|Maia and Ann, taken on our visit home last month shortly before we learned her cancer had returned.|
I stood on deck last night with the cell phone pressed to my ear. The sky was glowing pink and red in the sunset and the mobulas were leaping free of the sea, in near flight.
“She’s gone,” my sister told me.
The sky seemed to grow brighter through my tears and a flurry of thoughts went through my mind, not the smallest of which was, 'I shouldn’t be here.'
By being here, where ever ‘here’ is for cruisers and nomads, means we can’t always be there, where ever that might be. For me, right now, ‘there’ is where my father and sisters are. It’s where my stepmother Ann quickly faded to a cancer we thought she beat three years ago. It’s where hushed voices recall a vibrant woman, where tears spill freely and people hug with grief.
When I hung up the phone I thought about how it was that I wasn’t there. The reasons are all sensible and sound. Things happened very quickly with my stepmum and by the time I knew I should go, a potential hurricane was forming. By the time that threat was gone and we knew it would be okay for me to leave, she had faded away.
I wouldn’t have arrived until today.
Grief doesn’t understand sensible and sound though. My arms want to hug my dad, who’s lost his best friend and partner in adventure. My tears want to mix with my sisters’ as we tell each other stories about the woman who took on three unruly little girls, with truly no clue about what she’d gotten herself in to. I want to walk in the garden she loved, and pick a flower or two...
I’ve often talked about the mixed blessings of this life—the wonders and the difficulties. This is one of them. By taking ourselves to the remote places in the world and seeing the sights and having the experiences that few get to have—we have to give something up. It’s like a fairy tale: the old sorceress gives us a life of magic and wonder, but in exchange we get to hold the grief and guilt that comes from not being there when we should be.