Memory is a mysterious and powerful thing. To digress a bit, here is the string of memories that Australia conjured up for me. Melinda and I were married in Las Vegas on July 5, 1999. The next day we went to St. George, Utah and spent a few days touring the national parks in Southern Utah. I got sick, and it was really hot. We did not have the greatest time. Fortunately, we had planned to take a trip a few months later to Australia for our real honeymoon.
When we went to Australia it was ok, but not exactly clicking. We took a boat to an island on the Great Barrier Reef. We had a nice room, but the place had a strange vibe, and it was overrun with Japanese tourists. Melinda said, “I don’t like this place, let’s leave.” We had been there for about an hour, and we had a prepaid room booked for a week. She went off to see the management and returned about 30 minutes later. I am not sure what she said, but they agreed to refund our money and gives us a free boat ride back to Cairns on the mainland. We had no idea what to do next, but Cairns had a street lined with little backpacker travel agencies. We went to one and Melinda asked the agent if she could go anywhere, where would she go for her honeymoon. The agent said Bali. So, we went to Bali, even though we had barely heard of it and Indonesia at that time was pretty edgy.
We stayed at the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay, which had just opened. Melinda called the hotel from Australia and extensively quizzed the night manager. She wanted to make sure it was a nice place. He said, “Mam, I guarantee you, it is the finest Four Seasons in the world.” We had no reason to doubt it, we had a magical honeymoon. I saw it many times, Melinda had the ability to change reality.
We finally made it back to Bali in 2010, this time with my Mother and Chad. We arrived a few days early as we usually did when traveling with family so that we could have some time alone. We stayed in Ubud, which is the spiritual heart of Bali, located in the central highlands. We moved back to an apartment at the coast, when Chad and my Mother arrived. One day, Chad and my Mother and I went for a boat tour to a place with exotic animals. Melinda said that it didn’t sound interesting and she wanted to stay at home. When we returned, Melinda was gone.
It turned out she had hired a driver and went back to Ubud to see a guy named Ketut Liyer. Mr. Liyer was the medicine man and local healer that helped Elizabeth Gilbert in her time of spiritual need, which she describes in her book, Eat Pray Love. He was a real person and still the local healer in Ubud. This was about ten months after Melinda had received her initial diagnosis. After visiting with her for more than an hour, Mr. Liyer told her that she had a strong soul and would live to be 100. She was torn between thinking that he was a snake oil salesman or that he simply didn’t want to tell her the truth and rain on her parade, although I think she favored the former.
A few months after our visit, the movie Eat Pray Love with Julie Roberts was released. Mr. Liyer became a huge celebrity, and he was inundated with tour buses full of middle-aged women seeking salvation. It shows a lot more people watch movies than read books. Regrettably, both Melinda and Mr. Liyer passed away in 2016. He was right about one thing, she had a strong soul.