For me, the Dominican Republic is a place of great joy and even greater pain. Most people think of palm trees, beautiful beaches, and wonderful people when they think of the D.R. While I do think of all those things, I also have painful flashbacks to the most tragic day of my life. My brother-in-law drowned while he was visiting my husband and me during our Peace Corps service in the D.R. four years ago.
I remember the feeling of sheer terror when I heard my husband shouting for help from the ocean. I could hear the fear in his voice over the sounds of the waves crashing the shore. I remember seeing him and his brother frantically waving their arms.
I remember running barefoot through a stretch of palm trees in search of help…and praying.
I remember praying.
I remember the burning heartbreak and nauseating grief I felt when I returned to the beach and could not find either of them. I thought we had lost them both.
I remember the dizzy combination of relief and guilt I felt when I realized my husband was still alive…but his brother was gone.
I remember anger. I remember feeling the most intense anger I’ve ever felt.
Anger at myself. At the island. At God.
These memories swirl around my very being and they can engulf me if I let them. So I bury them. The more gruesome memories are buried deeper still.
But I’m going back tomorrow. We are going back tomorrow…and I wonder what it will feel like. The anger and guilt have subsided, but the sadness of loss remains. We are going back for my dissertation research, but we are also going back in search of healing. Going back means returning to a beautiful island that feels like a second home. It also means staring a nightmare in the face. There is so much hurt that it often overshadows the beautiful times we shared in the Dominican Republic. I don’t want that. I want there to be more beautiful memories. Deeper friendships. More good. So we’re going back in search of healing and happiness.