in western North Carolina
by Gabrielle Thompson
December 26, 1977 ~ I have been lax in my entries. Tonight I must write. Our first Christmas on charter. Ed and I have learned a great deal since we started in November. We both enjoy taking people on vacation, aboard our schooner. This week we have a family of six. They are tremendous fun. However, working on Christmas is certainly unlike celebrating Christmas. The hard part of being in the Virgin Islands is the distance from my family.
Around ten this evening, I finally reached home through the Marine Operator. I was excited, until I heard their news. Daddy's cancer has metastasized into the liver, the doctors give him a year to live. I wrote him tonight:
"I give thanks for all the love and joy our family has had, and continues to have right now. I cannot allow myself to live in dread of the future, thinking we might not be together. It was a small death for me when I left you; as is everyday that I miss you. The love I have for you and Mom is so strong, it can never be diminished, nor our spirits separated. That joy in each other is what keeps you strong, Pop-o, and I know it is the best "therapy" you receive. My path is to picture you perfect, and continue to send you my love and prayers, and surround you with white light..."
April 24, 1978 ~ Mom and Dad have been here three weeks. I've delighted in showing them these Islands I love. Pop-o beams with happiness. His love of the ocean is vast, but to be in such beauty, aboard his daughter's yacht.... now, that's Heaven! What pride he takes in "his little girl" accomplishing what he would have loved to do, building a boat and sailing half-way around the world. He is thinner, but looks good. His smile is, as usual, continuous, and radiant.
July 6, 1978 ~ I arrived home yesterday. Today we are heading out in their motor home for the Grand Canyon. Dad wanted me to have a good time on this month visit, not realizing I would have preferred a slower pace, relaxing with them. They want to show me to their honeymoon site, of forty-one years ago.
July 10, 1978 ~ I went to sign up for tomorrow's Donkey Ride down the canyon, not realizing reservations are necessary a year in advance! At the beginning of their married life, mom and Dad rode to the bottom to spend the night. Now they want me to see it. I'm on standby for the day trip.
July 11, 1978 ~ I was lucky. There was one opening and first two people ont he list demurred, as they could not go together. Now I understand why it meant so much to my parents. Entering the Canyon is a memorable experience. It is even more majestic, viewed from inside. To be a part of nature is to be immersed in awareness of God. So intent was my pleasure, I forgot why I was there. My parents waited in eager anticipation to hear about my day. As I related my experience, their eyes became animated, their smiles stretched, and, for a little while they left their shared pain and escaped into the reality I recounted for them. I wish I could have held them there, forever.
May 18, 1979 ~ I came in from charter to find a telegram waiting:
COME HOME NOW STOP DO NOT WAIT FOR RESERVATION STOP HECKIE BAD STOP LOVE MOM
I had reservations for the next week, routed through Chicago for a short visit with my in-laws, but I changed them. I fly out tomorrow.
May 19, 1979 ~ The plane leaving Puerto Rico was almost empty. When I first sat down, I "saw" a plane crash, visually. I broke out in a cold sweat, and started to shiver. The attendant came to me. "Are you all right?" she asked. "I don't know," I whispered. "Are you afraid of flying?" "Not usually, " I replied.
She left to get me a glass of champagne - to steady my nerves. While she was gone, I closed my eyes and asked in prayer if I should leave the plane. Calm swept over me. I felt it was safe to stay. The attendant gave me free champagne the whole flight, never asking what spooked me. I was glad I did not have to explain.
May 27, 1979 ~ Daddy slept most of the day. My friend, Danny, came to visit. We were in the living room, talking quietly when I heard Mother's scream. American flight 191 from O'Hare to L.A. crashed on take-off, killing everyone on board. Goosebumps raised on my arms as I ran for my itinerary. Yes, it was the flight I had reserved, before the telegram. Although unable to walk these weeks past, Daddy appeared in the doorway. "God is good," he said, hugging me. "He won't take both of us at the same time."
May 28, 1979 ~ Today my brother came for a visit. Pop-o asked him to hold the funeral services on his trawler.... He wants to have his ashes scattered at sea. Greg said, "Only if you will go out with me first - now - alive. You've never even been aboard." Daddy protested, Greg insisted.
June 15, 1979 ~ Greg brought a wheel chair, and we all went to his boat today. Daddy is on morphine, but I could see his pain with every jostle and movement. He's so frail; over 6 feet tall, not even 90 pounds. The cancer has distended his stomach, reminding me of photographs of starving children. However, his face lit up with child-like delight when Greg gave him the helm. Only able to steer a few minutes, he slept for the rest of the trip.
June 17, 1979 ~ He did not wake all day, exhausted from yesterday. I waited until 4 pm, but I had to leave, to catch my plane. I sat down on the bed. His eyes opened, momentarily vague, then focusing on my face. "Time to go?" he asked. I nodded. "So, what's to say?" he said. "That is what's so perfect," I replied. "There's nothing to say. Except, Thanks For Being My Dad." We hugged and kissed, and murmured goodbye. "For now,".... his final words to me.
July 22, 1979 ~ Mom finally had to put Dad in the hospital, she made herself sick, caring for him. He died yesterday. Just now, on the telephone, she told me that before he died she asked him to send her some sign - proof of life after death. Her Catholic upbringing wanted to believe, but her Irish cynicism filled her with doubt. With the bond they shared, she figured he should be able to reach her, somehow, if there was a "beyond."
At 1a.m. the front doorbell rang. Groggily, she stumbled through the house to answer it. No one was there. She started toward the back door, knowing it had a different ring, but not awake enough for that to penetrate. As she passed Pop-o's music box collection, the pieces began merrily playing their little tunes - for about 20 seconds. "Oh, Heckie," she cried, instantly knowing. Racing for the phone, she called the hospital. Frantically crying, she begged them to check him, to be with him. The nurse calmly stated that he was sleeping peacefully. At 3 a.m. the hospital called back; they were sorry, Mr. Pellett was dead.
July 28, 1979 ~ Daddy asked that everyone wear white to his funeral, believing as the Chinese do that death should be a celebration of passage to even greater life. He also asked this be read, after the service of his priest:
TO MY BELOVED FAMILY AND THOSE OTHERS GATHERED HERE NOW AND TO THOSE WHO ARE HERE IN SPIRIT AND THOUGHT:
July 12 1980 ~ Ed and I were laughing today, remembering Daddy's W. C. Fields routines: "Children, ah, yes... I like children, medium rare..." I miss him, and like to think of him and talk about him - it brings him back to me.
In my continuous search for self-enlightenment I read voraciously. The book I'm reading now has a lovely approach to tuning into your Higher Self, your connection with the Divine. I was doing the practice tonight, discovering how to call for a guide for help in meditation... and Daddy appeared! Hugging me, he expressed delight in finally being able to reach me. He has been here, talking to me, but I seldom seemed to hear. Such a joyous reunion! Such delight in the connection! I am so thankful, now, knowing he is here, in my heart.
© 1996 Gabrielle M. Thompson
|Gabrielle & Ed Thompson live with their daughter at Eco-Cove, raising trout for sale and tending gardens on 117 acres in Marion, NC. Gabrielle also works in the library at McDowell Tech and as a free-lance writer. The family relocated to North Carolina from the Virgin Islands, where they spent 14 years hosting sailing tours on Satori, a 75' sailboat they built, with their singing parrot, Barnacle Bill.|
2041 Old Fanning Bridge Road
Fletcher, NC 28732
(828) 891-8700 or 684-3798