Published February 16, 2016
Samantha rejects the invitation to fly to San Francisco with her family over the Valentine’s Day weekend. “Get over it. I’m not going. I’m in college now. I don’t have time to take stupid trips with a baby like you,” she tells her beloved eleven-year-old brother, Josh, after he begs her to go and says he misses spending time with her.
That is the last time she ever speaks to Josh or her parents. They all perish when her dad’s private plane crashes. Overwhelmed by guilt and sorrow, Samantha drops out of school and resigns herself to a job as a grocery store cashier. A year later and still feeling lost; she leaves Denver to trek alone in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. In the heart of the rainforest, she meets a man named Nick who joins her for a journey of love, healing and personal transformation.
Once I started college, I wrote my eleven-year old brother off as a baby. It wasn’t cool to hang around him anymore, so I pulled back from him. Even when I went home for weekends, I would run up the stairs and shut my room door and listen to music or watch online videos and refuse to let him come in whenever he knocked. I know now it must have hurt him, but he never cried. Never even complained. And I tried not to notice the sadness I saw in the depth of his eyes.
That day he called was the first time since I’d left home that he begged for me to spend time with him. “Please, Samantha. You have to come with us. We never do anything together any more. There’s going to be this great exhibit at the Science Museum. I really want you to see it with me.”
His pleading made me feel trapped. I was an adult. It wasn’t cool to spend weekends with my family or to have an eleven-year old brother clinging to me. “I’m not going, Josh. I already told mom th–”
“Come on, Samantha. It will be fun.”
“Get over it. I’m not going. I’m in college now. I don’t have time to take stupid trips with a baby like you.”
“Fine, Samantha. I don’t know what has happened to you. You used to be fun to be around. Now you’re just mean. You’re a mean, nasty person and I don’t like you anymore.” And then he hung up. I never called him back. He’d made me feel guilty for not wanting to go on the trip and for being who I had become, which I realized at that moment was an ugly, dark person. But those feelings were nothing that a few shots of tequila couldn’t cure.
I wish more than anything I could take back what I said. That even if I had turned down the offer, I would have told Josh we’d hang out another time. What I really wish I’d told him was that he was the best brother in the world and that I loved him more than I’ve ever loved anyone.
I have a recurring dream about being on that doomed plane. First I feel the sudden vibration. Then I hear my father’s frantic voice and my mother’s sobs and feel my brother’s sudden grip on my arm before he asks if he should be scared. And I tell him, no. We will be safe. Everything will be all right. And then everything turns black. And I wake up tangled in my sheets and drenched in sweat.
Is that how it was for them after those initial moments of terror? Sudden blackness? Did everything just end for my family at that moment or did they awaken like I did from my dreams? What did they see on the other side of the crash?
I increase my pace, pounding my feet into the muddy ground. I feel angry, confused. It’s hard to believe in God or heaven when you’ve lost everyone you loved in the blink of an eye. Too often I wish that I had been on that plane. Then I wouldn’t have to endure day after day of lonely torture.
The sudden impact of my head and torso against something hard and unforgiving jars me out of my thoughts.
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