Dear Family and Friends,
This is the kind of message I wish I didn’t have to write but I am sharing our journey with you and yesterday, we had some very bad news from home. My oldest brother died yesterday after a fall from a ladder when he struck his head on a stone wall. He was a young 74. This is especially hard because in our family, the expectation is to live to 100 and beyond. I guess it makes you realize that expectations have no basis in fact.
One blessing for me is that we had a cell phone and were able to reach out to his wife and children to share love and comfort. Like them, it is still hard to imagine life without that vital presence in it. Each one of us who know Don will have to find a way to live with this loss.
What helped me when my mother passed was to remember the gifts she brought to all around her in her life. Don was a person who charged in to life with energy and purpose. He had an interest in the world. He and Carol spent over 50 years together seeing so many places and sharing their enthusiasm for travel with so many people. Don would put together tours and they had regular travelers who looked forward to the experience of the travel but also the chance to renew the relationship with Don and Carol.
Don was a man committed to his faith and not just in his personal relationship with God but on an international leadership level through the church. His last morning was spent serving a breakfast at church, being in his element as a social catalyst and an organizer of worthwhile endeavors.
When my mother died, many asked what they could do. My choice as a memorial is to take what Don taught me about living and make an effort to make every moment meaningful. I can emulate the enthusiasm, generosity, prayerfulness and love that he demonstrated so well. If you wish to honor his memory on my behalf, then I would ask that at this time of year especially, you look to making your celebrations more joyful, your generosity more bountiful and look to your future with an imperative to live life to the fullest.
I believe that Don and all who have passed can be with me just as I bring them to mind, not in memory alone, but in real spirit. He has left his body behind and adjusting to being with him without it will be a challenge. It can be easier than first imagined when you realize there is no death. Is that not the ultimate lesson we learn from the one who’s birth we celebrate this Christmas?
Also, if you can spare a thought or a prayer for his wife and children and grandchildren who will have the hardest time with adjusting, I would appreciate that. Though they are all strong, well-grounded people, surrounded by a great support of friends, it will still be difficult. Also appreciated is a prayer for my father, who at 99 should not have to deal with the loss of a child.
I think that Don would find that there is always something wonderful to share, even in sad circumstances and so I will honor that and continue with what is happening with us.
Things here at RAM are moving along well. Our apartment mates, Tom and Yvonne on Scrammin were able to launch their boat yesterday. We got along very well in the apartment together and we will miss their company, though I was glad we had the place to ourselves after we got the news about Don. Our boat is moving ahead nicely as well. They should be completed with the repair and painting of the hull by the end of the week. Rob and I had already determined that we would leave for Antigua on Saturday morning. We will leave the boat on the hard while we are gone at the language school and ask that the boat be cleaned and polished just before our return. Hopefully, we will need only a day or part of one on return before we can put the boat in the water. We have really been grateful for this apartment but we are eager to be in our own home afloat again!
As it stands now, we are planning to study for 2 weeks. We are being placed with a host family and I requested that we be with someone who would be willing to share their Guatemalan Christmas traditions with us. I am really looking forward to that opportunity as much as learning the language. I just got a call from the advisor at the school and he said that there were two rooms for students. We will have a big bed and our own bathroom. The woman in the house has a son who has two little girls and they are a very loving family and are willing to let us share their Christmas traditions with them. They are Catholic, as are we, and so I am sure the Church will play a big part of what the traditions will be. Besides us, there are two college women who share the other room but they will leave on the 23rd. It may be nice to have help acclimating the first week and we are eager to get to know them as well. There is internet access from the school and if not in the home, there are internet places all over the city so we should be able to be in touch.
I finally started using the language CD’s we had and should have done it sooner. I am not sure that I will be able to speak after working on this for a few days but some words at least are becoming more recognizable. I will continue each day until we are at the school but it should be helpful to continue once we are back on the boat again.
Another project of mine deals with a children’s log of our trip. Friends of ours gave us a “Flat Stanley.” If you don’t know what that is, it is a laminated paper doll of a boy. The idea is that he will fit in to an envelope and can travel by mail. You are to report back to the originator of Flat Stanley about where you are so that the children can learn about other areas of the world. I have offered to do a Flat Stanley Log for the duration of our cruising season. Flat Stanley will go to language school with us and learn some Spanish as well as experience a Cultural Christmas. He will learn about boats and life at sea and experience snorkeling and traveling to different countries in this area. I hope to make this appropriate for the 3rd graders in the school. If anyone would be interested in receiving these logs for their school children or their child’s class, it is just as easy to send to many as to one. Please let me know if you would like to be on Flat Stanley’s mailing list.
We finally walked in to town the other day. From here, it seems a long walk over a very high bridge but it was a beautiful and comfortable walk of about 25 minutes. We were on a mission with Yvonne to find some special hydraulic oil so we walked to places that were new to us. I took Flat Stanley and it is amazing the response I got when taking pictures with him included. It really seemed to make people smile and be willing to let me take pictures that might otherwise seem intrusive. I think Flat Stanley will help open doors everywhere.
We got a ride home on a Tuc Tuc. Not sure of the spelling but it is like a covered motor cycle on steroids. We only had three passengers and all of our stuff but it is not uncommon to see 6 or more people crammed in and hanging off the side.
We have plans to attend a fund raiser on Friday for an orphanage here. There is one that is well known in this area that has some funding by the government. It has the children that are 6 years and older. The babies are in Guatemala City. The boaters contribute big time to this place but the fund raiser on Friday is for a different orphanage. This one is for disabled children and is less funded. An American couple have taken up the challenge of seeing to some of the youth here that really need their help. We will find out more about it but it is something we would like to be part of during this season. It is easy to do because it includes food, music and fun. We walked in to town today and got more information about it as well as just enjoying the wandering and have some lunch. We will go for lunch tomorrow and then while I get the massage I have been talking about, Rob will buy the tickets for the bus ride to Antigua on Saturday.
We have become attached to this community. It doesn’t take long. It will be a tug on the heart when we finally sail out of here. I am sure we will feel that way about leaving Chris and Kelli after spending time with them after we return from Antigua. We have seen Chris now and then. He is working very hard and is in high demand. We saw Kelli briefly. They are getting ready to return to Florida to visit with Kelli’s family. Her father is very ill with cancer so this is an important visit for them.
Thank you for sharing this journey with us.
May the season bless you beyond measure as you bless those around you.
Sue and Rob