The scent of cumin and frying tilapia mingle and fill the breezy air. Cries of fishermen returning home after a long day echo across the dark waves. I press my fingers into my pounding temple and tuck a stray strand of dry hair behind my ear, waiting. For what, I’m not sure. I sit here alone, staring out at the surf, thinking. Could death be easier than life? Just three days ago, doctors at home gave me another round of radiation. How interesting, the one thing sustaining my life is tearing me apart, killing me. Lately, my life has been a surging ocean of juxtapositions. Vast, wide, powerful and unforgiving. Flying to my father’s house in Tiberius was the best decision I had made in a while. The deadly heat, terrifying sea storms, political unrest and unfamiliarity of language are perfect reflections of my internal conflict. Perfect.
I lift my phone; there are a couple lingering Instagram likes from my slowly waining fan base. Three Facebook notifications reminding me about upcoming events. No texts, no voicemail messages. The last one, three weeks ago was from Max, Mr. Show Biz, the man who told me he would give his life for me. Bull. People reveal who they really are when you’re not at your best, hurting or, in my case, dying. Emotionally first, spiritually second, physically third.
I stare down at my white legs, they are thinner than they have ever been. The medical treatments have curbed my diet, thus making my famed curves melt into bone. Life is cruel, horrible even. Four and a half months ago I landed a contract with Storm agency in Los Angeles, Prada and Gucci contacted my agency wanting to set up shoot times. I had worked hard and was on top of the world. I run my fingers through my hair, look down and gasp. I clutch a fistful of strands in my hand. I’m slowly losing yet another thing that makes me feel beautiful, valuable, comfortable. Before long, it would all be gone.
“Shalom.” I jump a little and spin around. A man is in a white tee is standing there.
“Hello.” He smiles and sits down beside me. Given the heightened spirituality in this place I half expect him to have a golden sash across his chest. The landscape is stunning but Israel and its religion, it’s suffocating. I slide a little closer to the waves, away from the man. Please, God let him take the hint.
He ignores my gesture of discomfort and stares out at the waves. “Beautiful morning, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it’s nice.” I study my feet, noting that his accent sounds slightly Israeli, slightly American. If he decides to rob me or something I’ll have a small lead for the police. Helpful. Really helpful.
“Where are you from?”
I look up at the sea and pluck at my thin tee. “Colorado.”
“Ah, it’s stunning there.”
I tuck a piece of hair behind my ear. “Listen, I’ve had an awful year…”
He clasps his hands and leans towards me. “Why is that?”
“Please.” The last thing I want is a counseling session from a stranger. I turn to stare him down and stop. His eyes. Hazel. The most brilliant conglomeration of green, brown and orange I have ever seen. Beyond the colour I see compassion. I see compassion in those eyes. No one has ever looked at me like that, ever. In the days of my successful modeling career, it was burning envy and empty praise. Nowadays, smugness and pity. So many people were happy to see me fall. Was he one of the many who came to mock me? Maybe he wasn’t.
I look away quickly. “I have cancer.”
He looked back out at the sea. “We all have that.”
I bite my tongue, repelling the anger welling within me. “Do you have any idea what it feels like to be dying?”
He looks at the surf with a thoughtful smile on his face. “I do.”
I pick up a rock and lob it into the water. “Well, I’m sorry you had to go through it.” He pauses and picks up a stone.
“Do you believe you can be healed?”
“Science is getting better, I suppose so.”
From my peripheral I see those compassionate eyes studying me. “Do you trust me?”
“Uh, I guess. Why?”
He leans towards me and offers his strong hands. I notice two large scars on his wrists. “May I?”
I nod, still in shock over the white marks. He takes my frail hands.
“You are healed.” The once gentle breeze blew a gust of force, whipping my hair away from my face. My spine straightened involuntarily, commanded by an invisible force. The loud thumping in the right side of my temple subsides. I look up. Those eyes. Pools of honey and green, nourishment and new life. Who is this man? His presence is overwhelming. Warmth envelopes my heart, my stomach. Tingles shoot through my arms and legs. My eyes start to close.
“Peace my friend. Just be.” I squeeze my eyes shut. Bursts of light and warmth fill my sight. The breeze whispers through my hair. The sunlight shining on my skin no longer burns oppressively. But above all, that feeling of peace overwhelms me. I hear birds singing songs to my right and left.
“I am always with you. Always.” His words echo into the empty caverns of my soul, my heart, my spirit. When the warmth subsides, I open my eyes to see him but he is gone. In his place sits a small, white bird. It studies me with gentle eyes before taking flight over the glimmering sea. I watch until its small wings disappear over the horizon.
I stand and do not feel light headed. I take a step and do not feel pain in my bones. I walk to the top of the shoreline and stare back down to where we were sitting. One man’s choice to see me and care changes everything. No matter what it takes, I will find the man who healed me on the shores of Galilee. No matter what it takes.
Greater love has no man than this, that he would lay his life down for his friends