“Keep us, our God; for your ocean is so wide and our boat is so small.”Sailor’s prayer
Sailing is such a wonderful metaphor for life. The ups and downs of life can be described like waves and our journey is never a straight line. We tack in one direction for awhile and then back again. Tacking feels like you are going backwards at times and yet when you can reflect you see where you have progressed towards your destination.
Sailors are keenly aware of their mortality and the power of the sea and clouds. They learn to navigate the difficult waters and to take care in the protection of a cove or bay. Again, these are great metaphors for a life journey.
After receiving the news of my father’s passing my crew mates and captain decided to leave Inati bay off of Lummi Island and make the crossing of Bellingham bay back to our home port. I thought my bad news had spoiled their trip and that they had just wanted to call it a trip and head home a night early. I felt bad about that.
Captain Aaron had asked me if I wanted to honor my father with a prayer in the middle of the bay. He had selected a couple of blessings to share with us. I was touched by the gesture. We stopped the boat as the sun was setting and he read these words:
I will wate here for you dear ones in Jesus’ arms and watch over you with him until you come home. Be comforted loved ones. “I shall go the way of the open sea, to the lands before.”A seafarers prayer
He had asked me about my father and I had shared that he was proud of his Irish heritage. We closed our moment of prayer with this:
May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.An Irish blessing
As we began moving the boat towards Bellingham again, I pulled out my camera to photograph the sunset as a monument to my father’s spirit leaving his body. There is the corporeal body and the spirit that animates it. I think sunlight is the closest I can come to finding a metaphor for the spirit. The energy of light animates all of life. It nourishes every living thing and it breaths life into the sea.
I was quiet as my new friends docked the boat and left me to ponder the moment. As soon as we were tied off a young lady came to the boat with a bottle of Jameson whiskey and a card. It turns out the Captain had made arrangements as part of the plan to return to Bellingham that evening.
My friends had not planned to leave. They had planned to celebrate my father’s life with me over a bottle of his favorite whiskey. We toasted my father with sláinte!
David cooked up a wonderful dinner of spaghetti with pork and a side salad and Paul played music on his phone and after awhile we all took turns selecting songs to play as we finished off the bottle. A lyric by Jim Croce expressed it so well, “…the music takes my heart where it wants to go.”
It was a wonderful wake that my father would have been happy about.
As I took a sip I remembered another time a few years ago when I was gifted with an evening one on one with renowned soviet photographer Leonid Bergoltsev. I knew we had established a strong bond when he pulled out a bottle of Jameson and two glasses and announced, “we drink the tears of the God.”
I didn’t understand Russian and his english wasn’t the easiest to understand, but over the course of the evening we grew to understand each other. The same could be said for the last night on the boat.
One cannot put into words the meaning of that experience and I cannot adequately express the emotions I felt that night. Fortunately, there is one word that can hint at it… INEFFABLE.