Posted from Freemantle, Australia
It’s like a dream. As I put pen to paper here in the Indian Ocean I really wonder how I got here. Not just this smooth sailing ship but all the things that have happened to me over the years. You like to think you worked hard. That you deserve it. That’s bull. We are all just members of the lucky sperm club and don’t forget it. We could have wound up in Siberia or Calcutta.
As the nautical miles peel away I think of the presents I received this year and in particular three. The best part is that they were all total surprises and distinct. Probably the gift givers were unaware of their effect. As usual life is good.
The first occurred on a Sunday in Denver. Waiting for the Broncos to do battle, the phone rang. It was my cousin Sean in the town of Boyle in Abbeytown, County Roscommon. It was beyond eerie that I had just gotten his number out that morning, vowing to call before I left on our journey. Great minds think alike. He’s the type of man that brings a smile to your face at the sound of his voice.
He and his beautiful wife Liz have what I guess is the family homestead of sorts. We surely have no title to it but they are kind enough to always have the door open so we can really understand what family is all about. The land is verdant and they have 70 cows that need to be milked and grazed twice a day. All this Sean handles quite ably with only his 6 year old grandson Glynn as a sidekick.
My gift from him was simple. It was a reminder of goodness and gentility in the world. His quick Irish wit melds effortlessly into mine and the conversation is pure joy. He is gracious in his ways but oh so wise for his young years. Thank you my friend.
The next happened on my last shift at hospice. I knew it would be a miracle if I ever saw these sweet souls again so I wanted to linger and try to say something profound. I have found in working with the dying, unscripted works best. Just share thoughts in an honest and forthright way. It’s good for the soul. Both of ours.
My friend Terry had fought a long battle. He attacked everything with almost scientific precision. That was the part that frustrated him. He didn’t know if it was going to happen in the next hour or next few days. We sat in front of the Christmas tree in the living room for what was well over an hour and a half. He talked. I listened. It’s the way it should be.
He believed in God but it was a journey. Most importantly he believed he was going join the Man Himself. That was not only comforting but elating. He had fought the good fight and he was ready to go home. It was more than courage. It was a shared moment that I hope I always remember. It was gift number two.
Last monday we arrived in Bali after 22 hours on several airplanes. This is a grind no matter how you look at it. Kathy and I were flying steerage because that’s what latecomers do. It was just fine. The blast of steamy humid air brought back memories of 40 years ago in a scary land a few kilometers north and west.
We drove through streets clogged with scooters and dust. It could have been Saigon without the guns. We made a hard right and travelled down a lane that had Kathy and I looking at each other. Then out of nowhere we were inside a resort right out of a movie set. The cruise line was putting us up there to make connections. It was nothing short of idyllic.
Open air and large fans reeked of teak. Gardenias were all over the paths and crazy sounding birds screeched from hidden trees. Every one of the staff greeted you with a slight bow and hands raised in a praying motion. This was very cool for TTG and Kath. We had a couple of drinks and a light fare by the water and then off to get a decent night’s sleep.
I didn’t know what day or hour it was when I awoke but I have been through this drill before. You can always find a cup of Java in Java. Get It? I ran into this young man named Sebagio. He know where the coffee was and put me right up in front on the beach. The air was damp from a torrential rain and it smelled sweet.
I quickly became Mr. Ted and we shared a good hour of conversation before anyone else in the place was even stirring. At first we spoke of Bali and Jakarta. And then of his life. He was thirty and single but he was raising his brother’s two boys. His sibling had died of a heart attack five years ago. If you think I was being set up, think again. There is no tipping in Bali.
Our talk finally wound its way to Hinduism. A friend back home had asked me what is was like to be going to a totally Muslim country? Surprise. Although Bali is part of Indonesia it is 92% Hindu. So much for stereotypes.
The Hindus continually try to make themselves a better person both intellectually and spiritually. There is this crazy thing called balance. They strive but don’t run people over. When they finally get it right it is karma and that’s it. They are a very warm and incredibly gentle people.
No, I am not going over to Hinduism. They neither drink nor smoke cigars. But it does give me pause. Peace, gentility, balance, harmony, happiness. I think my three wise men are trying to give me a message here. I hope I am perceptive enough to get it.
As Always and Merry Christmas
Ted The Great.
Get a cup of coffee or glass of something stronger. Take ten minutes and watch the enclosed. Then thank whatever God you praise.