I had a 3 o’clock appointment for a massage from Fernando. I separated from my six travel companions who were more willing than me on this Mother’s Day morning to haggle with the street vendors hawking brightly colored scarves and silver necklaces. I walked quickly to an uncertain destination with my eyes straight ahead under my big black sunhat.
In the distance I could see the ocean. I quickened my pace until I arrived at the plaza that opened onto the beach. A line had gathered outside a small white chapel whose entrance was covered in white flowers drooping in the noon sun. I stepped in next to the two young women holding green plastic canisters and wondered if I should make a donation for admission or wait for a collection.
I could see the priest in the pulpit with palm trees swaying in the round window behind him. He began to read a child’s Mother’s Day letter. The Spanish words on learning the lessons of love were simple enough that l was able to follow along until the lump in my throat grew too large and I quickly resumed my walk.
As I rounded the plaza filled with families taking a Sunday stroll, I came upon a small group of mariachis. They were neither singing nor looking as though they particularly wanted any business. I sat down on the stone wall a few yards from them and checked the time. I needed to start heading back soon to meet my girlfriends who would be waiting. I pulled a bill from my tote and said in my best Spanish, “Gentlemen, I have twenty dollars and twenty minutes. Will you play for me?”
“Aquí, en la sabra,” the leader said, motioning me into the shade. Another musician joined them as they gathered around me and asked what I would like them to play. Something romantic? Something happy? I went to the heaviness in my heart that I had been carrying through the streets all morning and blurted, “Today would have been my 18th wedding anniversary.”
After conferring briefly, they nodded and began—Sin ti….Without you…..I closed my eyes and listened. Their compassion was so abundant that it mattered little that I could not understand all of the words. I allowed the tears to fall, sheltered by song from all embarrassment as my mind meandered to happy memories.
Here I was—the sun shining, on vacation with good friends, and my spa time scheduled with Fernando. How could I be anything other than grateful and happy?
Grief and gratitude are capable of co-existence. Sorrow and sadness can couple with gratitude, too. We can have overwhelming gratitude for life’s abundant blessings, and we can still feel loneliness, loss, and longing.
When the serenade concluded and I said my farewell, I saw the kindness in the dark eyes of my sweet mariachis who gave me a Mother’s Day gift to remember.