“I ended up here in Maui because I killed my son.”
I heard the words and saw Galen’s lips moving but my brain just could not compute the information.
It was as if someone had thrown a bucket of ice water onto my head. Instinctively, I started to pull my hands away from his but Galen refused to let go. His deep blue eyes pleaded with me not to be afraid.
“When I was living in New York with my ex-wife and my son Ben, I was obsessed with climbing the ladder at work. All I could think about was becoming a reknown investigative journalist. I spent way too much time chasing the next story, taking stupid risks and traveling the world without them. I basically neglected my family and one day, my wife decided that she had had enough. It wasn’t until I came home after one of my long work trips and found that she had left with Ben that I realized that I had been putting them last. Ohana wasn’t one of my priorities when it should have been.”
I frowned not only because I didn’t know what ohana meant but because I was anxious for Galen to cut to the chase. Now that Galen was giving me the back story, I didn’t want it. I just wanted to know how I had ended up sitting with a self-confessed killer.
“Ohana means family,” Galen explained, reading my face and answering the question I hadn’t asked. “When Ben became a teenager, he started spending entire summers with me, where ever I happened to be in the world. By then, I had given up on becoming a famous journalist and had taken up contract work to have more flexibility especially when he was around. His mother and I were getting along really well and I thought that we could actually have a chance at being a family again when I made a fatal mistake that changed things forever.”
Galen’s tears made my heart bleed but I refused to shed any of my own until I knew the whole story.
How could he hurt anyone, much less his own son?
“You…you said that you killed your own son?” I questioned with quiet intent.
“It was my fault. I should have been looking out for him and instead, I was distracted by work.”
Galen took a deep breath and closed his eyes as if he was re-visiting that fateful day in his head.
“It was the summer we spent here in Maui and I was doing a bunch of important telephone interviews that day. In the midst of it all, Ben asked if he could go surfing with some boys he had made friends with. I didn’t want to dampen his fun and though I didn’t care much for those boys, I said yes. But I didn’t think to ask where they were going because I felt guilty at being unavailable and didn’t want to put a damper on his fun.”
Galen opened his eyes and looked down at our intertwined hands.
“It wasn’t until Ben wasn’t home for dinner, that’s when I really started to worry. And just when I… and when the police came to my door, I knew that he was gone.”
“Gone?” I repeated, knowing exactly what he meant.
Galen nodded and finally let go of my hands.
“Ben and those boys had gone to Olowalu Beach on an extremely busy day and he wasn’t that great of a surfer. Ben didn’t know about the large coral heads just under the surface of the water in specific spots. It was my fault that I never told him. My ex-wife never forgave me. She hasn’t spoken to me since his funeral, not once in the five years since it happened.”
Oh my God…
“But… it wasn’t your fault Galen. It was an accident.”
I couldn’t even imagine what I would do if something happened to my kids.
“I might as well of killed him myself Katie because I should have been “parenting”. If I had taken the time to ask, I could have warned him about the reefs. At least that’s how I felt back then. For the first couple of years after he passed, I stayed in New York and dug myself a deep dark hole that I refused to crawl out of. And when I did get myself out, I came back here to visit the spot where I lost him and I could feel him, truly feel him here. Ben had a beautiful soul and it’s as though he’s always with me when I’m on this island. I changed my life completely by deciding to spend most of my time here. For the past three years, I’ve been all about living in the moment, being of service to others and taking advantage of every day. That’s why I decided to get out of the rat race.”
Galen stopped talking and I was at a loss for words. I crawled into his lap and hugged him because it was the only thing I could think to do.
“I’m so sorry for your loss Galen. You are brave. I don’t think that I could ever revisit or stay in a place that took one of my children away.”
Galen held onto me tight. His pain was palpable.
“You never know what you’ll do until you’re faced with hard challenges. Some of us run and hide, others stay and face the music. Being here in Maui, has been a bit of both for me.”
I knew exactly what he meant. His words resonated deep in me. I had run away to Hawaii to escape my diagnosis but at the same token, Hawaii had made me realize that I needed to go home and face the music too.
“Like I said Katie, we’re are all products of our pasts. What made you come here?”
After all that he had just shared with me, how could I tell him that I was dying?
“I came here to escape,” I hesitated. “I mean, it recently hit me that there’s so many things I want to do before I die. That I’ve wasted years putting myself last and time isn’t infinite, my time is running out. I’m scared that…I mean…I’m dying and never would have lived.”
I waited for a reaction from Galen that never came. Instead he kissed me on the forehead and held me tighter. It was clear that he hadn’t taken me literally.
“We’re all dying Katie. Some of us are already dead but we just don’t know it. The key is to live while we still have the chance.”
I couldn’t have agreed more and offered my lips to him once again.
This time, Galen didn’t hold back with his kiss…
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