Over the long Fourth of July weekend, my adult children and I visited Guanacaste, Costa Rica, and when Charles Dickens penned “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” he certainly did not have our trip in mind but he should have.

The quick three-hour flight was uneventful, and as we drove through the lush, emerald jungle, a wave of exhilaration swept over us. It was our first time in this welcoming Central American oasis, but it won’t be our last. We stayed at the Riu resort complex just outside Liberia, which is a little slice of paradise nestled right where the dense jungle meets the onyx black sand beach.

Our first few days in Costa Rica we relaxed at the resort, beat the heat with frosty, fruity cocktails, crashed and splashed in the briny Pacific Ocean on jet skis and weathered the quick, overnight strike of Tropical Storm Bonnie.

On our third day in Costa Rica, we took a cab into Del Coco Beach, a charming village situated along the Gulf of Papagayo, that is one of the oldest beach communities in Guanacaste. The old-world charm of the little surfing town is everywhere you look, but it is clear that the little hamlet is in the throes of an identity crisis, will it remain a sleepy beach community or make the turn to a tourist hangout? Only time will tell but for now, it is the perfect mix of the two. We shopped up and down the city streets, meandered along the beach front stopping at every bar and restaurant we strolled by and finally ending up in the borough’s little casino. We lost our shirts at $5 a hand blackjack in the fun-sized casino, with our little family taking up an entire gaming table. At $5 a hand out, chips lasted and lasted as the hilarity of the game grew and grew.

We spent a long, memorable evening betting and getting the inside scoop on local hangouts from our charming dealer Santiago. When our luck and our chips finally ran out, we made our way to Zi Lounge, an open-air bar and restaurant in Coco Beach, a hip mix of restaurant, sports bar and night club. The vibe was fun and the food was shockingly good. I had the absolute best seafood soup of my life at Zi, the creamy velvety perfection of the soup was such that I would gladly hop on a plane right now just for another bowl.

The next day, we had an ATV jungle tour on our agenda, something we were all eagerly looking forward to. My children grew up in rural South Texas and are no strangers to ATV’s, but the prospect of motoring up the muddy jungle trails with monkeys swinging above us, traversing rocky streams and seeing sloths sounded far too exciting to pass up. Our tour began as normally as one might expect but, for us, ended abruptly when a faulty ATV caused my daughter catastrophic injuries.

At the zenith of our revelry, we were reminded of our human fragility in a truly excruciating way. Our trip, our summer, our year and our lives were changed forever on the wet ground of the jungle that muggy afternoon. I could say that the events of that day ruined our vacation, but they did not. In adversity, family finds strength; in the face of gut-wrenching fear, true love shines; and when we are powerless, the power of God is undeniably evident.

Comfort is what mom’s do. We wipe tears, encourage, love, hug, and, in my case, cook. Caroline asked me to make her a batch of chicken spaghetti, one of her childhood favorites, to enjoy as she convalesces. There is healing power in food, both for the preparer and for the recipient and this meal is pure creamy comfort.

Katherine Compton is an active mother of two grown children and a Realtor. She loves cooking almost as much as she loves living in Jackson County. Katherine can be contacted by email at whatscookingkatherine@gmail.com.