Hey, this isn’t new but I really wanted to share it from last year as I entered it into a writing competition for this year. Enjoy!
(Religion and) peace without religion
As a family, the four of us travelled together frequently, up until I was 18 and my parents all of a sudden got a bit more smitten with one another and the concept of friend’s trips (which my mom always organised). Seven years ago was the last time we four set off as the ‘rents did lots of anniversary trips, mom’s girls’ trips and my parents and friends couples trips. A few years later, I started travelling and this was the start of the end of my house deposit! After mom died last spring, we knew that we would still go on holiday for Christmas. We three ventured off into a green land of faith-filled symbols all over the country which could be seen in roundabouts and the alcohol sections of souvenir shops. It was refreshing to see a country so overtly Christian and kind while being independent of Portugal. Madeira was our peace like the star of Jesus’ birth at Christmas, it was the cool breeze in our hectic year of grief and for a moment, it felt like heaven was on Earth.
We expect heaven to be somewhere between Earth and space, clear, bright and filled with the good people that we knew on Earth. I didn’t expect to feel like I was up there while down here. Madeira put dreams of the future and where our loved ones could be into perspective for me, even when talking with German guests about our trip here there was a soft touch in our conversations that wasn’t rushed or of forced sympathy. People there just got that we had a bad year and this place was a healing ground emotionally.
Madeira is lush! Madre mía, it is violently green, well moisturised like a model’s dewy front cover face. Flowers and cacti flowers were growing everywhere nicely. I was not sure how I would manage 7 days with my brother and dad but there were plenty of choices to drop them off if needed and I almost did the day before heaven.
They say firsts after everything is hard, this first Christmas without mom was hard. We were told to completely rely on God as our first, second and third option. A Christmas first in such a green place without the woman who loved green more than the grass itself felt very empty. Every other hour whether asking the baker about Madeiran bread, walking through trees to fountains or at hotel meal times, I could find something to tell my mom but could not tell her. She was not there in the physical but very present in the nature we walked through, in the curve of the sun as it set and in the flavour of the new foods we tried.
I call our last group tour ‘heaven’ because as we ascended in that 18-seater bus, over 1800 metres above sea level it was foggy. Thick yet dense fog that could still be driven through, the slight chill that made you pull your jacket in a little because the sun is covered and the sincere silence as every other tourist is trusting Luigi on these roads with no safety railings. It lightened near the end and you could feel the light where we explored for 30 minutes at this restaurant stop off near a hiking trail and military satellite. It felt like I was at plane level and could touch the clouds, which we all want to do on a plane on our 6th trip for the year. I walked up with my dad and stood at the tip of the trail and could see clouds above the little hills, they did not seem far, in my childlike Caribbean mind I thought it could be possible to get through 5 miles of Pico Ruivo in about a 10-minute light run. It felt safe, peaceful and not like Christmas usually is.
I laugh now, looking at the pictures. I could sit in a café and clouds were next to me, without the cloud being next to me as it’s not possible! That day I smiled, I really smiled because mom was there and the peace we expect in heaven was finally here.