What I thought I saw I hoped I didn’t see but as it turned out it was what I feared the most.
I was first to see it.
On a beautiful morning like this, the water as flat as an ironing board and strewn with the beautiful multi-colored leaves and shapes of Autumn, the splash of our oars as we hugged the shoreline sprinkling those growing in the shallows with droplets of diamonds, the fog just hovering above but slowly yielding to the first rays of sun, we had long since made the turn at the far end of our four-mile course and were heading back in our double racing shell.
We were almost home.
He was floating face down.
Long since having sunk to the very bottom, the decay following his death by drowning had so distended the skin – was it two or three days, weeks – that back to the surface he’d come.
Oddly our call to dispatch “what emergency are you reporting” and our consequent description of the macabre scene, was followed with “was he resuscitable?”
No, he was not.
While death is a part of life, it’s never easy.
Rowing blissfully along we’re suddenly brought up short, shocked, sliding ever so slowly to a stop then reversing, hoping, believing it wasn’t true.
Only to find out it was.
And it was my job, on a similar sad occasion, to tell her.
“He’s not coming home, is he?”
‘Chaplain’ my jacket proclaimed, just above the pocket.
Without me having to say anything, there on her doorstep she knew.
For three hours we talked until early morning. And during those hours she shared so many memories of the many, many years they’d been married, the places they’d been, the dream home they’d realized.
So many memories.
It’s why they’re called memorial services. The body is not there but the memories are.
When hope is lost, and the finality of death is real, where to turn – for hope and consolation in the hours of the crisis, and in the days and weeks and yes even years to come – but to where we’ve been?
Memories. It’s about making memories. With those we had, those who surround us still, and if it were possible with the great mass of human wreckage that may sadly but accurately describe so many who we so briefly pass by.