weatherworn brick wall with a hole, ocean in the background

I first visited Puerto Rico in January 2003, when my brother took me on an all-expense paid trip to anywhere I wanted to go. Why I picked Puerto Rico, I’ll never know. It was karma, I guess. I had lost my husband to suicide in December 1997 (when I was 38 years old) and afterwards returned to college and earned my degree. Then, as my reward, my brother and I headed to San Juan. 

Outside of our hotel window was this tiny fort tucked away in the lagoon, surrounded by numerous modern hotels. It looked so out of place. That began my fascination with Fortin de San Geronimo (AKA San Geronimo Fort). The fort was built circa 1609 and in its early years, defended the island from pirates and invading countries who wanted control of the island and its shipping lanes and ports. Musket and cannon balls bombarded her walls and tried to knock them down. Over the years, who knows how many hurricanes and tropical storms battered these walls? The fort represents an entire nation that got knocked down by corrupt politicians and devastating storms, yet still stands.

Like the conquistadors of old, mental illness and suicide sneak up on us like thieves stealing our mind and our joy and capturing our family members and friends. In its wake, my husband’s suicide left me devastated and empty—robbed of love, a father for my children, a business partner, a source of steady income, my stability and security. What does the world do with a 38-year-old widow, anyway? There is no road map. I felt so out of place. His suicide wounded me and scarred me much like the invaders who attacked the walls of the San Geronimo Fort…yet I still stand. 

If you look BEYOND those battered walls, you will see the beautiful blue waters of the Caribbean.
If you look BEYOND my tragedy, you will see acceptance, peace, and the power of forgiveness.