I hope this post isn’t too much of a downer. But it might be.
Because it’s a little off-subject and might not have the comic snark you’re used to if you come here often. If you are new (hi!), just know this isn’t the norm and I will get back to the business of boards eventually. I’m still in Kid vs Kat vs Karen mode.
But here it goes anyway.
A man died in front of me a week ago.
His funeral was yesterday but I didn’t go because I had to work and I didn’t really know him.
But I was thinking about him. Because I witnessed the last moments of his life.
I crew on a 36 foot sailboat and I’ve been on the same boat for 9 years with mostly the same people (give or take a few over the years). That’s most of us in the picture from a happy time last year (I’m in the white hat).
We do organized races out of the yacht club on Wednesday nights and we do some weekend races throughout the spring and summer.
We had a race last weekend and since I was between boards (yay), I was happy to be able to participate in the Saturday race. We usually need 8 or 9 people to race and we were short a person. So one of the women on our crew asked along this guy Doug because she sails with him on another boat.
We all show up on time and gear up the boat. I shook Doug’s hand and said “Hi” as did the rest of us. It was a pissy, rainy day but once you’re a sailor it really doesn’t bother you. As long as you have your wet weather gear, it’s all good. At least it wasn’t too cold.
They usually try to get in 3 or 4 races on the weekends. We finished our first one and did pretty well. Then it’s clean up the lines, grab a sandwich and wait for our next start. We were in our 5 minute countdown and almost in the last minute to start when Doug was suddenly lying down in the cockpit.
First, it’s “Dude, you okay?”, then it’s “Did he hit his head?”. But when we rolled him over, we knew it wasn’t good.
We start motoring in to the yacht club and called 911 (thank goodness for cell phones in emergencies). We lie him down and the woman who is friends with him performed CPR.
But the boat can’t go any faster.
You can’t do anything but watch and hope. It’s such a shock and so unexpected, you’re in denial. No, no, no he’s going to snap out of it. He’s going to be okay. We’re going to have beers with him one day and talk about this.
And the boat can’t go any faster.
Even though it was only about 15 minutes till we reached the dock and the emergency workers who were there to meet us, it seemed like forever.
They worked on him for quite some time. They eventually got some vital signs. They took him up to the ambulance.
Yes, yes, yes…he’s going to be okay. Please.
Fifteen minutes later we get the call that he had died up in the parking lot.
But we all really know he died on the boat with us. From a severe heart attack. He was 57.
I shook hands with this man in the morning and less than 4 hours later he was gone.
Sad. Horrible. Live altering.
One of those things you know you’ll never forget.
Then the questions start in your head.
Why today? Why with us? What if we were further out? What if it was one of us? Why, why, why. Then there’s those big ones. The ‘what am I doing with my life?’ ones. Yikes.
We tell ourselves stories everyday.
I don’t mean the movies and cartoons. I mean all the stuff that goes on in our heads that may or may not be true. That are not fact-based.
Stuff like “I suck.”, “I’ll never get a job.”, “Everyone hates me.” On and on. Are these facts? No, they’re stories. These kinds of stories can be damaging and do us no good.
But sometimes we need the other kind of stories. The better kind.
I need a story for Doug.
Even if I knew all his ‘facts’, I’d still need this story. Just to deal with what happened.
My story for Doug is that he was a sailor. That he’s been sailing for many, many years and he loved it. That it was a twist of fate he ended up on our boat with a crew of new friends. That maybe he was destined to have that severe heart attack on that particular Saturday. Race or no race.
That maybe he lived alone. That maybe he would have been alone if he hadn’t come sailing with us that day. And if he had been alone when that heart attack hit him, no one would have known for a while. And that would have been even more horrible.
That he never knew what hit him and he didn’t feel any pain. That at least he was on the water, doing something he loved when this happened. Among fellow sailors that loved it too.
And he wasn’t alone.
Are these the facts? Doesn’t matter.
I just need to keep telling myself this story. For me and for Doug.
Rest in peace sir.
Thanks for reading. (I’ll try to be funnier next time. Promise.)