Aerial view of our island paradise – Mitchells Sand castles – wiped out by Hurricane Ian. Our cottage stood in the center of the sand wash across from the barely-visible swimming pool.

Last March, I reminisced about the wonderful two weeks we spent with Bryan on Sanibel Island. It was a time in his life where he was in need of some intense healing. The Island worked its magic and left great memories supplanting the sadness and loss he felt.

Hurricane Ian wiped all physical evidence of our island retreat away two weeks ago. What once was our coveted winter vacation getaway became covered in sand – the only trace of what once was were two swimming pools mostly filled in with sand. Our little cottage on the Gulf washed across West Gulf Road. Splintered wood. Nothing left. Ten years of traveling to this special spot. Only memories survive.

As I “boo-hoo” and grieve about the loss of this magical island with its abundance of bird life, endless seashells, Sunday Farmer’s Market full of fresh Floridian produce and favorite restaurant haunts, I must be mindful of those full-time residents and those countless workers who relied on the tourist trade for their livelihoods. Yes, we’ve lost a wonderful little community where friends from many states came together each year during the cold northern winters to rekindle friendships around a glass of wine on our porches or on the sunny beach. However, those in Southwestern Florida must rebuild not only buildings and businesses, but their homes. AND their lives.

I just read that the collapsed causeway into Sanibel will be rebuilt and passable to residents and truck traffic by October 21st. This is symbolic of our resilience as a people – to stare adversity in the face and proclaim : “We will be back”!

Prayers go out to all of those who have lost loved ones, businesses, homes, pets. The grief that we travelers to your island paradise feel so intensely is nothing compared to the scope of yours. But, we are there with you in spirit and support you in all of the work that will need to be done to open this slice of heaven back up to those visitors who value it as much as you do.

Bryan was very sad when I showed him the pictures of our Sanibel campus perched right on the Gulf of Mexico. He acutely remembers our two weeks there. But we will have those special fond memories of family time together, of a healing-kind-of-bonding when life had gotten too tough to handle. It is probably wrong to covet anything as much as we coveted our little place. Now that it is gone – literally wiped off the face of the earth – we can appreciate even more the memories that will always linger.

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