Frank's Blog - Yes, Finally
Death - 13 February, 2016
A friend of ours died yesterday. He wasn't actively cruising, although he wanted to be. He had been before and was trying to start again. We met
him just before we started cruising full-time. Suzanne's contact information was passed to him by another friend of ours, who knew that the cancer
he was dealing with was the same cancer that she had beaten for a second time. We kept in touch with Bill and Donna through his treatments,
holding our breath as each treatment was tried and releasing it with sighs as each one failed. We always thought that he, too, would beat this
disease, but apparently it had progressed too far before they started treatments.
Cruisers are old. Despite what you see in the magazine articles, most of us out here - at least in the coastal/Caribbean fleet - are in our fifties and
up. I don't meet many sailors who do not have scars from operations designed to clear up the effects of living. While I am remarkably healthy,
considering how much I abuse my body with fatty treats and adult drinks, I live with the knowledge - the certainty - that somewhere, tucked away in
my system, is the thing that will kill me. I really don't care. I do not fear death - for myself.
I fear death for those I love.
It is funny, really. My mother died. She taught me the agony of dying from brain cancer - but left me with a legacy of stories and philosophies that
make up whom I am. There is not a week that goes by that I do not think about one of my mother's sayings and how it applies to whatever situation
I am in. Many times, I have made decisions, based on what my mother would expect of me.
My father-in-law died. He taught me the passages of death from healthy to gone in months. He, too, left Suzanne and I with a wealth of
experiences - and made possible our cruising with a generous bequest. Many of the tools I use to keep Rockhopper in motion are marked with his
initials and each time I use one, I am reminded of him.
I have learned from these two wonderful people that death is not the end - they both live on in me and those around me. But I still fear the pain of
losing those closest to me - that one closest to me.
So, we sail and travel and live, knowing that the end is coming. The poet Andrew Maxwell said
But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Maybe the reason that we sail is because we know the end is coming and we need to get "there" before it does. Maybe I am being maudlin and
melancholy because I am reminded today of that fact. It doesn't matter.
What matters is that we do sail today, we do live today, we do love today.
I love you, Suzanne, and I always will.