Monday, July 9, 2012

July 9: Counting Mercies

It has been more than a week since I last posted. The crew is doing great, and I remain hopeful for the fishing, though the Naknek beach hasn't been catching them like we'd like (we're over 90K lbs now and I hope we'll crack 100K today, but it's not a guarantee). Sometimes this happens. Just today, I told the crew that this is the type of season that makes me nervous - I think we'll see lots more fish, but I think they'll sneak up on us. So we have to be vigilant - get out there early in the flood. If there's nothing there, we can come back in and warm up and then go back out again just before the turn of the tide. Probably, we won't be surprised by a lot of fish, but if we are, we'll be there. Similarly, the ebb - we'll go out twice on the ebb; once early and if they have slipped in and filled the nets, we'll be there to take them out and deliver them. If not, we'll go back in and warm up, coming out at the end for the mop up.

I've debated whether to explain the reason for gap in posting and decided that I must, if this blog is to be the record I intended it to be for myself. I haven't yet managed to contact all the people who know my family personally who might be reading this and I hope you will forgive me for shocking you with the terrible information you are about to read here. My younger son, Alex (20), David's brother, was accidentally killed by a surprisingly big wave while he was exploring a shallow reef flat in Micronesia on June 30. It is the worst experience a parent can have. The reason I entitled this blog "Counting Mercies" is that even though I can't imagine a worse event to report, I can imagine worse circumstances.

Alex traveled a very difficult road. He went dramatically off the rails in his early teen-age years and his father and I, with the help of David, Sarah, and Josh (a close family friend and previous - and I hope future - crew member), got him to the John Dewey Academy, a therapeutic boarding school in Massachusetts where through their unparalleled academic and therapeutic program, he came to know himself, learned to live with himself, and made himself into an academic force and more importantly, into a moral leader. He graduated from JDA in June and was accepted at Reed College for the fall. He had turned the great potential of his life from the confusion and torment of his early teen years into a flourishing garden and was preparing to study the intersection of ethics and neurobiology. In Micronesia, where he was nourishing his body and artist's soul at my sister's eco-lodge for the summer, he spoke with young people about living a life free of drugs and alcohol. He was reconnecting with friends, I think serving as a beacon for old friends who might hope for a better life for themselves than the one he was rather spectacularly headed towards when he left them for Massachusetts.

The first mercy I counted was that he died honest and honorable. (And the second is that I worked hard to help him do that.) He had overcome his challenges and found a way to live his life as an open and whole person, with the tools to manage life's challenges as they came along. He used these first three weeks out of school to get to know himself in a less structured environment, recover his open hearted laugh, and make the amends I was aware of that needed to be made. That is the third mercy. Although he didn't have the opportunity to start the next chapter of his life, he did a great job of closing this first one. He died doing what he loved - exploring nature. That's the fourth mercy. And his death was quick - probably too quick to be afraid or to feel pain. That's the fifth one. Sixth is that he has been gone from home for the past three years so unlike the experience of other parents who suddenly lose a child, I wasn't in a rhythm of life with him just yesterday. Similarly, his 25 classmates had just been through a process of saying goodbye to the graduating seniors - as the seniors said goodbye to them, though they expected to see one another again. Seventh is that fishing is a demanding activity and one of the things it demands is complete presence. Although David and I were completely swamped in grief and anguish the first couple of days, the fish and the crew continue to need us and when we're there, we must focus on the actual task at hand. This has allowed the reality to enter in smaller doses. And eighth, if he was to die in an ocean this summer, I am grateful that it wasn't with me during the fishing season. I feel cowardly admitting that and I am very very sorry that my sister had to shoulder the burden instead, but at the same time, I am grateful.

It turns out that doing the right thing is what matters in the end.

I'm not sure how much I'll be able to post through the rest of the season. Perhaps the crew will fill in for me...