Matt,   It’s February.  You remember that first year when you were living in Florida?   February was the month I planned to come for a visit.  I anticipated seeing you again after 6 long months of nothing but phone conversations.   I imagined how it would feel to see you in person.  To be able to touch you again.  To feel your hug and see your incredible smile.  I was excited to see you in a new life.  To see you living on your own in the place you loved the most.   I envisioned us walking together on your beach and making plans for a beautiful future.

As you know, my dream was shattered by your unexpected death in January.  So here we are.  The third February since your death. I’ve returned to Florida.  To the Keys.  My piece of heaven on earth.  You see that was the original plan before your death.  I was spending that first week with you in Boca then heading for the Keys.  You were planning to come for a long weekend.   Once again I anticipated showing you my paradise.   I planned on how amazing it would be to show you what draws me back year after year.   The turquoise water.  The cry of the sea birds.  The vastness of the sea that surrounds the house.  This is my heaven on earth.

You never made it.  So now my paradise is bittersweet.  I remember boarding the plane.  It was an early flight.  I remember just closing my eyes and closing off the world as my earbuds blocked out the noise.   I started to pray the Serenity Prayer,  oh please God help me to accept the things I cannot change.   You see Matt, no matter how many times I say that prayer, I will never accept that you are gone.

I’m hanging in.  Until I feel the plane start to descend.  Looking out the window I see the blue water surrounded by a scattering of homes.   I hear the pilot welcoming us to Florida.  The state you took your last breath.   I feel the slap of grief.   That familiar throat tightening.   I’m choking.  The grief lives in Florida.  I stare out the window hiding my flow of tears.  Hugging myself to stop the sobs that are escaping from my broken soul.   My therapist said, “The body remembers”.   Matt, my body is remembering and physically reacting to your loss.

The airport is full of happy people.   Families reunited.   I see a young man walk into the arms of his mother.   I allow myself the fantasy that you are here.   Waiting for us.  I see your smiling face.  I hear your “Hey Mom”.   I look for you everywhere.  I hide my tears and tell myself to breathe.

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Grabbing my luggage I walk out into the welcome heat and sun.   Ray grabs my hand knowing I need to get my bearings.   That I need to allow the grief to envelope me until I can breathe again.   We reach the rental car.   The radio starts to play.   The sound of Guns and Roses, Paradise City fills the air.   Oh Matt, are you here?   Guns and Roses your favorite band singing about paradise.   My tears start to flow.   Ray grabs my hand.  Smiling he tells me it’s Matt.

The drive to the Keys is indescribable.  The salt air hitting my face.   The bridges surrounded by the most beautiful turquoise water.  The cry of the sea birds welcoming me back.   I’m surrounded by Paradise as my thoughts turn to you.

Once again I look for signs that you are here.   I wonder if you know I’m back.   I talk to you as if you are walking beside me.   Listening for your voice in the sound of the wind.  I remember all the plans we made.   Plans that have now become a grieving mothers fantasy.

Reminders of your loss are everywhere.  I see you in my mind as two little boys ride skateboards down the street.  I see you standing on yours next to your brother with that famous I can do it Mom smile on your little face.  I see you in the man carrying his child on his shoulders.   I see you in the stars shining in the night sky.

It is said that grief is a journey.   That in time the pain will lessen.   I’m finding that this journey is an endless path that neither time nor place can soften.   Even returning to Paradise has become bittersweet.   Tomorrow I head home.   Leaving both my paradise and a piece of my heart behind………