Some bit of air remains trapped in the depths of my lungs, during a crossing. Despite Seamore Pacific’s blue water capabilities, instinct always prevails. While wind forecasts and sea conditions are being monitored for weather windows, a team of voices, deep within my subconscious, rush to the crowded foredeck. They surely must be competing for 2 major awards: May Day May Day and I Told You So! The voices will not go away and I will not fully exhale until we reach the shore of our destination. And, so it is with other types of crossings…
Walking the beach this September, my thoughts have taken me back to when grief, erupting from the deaths of a beloved friend; a brother; and my dear Siamese cat Lizzie overwhelmed my ability to take a breath. Each of them crossed to the other side during the month of September. Gratefully, there is more to their crossing than resounding grief. Where lies their crossing, commends a different type of crossing.
I met Lizzie in a commercial fishing marina in Florida. A home health nurse, I was making visits to a gentleman whose bed was a discarded couch; the same couch the other fishermen would sit a spell on, after washing down their boats from a long rigorous day of throwing, pulling, or checking traps. It was their time to compare stories about “the fish that got away” and to align against bureaucrats and real estate developers who were surely going to put them out of business.
Recouping from a serious illness and too ill to withstand a day on the boat, “the patient” was looked after by the other fisherman. Even down to his daily dressing changes. My job was to teach the burly fishermen how to tape gauze; that a fresh laundered T-shirt everyday was as essential as hand washing; and that laughing is good medicine. One day, as I drove away from our visit, I stumbled onto a feral kitten sitting on a crab trap. She was BEAUTIFUL. It took a minute for her beauty and the possibilities to register…I put my car in reverse and backed up to watch her. She didn’t seem to notice. And I didn’t know the other side of her was covered in used motor oil. Days later, when I and my band of fishermen buddies approached the “head fisherman” about my desire to adopt this kitty, I learned she had fallen into a barrel of oil. The side of her I was admiring was the side she had licked clean.
She soon came to live with me. It was rough at first because of her feral nature but 15 years later when she died, my younger self died…unwrinkled skin, flat abs, size 4, full of wanderlust, unabashed certainty, my other Siamese cat Darla, and my life aboard Seamore in the Florida Keys. The day Lizzie crossed over, I felt a loss far bigger than I could have imagined possible. She was a cat. How could losing a cat, after the death of a sibling even compare? In the months after her death, I worked hard to make sense of my bottomless grief.
Then it became clear. I had enjoyed a wonderful life with Lizzie. She had enjoyed a wonderful life with me. And when she died, I returned her to the sea. But, from the very first time I saw her until the moment she took her last breath a quantity of time had passed quietly….it was there in which laid my grief. 15 years had gone by in the flash of an eye. Prior to her getting sick, the Captain and I had been going back and forth on should we…no not yet….maybe we should….maybe later…over a dream to sail around the Sea of Cortez. Lizzie’s crossing prompted me. If we were going to see our dream of sailing around the Sea of Cortez come true, I couldn’t chance waiting another year, two years, three years, and fifteen years.
Looking at our savings the Captain and I made an important decision to buy the boat we could afford, rather than the boat of our dreams; our dream boat would take 15 + years to pay for.
It’s been 3 years since she crossed. Except for the tears that came when I wrote this blog, it’s been a long time since I cried for Lizzie. It was a blistery morning the day my friend and I took Lizzie’s remains off shore and gave her a new voice.
”One day you and I will jump off the stern of your boat and holler, ‘move over Lizzie,’ we are coming in.”
By way of her crossing, Lizzie became my dream maker. Chancing another 15 years wasn’t worth having a boat of material desires. The Captain and I put a bold plan together to forego debt and find a boat within our immediate financial means. When a vision of a perfect boat threatened our resolve, one or the other would say, “The sun setting over the ocean looks just as good from the stern of a small boat as it does from a 50 ft. catamaran.” 4 months after Lizzie died, we were ringing in the New Year in San Diego’s Point Loma, with the same friends that bared witness to her crossing; aboard our super sweet sailboat Seamore Pacific. Seamore Pacific is 36 foot Freedom Cat Ketch that came with the name Bobby McGee. She is a safe and comfortable companion on crossings…and is the only boat Francis has ever known.
Seamore Nautical Spirits
Oh My God, I miss you. I miss Lizzie. I miss Francis. I miss our adventures and the lifetimes we’ve crammed into extended weekends. The memory of this one still brings tears to my eyes.
It can’t help bring tears, huh? I’m still very grateful for the comfort you brought on that weekend when Lizzie died and when you and I buried her at sea.
As you might know, Betheny, I am not much of a cat (or any pet, for that matter) person, but your writing is purr-fect. Such a joy to read any reflection of yours. Thanks for sharing!
I’m glad you liked this story and reflection. Thank you for your kind words. By the way….Francis knows who in the family is crazy about cats and asks that you relay a “MEOW” to Sharon.