The Cove Hotel

Posted: June 26, 2013 in World On The Edge

 

Once a month, when I was about thirteen years old, I used to accompany a friend to The Cove Hotel in Panama City, Florida, where her father did the books for the elderly lady who owned the hotel. But even then, The Cove was older than she was. Built in 1926, it was two stories of pink stucco, surrounded by huge trees, and set on the shore of St, Andrews Bay off the Gulf of Mexico. I thought it was beautiful.

For my trips to the Cove, my mother made sure I took the proper clothing. That meant a dress for dinner, along with the right shoes. Usually, that was a sun dress and strappy white sandals. Dinner was served at a certain time, on spotless white tablecloths, with starched white napkins and a lot of heavy silverware, properly set. My friend and I felt like princesses. But always, there was something we looked forward to that was even better. The Miracle. And we could make it happen ourselves.

After dinner, we walked down to the bay, tossed our sandals on the sand, tucked up our pretty dresses, and walked calf-high in the dark water. With each movement, bursts of light, like stars, surrounded us. Light out of darkness.  Our Miracle. Our Gift.

In my novel, A Hunger in the Heart, Coleman is shown the same gift by his father, when he thrusts a hand into dark water. There, it’s a symbol of hope in the middle of heartbreak. But for many years, I knew nothing of serious heartbreak.

Later on, at twice the age I was then, I faced heartbreak for the first time. One of my children was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. She was five years old. The word, heartbreak, could not come close to what I felt. I didn’t know how to deal with such a dark situation—and it did seem so dark!

For years, our entire family struggled valiantly with a situation we could not control. And it made us stronger. Then, one evening, in intensive care, I was holding her hand after her third operation, and the doctor came in to give an assessment of the tumor. He said he thought they’d finally ‘gotten it all.’ Talk about the opposite of heartbreak! I was filled with JOY. We had been in the dark water and now were surrounded with stars.

Only later, did I remember the Cove Hotel and the miracle I found within the dark water of the Bay.

But isn’t this the way life is? When we look back, haven’t the hard times made us stronger? Didn’t we cling to the hope that things would get better? This is why a writer of Catholic fiction can say that God is now, and always will be, present in our world. He is our Hope—in times of sorrow and tragedy, as well as in times of happiness and joy.

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