I met a kindred spirit at Anamaya. She was a lovely lady with a quick smile and a patient voice, who quickly became an inspiration to all in our group.
We sat together at dinner one night and through conversation discovered that we were both retired principals. E had been retired for several years and I, less than a month. We shared our joys in making a difference, memorable experiences with kids, challenges of the principalship, and our thoughts about education. I was able to share stories about my school and dealing with this change in my life with someone who understood my intense feelings for this part of my life.
As our conversation deepened, we delved into another commonality. We were both grieving the recent loss of our life partners. We shared more stories from our lives about our husbands and about the challenges of this new season. At one point E thought I might think it was crazy, but every day her husband sent her a heart. One day it was a heart in a cut potato. It could be anywhere, but it was daily. I told her that I understood completely and shared my butterfly experiences with her, knowing she would understand.
A couple of days later a beach trip was offered and E, her daughter and best friend decided not to go.
When we arrived at the beach, I found a coconut shell with a hole in the shape of a heart. I excitedly took several different photos of it.
One of my roommates, J, later found a tiny white shell with a heart-shaped hole and gave it to me. I appreciated it, but then said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I want to give this to E. It’s hers.” I elaborated on the meaning of “found hearts” to E and J agreed.
When we returned from the beach, I found E and told her I had something for her. I produced the shell with the heart and explained the story. She excitedly said that she hadn’t found her heart for that day yet, and threaded the shell through the heart on a fine gold chain.
The gift was from her husband, J and I were merely the messengers. It was a blessing to have the opportunity to bring such joy to a joy-giver.
I mentioned that E became an inspiration to our whole group. She had been at Anamaya before as 2019 rolled over on the calendar, barely able to get around following a bout with cancer. Had she not shared her story, no one observing this energetic, positive soul would have imagined this was possible. E joined us for yoga daily and brought fun energy to our Zumba class. She was so excited one day because she discovered she could jump again, a skill she proudly showed off to our group as we responded with cheers, tears and applause.
On our last night in Costa Rica the group went to a First Friday celebration at a nearby brewery. Dancing was awesome because no partners were required. Everyone who wanted to dance was together on the dance floor. The music was different than I’d heard before, but was easy to move to. As the one song transitioned to another the melody and lyrics changed but the rhythm remained the same. I joined E, other friends and strangers on the dance floor. E emitted a joy that was contagious and seemingly tireless. Eventually our other friends took a break and it was just E and I, the constant rhythm, and some “interesting” lyrics (the kind we would have policed as principals) on the dance floor. As we danced, E said to me, “Who ever said principals were boring?” And then we laughed and kept dancing.