Leaving Mahogany Beach
By G. Ackman
Sarah settled back into her seat, untouched book on her lap, ipod and headphones in the seat pocket. For a while she watched the frenzied passengers finding seats, stuffing too-large suitcases into the overhead bins, and squirming around to get comfortable. She glanced at the man sitting beside her and smiled a little. He appeared to be asleep, although how he could sleep with all the bustle and noise around, she had no idea.
Her gaze drifted to the outside. They were almost ready to leave Montego Bay. It had been a good week. Their first time in Jamaica, two years ago, they had done all the touristy, first-timer things. They climbed the exhilaratingly dangerous Dunn’s River Falls, spent a glorious afternoon on horseback in the Caribbean Sea, and had learned that she definitely could not snorkel, as the bruised lip she sported in all their photos of that vacation attested. They loved the quaint and quiet Mahogany Bay resort with his solicitous staff, gourmet meals, and touch of local color. The hand-carved mahogany turtle purchased on the beach from vendor John was her favorite souvenir of that trip.
This time they mostly just sat on the balcony enjoying the seaside vista stretched before them. She colored, read, or completed dot to dot puzzles. He napped and people-watched. They played Bunco and Tri-Ominoes. And they talked – easily and comfortably – about everything and nothing.
They had been on many vacations over the years, all of them good and all of them a source of wonderful memories. Their three cruises – Hawaii, Mexico, and Alaska. Camping trips to Mt. Rushmore, Canada, Maine, Arizona. Visits to Civil War battlefields and homes of authors and outlaws. All special in their own way. She knew they had been lucky to be able to do that.
Then the string of illnesses. The flu, the back pain, the tiredness. Going to bed at 6:30 every night. Then the diagnosis she had both feared and suspected.
Their decision to go to Jamaica again anyway. They wanted to forget the word cancer, the plans they didn’t want to make, the visions they didn’t want to have, the schedule of pain pills and doctors visits. She was glad they did.
The pilot’s voice announcing the final descent interrupted her musings. She barely remembered them taking off and here they were almost home. As they taxied to the gate, the flight attendant asked everyone to please remain seated for a moment, then came and got her. She gathered her unread book and her unlistened to ipod, stepped past the couple sitting beside her, and followed the flight attendant to the plane door. An official met her and escorted her through the previously unnoticed door at the edge of the jetbridge, down the stairs and onto the tarmac, where she stood silently watching as the sun reflected the gleam of the mahogany wood of her husband’s casket as it was taken off the plane and loaded into the hearse.