Thailand Memorial Gathering
Our gathering place was an exquisite piece of paradise called Railley Bay, a favorite of Luke’s and a fairly well kept secret until recently. It’s three white sand beaches are flanked by sheer yet alive rock formations that form a peninsula accessible only by boat—ideal for rock climbers and discriminate backpackers. Because of its unique and protected location it suffered relatively minimal damage from the tsunami, and the few “resorts” were brimming with holiday tourists. There is a small island feeling here, as there are no cars and one can boat or walk most anywhere in a matter of minutes.
As our group straggled in during a span of several days, the beach became a scene of many joyful reunions. We made subsequent forays to pristine white sand beaches on tiny rock islands that sprouted green in the most unlikely places, and where the clear blue transparent water teemed with colorful fish and other exotic water life. We treated ourselves and each other to Thai massage, fabulous food, and the rarest of all gifts, time to be together. We embraced the joy and beauty of friends, family, and our surroundings with the same fervor that Luke and Angie embraced life, and we savored every moment.
In what turned out to be a stroke of brilliance, the family decided to hold our private ceremony a full two days before the official brouhaha at Khao Lak beach. We chartered a double-decker bus with a great sound system and enjoyed a lovely four-hour cruise through the scenic hills, farms and villages of Southern Thailand. We knew we had done the right thing when we drove through Khao Lak town and saw the semi-trucks full of stage building materials, sound and satellite equipment, and a large government presence preparing for the official memorial services.
Prior to that, our celebratory mood turned quiet as we passed through the national park and the road wound down through the jungle toward Khao Lak. Our friend Chaz, who was at Railley Bay during the tsunami and had made several subsequent trips to Khao Lak, took over the microphone and described the changes he was seeing. It took awhile for it to sink in that the village we were driving through had so few buildings compared to how it was pre-tsunami. We were prepared for devastation, and were surprised at what appeared to be at first glance, a lack of it.
Blessings upon the industrious survivors and volunteers whose labors cleared the mountains of debris and rubble, and blessings on the jungle that is quickly growing over that which has been left behind. Buildings that could be saved, have been, right down to a new coat of paint. The most dominant remaining sign of the extent of the reach of the wave is the Thai Navy boat that had been off shore to guard the grandson of the king. He perished as he was swimming, and the boat was thrown almost a mile inland, past and above the town, and has been purposefully left as a memorial.
We pulled off the main road and drove through the re-merging jungle to the coast and the Khao Lak Orchid Resort where Luke and Angie had been staying. The jungle is quickly hiding what was left of the carnage, but poking out from underneath, chunks of cement and rebar are still visible. The Orchid itself has been completely reconstructed, although the bungalows and neighboring hotels are gone. Surreal is the word that comes to mind—a new, pristine-looking hotel, a new pristine beach with miles of new palm trees planted (one for each lost soul), and a new jungle surrounding us. The sky was blue, the sun hot, and the sea, ah, the sea . . . It was the sea with which each of us had to come to terms.
We had arrived at the objective of our pilgrimage and conducted our Cannunpa (sacred pipe) ceremony under a shade pavilion provided by the hotel. We honored Luke and Angie’s lives, the devastating losses from the tsunami, the resilience of the land and the people of Thailand. We also honored our amazing family and friends, our sorrow, and our gratitude. Then most of us entered that sea, or sat along its edge in reverence.
December 26, The Moment
Big magic happened two days later at Railley Bay Beach. The family wanted to do something special to commemorate the moment that the tsunami hit, one year later. Sage envisioned people holding hands stretching the length of the beach and a moment of silence . . . You get the picture. There was not a lot of energy left to invest, although the sisters produced a flyer, and there was some word of mouth. As we began to gather our numbers did not look promising. There we were, 30 of us. And then the people started pouring out of the jungle, out of the hotels, out of the paths from neighboring beaches. It was amazing! Hundreds of strangers came together to share this moment. A bell was sounded, there was a moment of silence, and then, as one, we walked into the sea holding hands. Read the story of the loss of Luke and Angie, here…
Acacia Made it to Thailand!
