They’d planned this trip for a long time but they knew this was one trip he would take alone. In their fifty plus years of marriage, it wasn’t unusual for them to travel separately. While they loved each others company, they also relished the time alone. No concern about what the other person wanted to do, or not do, as the case may be. No sense of obligation beyond yourself.
He’d chosen a cruise for this journey. He loved the sea and the feel of a cruise ship. They had taken dozens of cruises together and he was always amazed by how he felt on board. The shear power of the engines as the ship started to move. No sounds coming from them just the sound of water moving as the bow and stern thrusters moved the massive vessel from the dock. You could feel the power in your body. It was as though you were in some way attached to the deck. Your feet seeming to guide the behemoth as it started on its journey.
Only a short time ago he’d hugged his wife, daughter, son in law, and grand daughter as they bid him farewell in the comfort of the passenger lounge in the cruise terminal. There were a few tears but by and large there were smiles all around. Now, he stood on the main promenade and waved to his family. They waved back with great enthusiasm and yelled to wish him a safe journey. He stayed there until they could no longer be seen.
It was now time to explore this magnificent vessel. He’d chosen this cruise line as they had sailed the sister ships of the line and loved the experience. However, this ship was entirely different. All the cabins were outside cabins and every cabin had a verandah. Each verandah was big enough for a lounge chair, a table and two other chairs. The decor of the ship was also entirely different. It was difficult to explain. It didn’t matter where you went, you felt at ease. No easy accomplishment on the part of the designer. There were no cold drafts from the air conditioning. The temperature was within a constant comfortable range.
Everyone on board was incredibly friendly. He knew the ships crew would be. They never forgot a face or a name and a smile was always present. As each of the crew saw him there was a hearty “Hello Mr. Jim!” followed by a smile. He had no idea how everyone knew his name but he took it as a good beginning. His fellow passengers were all smiling and excited as well.
The day was picture perfect. Bright sun, birds riding the wind created by the ship, the sound of the waves as they gently broke over the bow, the gentle hiss of the water as it made its way past the stern and a sea so clear you were certain you could see the bottom if you looked hard enough. He couldn’t have asked for a better day.
He retreated to his cabin, went out on the verandah, sat on the chaise lounge, pulled out a book and began reading. He must have lost track of the time. His cabin steward interrupted his reading enjoyment when he told him dinner would be served in the main dining room in thirty minutes. There was no need to dress up on this cruise line so he closed his book and slowly made his way to the dining room.
He was greeted by the Maitre’d. He didn’t have to give them his table number. They knew it. He preferred to dine alone and had a beautifully placed table at the stern. This allowed an unobstructed view of the ship’s wake as the water closed behind them. He was surprised to see many of his favourite dishes on the menu. He made his choices, sat back, and waited for the repast to arrive. It was the best meal he had eaten in a very long time. He must remember not to voice that opinion to his beloved. She was a very good cook.
Now sated, he made his way to the upper deck to enjoy the fresh evening breeze. He walked the track several times and then decided it was time to make an early trip to bed.
His cabin was already prepared for his arrival. Fresh flowers adorned the table, the bed was turned down, the ubiquitous chocolates were on his pillow, and the cabin was already the perfect temperature for sleeping. After enjoying a nearly perfect day, that is with the exception of leaving his family, he lay his head down on the pillow and smiled a wide smile. So he slept.
The woman hugged her mother and wept softly into her shoulder. Her mother stroked her hair and said it was OK as her own tears trickled slowly down her cheeks. Lying on the bed before them was the man she had fallen in love with over fifty years ago and who, until recently, had been the strong one in the family. Now, his body spent, he was gone. She knew not where, but she found it interesting he had left this world with what appeared to be a smile on his face.