Cruising and Death

I write this blog in an effort to share the cruising lifestyle with others of the same interest; it’s not written to put forth my personal values and beliefs although I’m sure those do creep through.  I endeavor to share the  positives and negatives while I’ve made some effort to avoid bringing my non cruising friends and family into it.  I know some cruising blogs are a sales effort, that is their purpose is to ensure that others see their post and want their boat or their lifestyle and when the current cruisers decide to sell out they’ll have a ready market. I’ve never been that smart. I prefer to tell it like I see it. Cruising is  not a vacation. Cruising is not a fantasy, Cruising is  not Disney World.  We live much as others except we live often farther from others and we have an opportunity to experience  life from quite often a different vantage point. Here however I must break with my self imposed conventions and share with you my most recent experience.

An avid blog reader might remember my post of when a loved one was first diagnosed with stage 4  Prostate Cancer. I’ll say now that he was my step father. We were in Granada and I thought I might have to travel back to the states then. That time came and passed.  I needn’t return because although it was stage 4 no one thought George was on his last legs.  Since that time my mother and stepfather moved twice and went out to lunch most every day. My stepfather had entered Hospice also at  that time and a year later my family and I joked (what else could we do) that he was going to be the longest living Hospice person ever. He may have come close because he lived almost two full years after entering Hospice.

Finally his time had arrived. W/ and I and the boat are in Sapzurro, Colombia ; where there are no cars, no airports, there is phone service, a few restaurants and just a few stores.  Approx 3 days ago I received an email from my sister that George had been taken to the hospital.  We emailed back and forth a bit and I offered to fly back to Florida.  I figured at the worst it would be a 5 day one way  trip, clear Immigration in Colombia, a small boat ride  to Obaldia Panama (again no roads in or out of there), if lucky a flight out that day or most likely the next  to Panama City, then if lucky fly that day or most likely another overnight, then to Orlando then with my niece or nephew to moms place.  Wendy would have had to stay with the boat.

My mom said to stay she’d be ok. Her adult grandchildren are there, my sister is on her way and she’s a farm girl. The farm girl doesn’t rid one of grief but does IMHO provide one a  healthy perspective on life’s cycle.  So I stayed.

My stepfather passed in the night. My mother and he had been together for almost 38 years, my entire adult life. They had become more then a couple. They were a single working being. Early in their marriage they traveled N. America in their Motor Home. Later they commuted to Texas and back home to Iowa . I remember when mom told me that as George’s eyes weren’t as sharp anymore, and they wanted to built a small wooden porch on the back of their place in Texas how she helped.  George’s brain stayed sharp to the end.  While in his head he could design the steps he just couldn’t see well enough to start and hammer a nail in alone. My mom held the nail while he started it and then finished hammering it home; I’m thinking by then that mom didn’t have her hand on the nail as she still has all her fingers!  That’s trust, that’s working together. That’s a unique marriage and a unique couple.

About two years ago mom was driving George to the Doctor.  On the way from the car to the office George fell in the parking lot and I really don’t remember how bad of a fall; bad enough that one the Dr’s assistants came rushing out to help. However;  when they next had an appointment George commented that “He’s the first Dr he’d ever fallen for”!  Always a sense of humor, sharp as a tack till the end.

He loved cars, planes, life and people. When he was younger he earned the Carnegie Medal of Honor by saving a boy’s life in the Mississippi River.  He was a good man, and by extension a good human being.  Anyone, choosing to emulate his life could only help to improve humanity.

I’ll miss him but I too know that we all travel his path.  He died relatively quickly and quietly with my mom at his side.  Can we wish for anything better during our last moments on this Earth?

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Cruising . . . Death and Dying

Weird how visual acuity changes while  out here cruising. You see all the magical hooks and lines that attach you to  places and people much more clearly. While involved in work, or play  in a place you’ve stayed for any length of time the hooks and lines weave around you; psychically, and often physically , surrounding you as a spider does with its prey. But as you begin to cruise all the ties that bind you become more apparent. The farther you cast your selves from shore the clearer they become.

I’ve tried to not post a lot of personal family stuff here as I’m of the thinking that some of the  people I may write about don’t wish to end up on a  public forum.

But; right now a family member  has stage 4 cancer. When you go cruising; life doesn’t stop for those that are land based.

Years ago; 30 years or there abouts, we were cruising the N loop in the Caribbean and the two forms of communication were snail mail and land lines. There was no internet, no cell phones, no pactor modem.  In the approximately 15 months we were out we picked up mail maybe 6 times. That left a window of  4 to 10 weeks between communication with back home.  We phoned the US maybe 4 times. Phone calls were prohibitively expensive in the Caribbean then and we had tried to cruise on about $10 / day (it ended up at about $15 / day if truth be told). During our year one of W’s favorite aunts died.  She passed away, had the funeral, and was buried weeks before we knew. Out there; sailing in the deep blue,  30 years ago, you grieved alone.

Now a  near and dear  relative is close to the end of their life’s tunnel. What to do? How many trips can a cruiser make back to family in any given time frame?  We just went back for my nephew’s wedding. Should we return again? Will a return effect our transiting the canal at the right time of year?  Will it hold off our leaving he Caribbean? Will we regret not going back? Questions bounce around in my head like a pin ball being played by an experienced player. Questions  with no clear cut answers.

I’ve always bragged that I’m socially illiterate. In some ways I honestly am and others not. But I try to be conscientious. And what my conscious tells me is all a mess.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long