Friday, August 1, 2008

Eight Bells

I'm sick to my stomach from the shock of unexpected loss. I was just
getting around to writing something down, probably something about the
weather being gray as we are now back in the Northern European "Summer",
or about the non-eventful transit through the Strait of Dover when my
phone started buzzing. I wasn't expecting a call, I didn't even think
I'd be getting any reception as we are edging up the Dutch Coast but I
answered and heard the voice of an old friend thousands of miles away.
He asked me where I was, the coast of Holland was my reply, and then in
a grief stricken voice told me that a good friend of ours, a very close
friend of his, had died two nights ago.

As I start to write more in this forum I am asking myself if I should
keep it strictly related to sea-faring, being my profession and general
focus of my life, or if I should delve into the personal and share
things like this with the world. I just finished contemplating this once
again and feel that if I'm writing to let my friends, family, and others
know what occurs in life when working at sea than this, even the
personal side, is part of it.

Dealing with death from the confines of my cabin is not ideal. The
passing of someone you cared for greatly is hard enough, but answering
that phone call from thousands of miles away adds to the sheer gloom of
the event. You feel isolated and helpless. All you want to do is rush
out and help or at least be present for the friends and family of that
lost person. I won't even be able to make his ceremony and show my face
like he did at my graduation party four years ago. The finality of not
being there is horrible for me but fortunately I'm the only person who
will notice. This was such a sudden event, so accidental and tragic that
the amount of grief being shared in that small home in Maine is beyond
my comprehension.

I suppose I can briefly share what I know of this person, how he
influenced my life, and how I will remember him. Shane was one of the
first friends of mine to pick me up in his Toyota and drive my
fifteen-year-old ass around town introducing me to his older and much
cooler friends. He would pick me up after cross country meets and ensure
I got my fill of homecoming insobriety. He would park at the top of my
road on 213 and fill me full of Eastern philosophy as the sun sank
behind the hills of Newcastle. When I got my own car he would be the guy
to pull my Subaru with too little ground clearance out of the woods on
the Indian Trail.

He was the first and one of the only real "Hippies" I will ever know and
took his calm, accepting outlook with him wherever he went. Along with
the help of the friend who just called me to tell me this news he shaped
my spiritual outlook on life teaching me that it was alright to
challenge the accepted notions of god and hell and to find independence
in my beliefs, away from western influences. He also showed me that
authority, in our case that of high school and the Lincoln County
Sheriffs department, couldn't deter our right to do as we saw fit with
our time before, during, and after school.

Shane was the first friend of mine to get his Captains license and
encouraged me to do the same saying it was the best day of his life when
he walked out of the REC in Boston. He fell in love with the waters
around the town where we grew up just as I did and stayed there sailing
on them, skippering power and sail vessels summer after summer out to
the islands. He was a sailor and he was a good one.

He was never pretentious, never insincere, and treated the world in
accordance with his beliefs and I don't think he ever faltered in this.
I have only prayers to offer his parents whose loss is beyond
description and I know that he will always be remembered by all who knew
him sailing on the rivers and bays or driving the back woods trails of
Maine. God he's going to be missed, he really was one of the kindest
people I have ever known.

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