Butt Naked

Returning to Hawaii last December (2017) was bittersweet.  Sweet memories of all the good times we have had there before the accident, and bitterness at the senseless traumatic accident that changed our lives forever. Standing on that beach and talking to the lifeguards brought all of it back to the forefront. Both the despair and trauma of that day, and well the incredible kindness and love of complete strangers.

It’s this latter I want to talk about today. The good stuff.  The good people in the world that you never get to meet unless your worlds literally collide. Nancy C is one of those good people whose world not only collided with mine but also created a fabric of love and friendship I would never have had the blessing to experience had it not been for that fateful day. Full disclosure, the truth is that I would not even know Nancy’s name had she not followed her heart and searched every hospital in Maui trying to find Jim and I.

To paint the landscape for this story, you have to travel back to the beach with me one more time (if you don’t know what happened there, please refer to our earlier story entitled “Life is a Beach” here).   Go ahead and do that now.  I’ll wait for you…

Today’s story starts from the moment I pounded the sand beside Jim’s head and yelled at him: “This story isn’t over, you owe me another 30 years on the marriage contract!”.  We will never know why that is the moment that Jim chose to come back from the dead, but the point is that he did…. and that is where today’s story begins.

From that moment on everything happened at warp speed.  It was chaos on the beach.  As Jim is showing signs of recovery, it is clear we would have to somehow transport him over the cliffs to an ambulance.  But as I had just spent every ounce of my strength to find Jim in the waves, swim to him, hold onto his body trying to prevent the waves from taking him out to sea, yell for help, and assist in dragging him out of the water and finally literally drag him back from the dead. I was spent and collapsed naked on the beach…. Yes, that’s right BUTT NAKED….Oh, wait a minute, did I forget to mention our exact location?  We were on Little Beach.  Located adjacent to Big Beach but yet separated from it by a wall of cliffs.  Renowned in Maui as being a gem hideaway for beautiful naked people from all walks of life.  The rich, the poor or anyone in between, we are all equals on that beach.  That’s what being butt naked does…. it keeps you humble.

It is then that Nancy stepped into my life to remain in my heart forever.  How to explain the effect unconditional love given from a complete stranger is beyond my ability to put into words. So I will just carry on.  She knelt down in front of me, held me by the shoulders, looked into my eyes and said: “Come on, let’s get you ready for the ambulance.”  Nancy and her husband somehow got me dressed, helped me gather important items I would need at the hospital (wallet, keys).  They gathered the rest of our beach paraphernalia…. and that is all I remember. All the following events are essentially a blur of images in my head: Jim on the beach, grey skin and distressed breathing, Jim on a board, The lifeguards doing CPR, the scramble over the cliffs to get to the ambulance, all of it a blur.

All flashes of images that come and go as they please in my head.  I really wouldn’t be able to tell you this story if Nancy hadn’t been…. well, if she hadn’t been Nancy.  Nancy could not and would not let go.  The same way I had images of the beach flashing in my head, Nancy had images of Jim and I in her head.  And so the next day she said to her husband: “We have to find them”.  I don’t know how they did it or even how long it took.  I just know that about two days after the accident, the hospital elevator doors opened onto the ICU floor and there was Nancy and her husband.  I would have walked right past them as I was clueless as to who she was…. Like I said, everything from the beach was a blur.  I wouldn’t have been able to recognize anybody who had helped me that day. “Isabelle” she said, “I was with you on the beach….”  and that is all she had time to say before I fell into her arms and hugged her like I was never going to let go.  I finally did let go and we chatted as if we had been friends forever.  We talked over some of the events on the beach that were such a mess of jumbled images for me.  Slowly, we recalled all of it: Jim on the beach, grey skin and distressed breathing, Jim on a board, the lifeguard, the scramble over the cliffs and getting to the ambulance.

 It is at this point in recalling the events that Nancy’s husband started to laugh and cry all at once, I looked at him quizzically, what was so funny that it brought tears of joy to his eyes?  Understanding my confusion at his display of mixed up emotions, he went on to fill me in on how I actually got to be seated in the front seat of the ambulance.  

We had scrambled over the cliffs where an ambulance and police were waiting.  Unbeknownst to me, both Nancy and her husband had accompanied us with all of the beach paraphernalia.  As they were loading Jim into the ambulance, the cop approached me and starting asking questions like: “Are you with friends here?” “Do you have a car here?” “Can you drive your car and follow the ambulance?”  

I was in just too much shock to be able to make any sense at all.  It was Nancy who once again came to my rescue.  She stepped between the cop and myself and placed her hands on her hips as she assumed her Super Woman stance.  Wagging her finger at the cop’s face she admonished him and said: “She is NOT driving her car.  She is getting into that ambulance with her husband”.  As she said the last sentence she pushed me into the front seat of the ambulance and now, Nancy’s husband is just laughing out loud at the memory.

You see in the scramble to get me ready, pack up beach paraphernalia, help me over the cliffs, it turns out that Nancy had forgotten one little detail, as she stood there in front of that cop like Super Woman hands on her hips and legs gently spread apart in a firm assertive stance, she was still naked….. BUTT NAKED.