On the way to the Victoria airport, Uncle Bill met a woman at the Stone House, an excellent restaurant adjacent to Canoe Cove marina. They struck up a conversation and shared dinner. Before the meal ended, she gave him her card with her number on it.
Also written on the card was this tag line: “Life is precious, make the most of it!”
Unknown to Bill, this wasn’t just any woman. This was Jeanne Socrates, arguably the most famous blue water sailor alive today.
As hours turned into days and days into weeks following Jocelyn’s death, the question was posed to me, “What are you going to do now?”
It’s a reasonable question. After all, my life has been upended. All bets are off. The future is uncertain. Indeed, what should I do now?
One option I offered was “Maybe I’ll pull a Jeanne Socrates.”
Jeanne Socrates started sailing at age 48, first with her husband and then, following his death from cancer in 2003, on her own. She now holds the record for the oldest person to have circumnavigated the globe in a cruising sailboat solo, non-stop, and unassisted. Her route started and ended in Victoria and took her south of the five great southern capes. The voyage lasted 339 days fulfilling a dream she shared with her husband. When it ended in September, 2019, she was 77 years old. You can use this link to read more: https://www.yachtingmonthly.com/cruising-life/jeanne-socrates-77-and-solo-non-stop-around-the-world-72022.
Circumnavigate the globe. That’d be one way to answer the question, “What are you going to do now?”
Circumnavigate Vancouver Island. Another way to answer the question.
Today, I safely tucked the Windleblo back into her slip at Canoe Cove, completing the circumnavigation.
Like most people, I keep “to do” lists. Call me corny, but a few years back I started putting as #1 on each daily list the assignment “Love wife.” Not because I needed reminding, but because each day it was my highest priority.
Once the fog of shock and disbelief at losing Jocelyn lifted, I was forced to consider a different start to my “to do” lists. Without much thinking, instead of “Love wife” I wrote “Love life.” Was it simply rhyme? Or a subliminal mandate? Perhaps living is my new highest priority. But how to live?
The survivor often searches for reasons why. Why did she die? Why not me instead? These questions have run their course in my thinking and sometimes recur. My answers have run the gamut from, “It should have been me instead,” to “No, it shouldn’t have because I wouldn’t want her to suffer the pain I’m suffering now,” to “If it should have been me it would have been,” and others.
Reading Kessler, I’ve decided to turn the equation around by asking “Why did she live?” The answers to this question are far more satisfying. She lived so she could be my wife. She lived so she could bring two remarkable children into the world. She lived so she could learn and teach. She lived so she could help and love others. She lived so I could take care of her. She lived so she could enjoy living. Etc.
So what am I going to do now? I am going to keep on living. I am going to live in a way that honors Jocelyn as someone I love, someone who has influenced me deeply. In this, I will be part of her legacy.
And I’m going to find a way to obey Jeanne Socrates’ command: “Life is precious, make the most of it!”
I am alive.