Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Bit More Time / Gratitude

If you've been following my Instagram feed, you'll know that I was recently in the BVI for a week-long trip on a charter sailboat along with my wife Sara and her mom Cathy (a.k.a. Momma). Sara & I had been to the BVI before with friends back in 2012; we fell in love with the place and vowed that we would eventually go back. After a few years of work taking courses and sailing as crew, I earned my RYA Day Skipper certification last summer which would allow me to charter a boat on our own instead of having to rely on others.

Once the three of us started planning this trip last December, we knew it would be one for the books. It was going to be my first time as the skipper on a multi-day sail, it was the first trip abroad for Sara & I since getting married, and it was going to be Cathy's first trip ever to the Caribbean. From the time we booked the boat until the day we left, Cathy was curious about what we were going to be seeing and where we were going to be going, and Sara & I spent joyful hours telling her all about it. Cathy's excitement was almost palpable. But in addition to all of the excitement and happy anticipation, there was something looming over all of our heads making this trip somewhat urgent.

Cathy had been diagnosed with terminal cancer about sixteen months before our trip.

After she was diagnosed, she started on various rounds of chemotherapy, to which she responded quite well, and spent time traveling domestically to visit friends and family. By the time December rolled around she was still in relatively good health despite the grim prognosis for her kind of cancer, and that's when the three of us decided to take the BVI trip. I had just earned the credentials, we had the money, we just needed a bit more time.

I had never taken the phrase "a bit more time" so seriously in my life.

The trip was everything we dreamed it would be and we all had a fantastic time in spite of a few bumps along the way. Even though she had only been on a sailboat once before with us for a daysail in Pensacola, Cathy took to life aboard very well and enjoyed our time under sail. We hit some of our favorite places from the 2012 trip (The Baths, North Sound, Trellis Bay) along with a few new ones (East End, Cooper Island, Spanish Town). I took a lot of pictures, the ladies did some shopping, we spent much well-needed time just relaxing and enjoying each others' company, and Cathy sent post cards to folks back home, which I thought was a really nice touch.

I had never seen two grown women try so hard to contain their excitement and happiness about visiting new places, doing new things, and simply...being. Having the opportunity to see them have so much fun for the week, especially in light of Cathy's condition, instilled me with a profound sense of gratitude.

A few weeks after we returned, Cathy's health deteriorated rapidly and she finally succumbed to cancer on Saturday, May 14th, 2016. We had been back from the BVI for just over a month.

I am grateful for the wonderful daughters she raised, grateful for the wisdom she shared with me in the brief time that I knew her, grateful for her and her family accepting my daughter and I as one of their own, grateful that she trusted me enough to take her far beyond where she had ever gone before for one last adventure, and profoundly grateful that we had just a bit more time to pull that adventure off.

Love you Momma.  Thanks for making me a better man. <3

A photo posted by Ben Cushwa (@nautography) on