive, two people from the group joined us, both of them in their late 20s or early 30s. They openly talked about their injuries. The man happened to trip once – as Bill stated, “a bad trip” – landing in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that was it – he dislocated spinal discs C6 and C7. He showed us the huge scar that runs from the base of his head nearly all the way down to his shoulder blades. He lost feeling from the area around his nipples all the way down his body. The woman had simply jumped into a pool and smashed her head on the bottom or side of the pool. She said she doesn’t entirely recall the incident because she lost consciousness and almost drowned. When she woke up, she learned she had smashed her C6 and C7 beyond repair. Her scar runs from the middle of her throat to the base of her ear. The surgeons lifted all that skin and removed the pieces of bone that were floating around. “I really smashed it good,” she said with a smiling face.
They were so open and kind, talking about their injuries, their group, their constant, CONSTANT pain, and how diving helps them release the pressure in their spine. They especially described the freedom they feel in the water and also explained that they dive with a partner who has full movement and is usually very experienced. The professional diver takes them around, helps them move around, and shows them where there is good stuff to watch. The diver is their guide, their legs, their propellers. I had never felt more humble, being around such wonderful people. I had never felt more appreciative of the multitude of blessings I have in my life. We laughed together as they recounted their stories, and above all, I learned so much. They were so eager to share.
When the others left, Lucinda and I kept talking. I told her that she was a goddess, and she was surprised. She said, “OH, NO! No, no. I believe in God, and there is only one God.” I told her that I didn’t mean it like that, but that she is taking care of this man with whom she’s deeply in love, she survived cancer, she’s been the head of a household all by herself. I told her I noticed that she smiled every single time Bill would come around the corner of the little island he was walking around in the pool to tell us, “One more round!” with a huge smile of his own and the best attitude possible. I could feel the enormity and warmth of their hearts. Bill was teasing me, saying I have a man in every port, but saying he was a hopeless romantic who fell in love with Lucinda the second he saw her pass by. “I didn’t care if she was married, a widow, had one baby or seven. That was it for me, Mono. She was for me.”
There is no way that I won’t keep in touch with this amazing couple. You know how you just kind of love and admire some people immediately? That’s what happened to me with these two. They gave me an open invitation to visit them, which of course I will do because I can’t wait to see them again and share our life stories once again.
When I said goodbye that day, Lucinda said to me, “Please say hi to your parents from me. They have raised an amazing daughter,” and Bill blew me a kiss.
Be grateful, be happy, be alive, be well.