Topic: End of the Float
A couple weeks before I left to attend Chordiestock, I got a call from Steve, owner of our local paddling shop and an old kayaking buddy who has been battling health problems the last couple years. He had a lung transplant about 18 months ago and had problems with his recovery, then had his gall bladder removed a couple months ago and seemed to finally be on the road to recovery but was now back in the hospital. I went to visit him and he informed me that he had been feeling bad again and tests showed that he had developed cancer in his lung and it was quickly spreading. The only question was how much time he had left. He said he'd like to have one last "boater's party" to see all his old friends before his death and wanted me to play my river songs for him one last time. His plan was to be cremated and asked that the local paddling club (which he helped start) spread some of his ashes on a local stream and wanted me to take some to the New River in West Virginia, a stream which we both have spent many an enjoyable day on over the years. Jen and I left for Florida thinking that we had time to return and help his wife and family with his final wishes. Sunday evening after leaving the Chordiestock event at Jeff's house, Steve's wife called Jen and said he was suddenly getting worse. Monday morning before we checked out of the motel, we got another call that Steve was gone.
Yesterday there was a viewing at a local funeral home. The family asked that local paddlers bring their kayaks as a memorial to Steve. The parking lot was full of vehicles with yaks of every color and for 3 hours there was a line of visitors filing past the coffin. Inside the funeral home were dozens of pictures taken on river trips over the years and those of us who had been on those trips relived them again. Today there was a memorial service that was a celebration of his life and love of rivers and nature, and again dozens of local paddlers brought their boats. With all the colorful kayaks in the church parking lot and along the street it looked like giant Easter eggs had been placed on cars and trucks. When the weather warms and streams return to normal flows, we'll carry out his final wishes. I can't help but feel that although he has made it to the take-out in this life, he'll be waiting at the put-in for us in the next one.
Our life on this earth is short. Enjoy the time you get to spend with family and friends.