The Culmination of a Voyage

On Saturday, March 20th, while in Calabash Bay, Long Island, Bahamas, I heard from my brother and sister that our father’s caregivers were recommending he be admitted to hospice, the three of us agreed.

Early that next week we got confirmation that, given my father was in hospice, visitation should be possible with strict COVID protocols. Fortunately, this news coincided with a good weather window for a passage home so on the morning of Wednesday, March 24th Rhett and I started our 325 nautical mile passage to Hillsboro Inlet, Florida.

While the term “voyage” is used to describe an overall sailing trip including all long sails, daysails, shore excursions and anything else in between—the term “passage” is more specific and describes a single, extended sail from one place to another.

The news of my dad being admitted to hospice abbreviated our voyage; Rhett and I had hoped to be sailing in the Bahamas through early-May. Once we made the decision to head home and start sailing, our passage took us roughly three and a half days (from Wednesday morning until Saturday evening). In writing these words now, I choke up and cry at seeing the phrase “Saturday evening” (for reasons that will soon become obvious).

With 93 years of life, our father’s time on this earth was the opposite of an abbreviated voyage. Reflecting on his life reminds me of the quote that is frequently mis-attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

Anonymous? Multiple? (It looks to me like Adlai Stevenson II, Governor of Illinois and presidential candidate, coined the precursor and it has been successively refined by others.)

Regardless of who said it or how it evolved, it’s safe to say that while Dave had so much life in his years, he also had so many years in his life—an extended voyage.

While Rhett’s and my final passage home from our voyage was a relatively short three and a half days, my father’s final passage home from his 93 year voyage was mercifully shorter.

While our originally planned hospice visits were being delayed due to COVID concerns, on Thursday, April 8th we received a call from his retirement community that we should come immediately as he was declining rapidly.

We’re so grateful that “we” (his children and spouses and significant others, and some grandchildren) could spend time with him on his final passage. Despite face shields and N95 masks, I wouldn’t trade those final hours together for anything.

When Rhett and I completed our passage, from one country to another country, we were reunited with family and friends. In the famous To be, or not to be, soliloquy of Hamlet’s, Shakespeare refers to death as, “The undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns.” Dad has now made the passage to that country that none of us have yet discovered. I can only hope that he—too—is reunited with family and friends.

Rhett and I made landfall and completed our passage on Saturday evening, March 27th. Two weeks later, dad made his landfall shortly before midnight on Saturday, April 10th.

If you’d like to learn more about this great person, my greatest inspiration, here is A Birthday Tribute to him from 2020, written when I was voyaging in the Virgin Islands.

Also here is a memorial web site that my sister, brother and I have set up to capture memories of him. If you knew our father, please consider leaving a tribute for him—it would mean the world to us.

I wish you fair winds and following seas on your next voyage my captain.

A picture I took in 2020 from the British Virgin Islands, looking toward the U.S. Virgin Islands—from one country to another.

4 thoughts on “The Culmination of a Voyage

    1. Burt, Agree so much. I pulled out my old guitar the other night and the first thing that came to mind was the songs we’d play at Chautauqua.

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