As you may recall, I left Peru a bit early to be with my daughter Acacia after she was hospitalized and subsequently diagnosed with recurrent lymphoma, now in her brain, central nervous system, liver and left kidney. Allopathic options looked both harsh and limited, and it was clear that they would be unable to “fix” her, so we decided to see what it would take to get her to Thailand for some quality family time.
Her doctor at Stanford considered hard, then offered her a treatment that would knock back the cancer and give her enough recovery time so that she could travel. The chemotherapy was so rigorous that she was hospitalized during her recovery and almost didn’t make it. (The chemo wiped out her natural immunity and left her vulnerable to infections and abscesses.)
It actually took a number of miracles and a couple of extra days, but her strength and determination prevailed, and with the help of her equally strong friend Maria (whom we now call St. Maria), she arrived in a wheel chair. She was in scary shape, with abscesses from her knee to her ankle, her leg red and inflamed and looking as though it would burst. We rushed to the hospital where they wanted to perform surgery immediately and keep her for at least a week. The doctors spelled out their predictions in grim details. Acacia listened as we explored our options and attempted to negotiate with the doctors for time with her family and to be able to go to Khao Lak with us. It didn’t look possible.
“I did not come to Thailand to spend my time in the hospital,” she finally said, quietly but firmly. "Take me to Railley Bay.” Despite the protestations of the doctors, we wheeled her back out to our van and continued our journey. Acacia propped her leg up on the seat in front of her. “Okay mom, it’s your turn. Gimme some of your Alchemical Healing. . .” That’s when the magic really kicked in. The swelling in her leg began to deflate like a balloon right before our eyes.
We watched in amazement over the following days as her infected leg continued to heal and she became more present. In spite of her obvious, yet diminishing pain, she engaged more and more with all of us and the beauty surrounding her, and was even able to come with us on the bus to Khao Lak.
A couple of days later, Acacia, Maria, and I charted a long-tail boat to Chicken Island where she could swim in pure unpolluted sea water. I feared that Acacia would get burnt to a crisp in the mighty Thai sun, so she snorkeled with a hat, and a sarong draped over her back. It was hours before I could get her out of the water. When she finally climbed back on the boat, we were amazed at the healing that occurred while steeping in the gentle saline sea. Her leg was no longer inflamed, and fresh pink skin replaced many of the oozing sores. Equally healing was our laughter. We laughed ‘til we cried, then kept on laughing . . . This was a day to remember.
Acacia’s courageous presence added depth, richness, and poignancy to an already multi-layered, complex spiritual and emotional ride. Her determination to participate in life to the fullest inspired deep respect and love from all of us who were privileged to share in this precious time with her.
Back home in Oakland, Acacia goes back into the hospital for treatment tomorrow (Tuesday), and so the journey continues. Thank you for your continued prayers on her behalf.
Update, January 27, 2006: GOOD NEWS!!! Acacia didn't go into the hospital as planned. Her doctor needed to get scans to see the status of her cancer in order to determine treatment. The first CT scan, which included her body up to her neck was clean. There are no signs of cancer in her liver or kidney. We are awaiting results on CT scans of her neck and brain, and a spinal tap to check her central nervous system. Whatever you are doing, please continue. It is working!!!I will update this page again as soon as we get more information.
Update, February 11, 2006: Today is Acacia's birthday. She is 36 and free of cancer!!! Her doctor, after expressing her surprise at this amazing turn, told Acacia that it is the nature of her particular form of Lymphoma to return again and again (this was the third time), and recommended her to continue with chemotherapy treatments, which she will start sometime next week. It is our belief that all the good thoughts and prayers that have been sent her way contributed to her healing, and that miracles do and can continue to happen. Thank you for your love, care, and prayers.