Remember the song, Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think? It came back in a most poignant way when I flew into Cape Town last week. The tune, by Carl Sigman and lyrics by Herb Magidson, normally returns me to childhood on the family's long sea migration to the antipodes.
I had arrived in the beautiful Cape to work on and complete the survival story that I hope will follow Sailing to Purgatory.
|A friend to all .... Zoe, who is suddenly lost to all. Thanks to Four Winds Academy for the image|
No socialising exists in the diary, but for a solitary plan to visit long-time friends in nearby Hout Bay - once I had recovered from a really unpleasant dose of jetlag from the very long leg down from Constantinople.
|When son Tristan pursued a passion for football at school, Zoe studied the sport and became a qualified referee.|
My very first day in Africa began with a text from Mark. Zoe had died during the night. I couldn't have been more shocked.
I saw Mark and Zoe only a few months earlier. They both looked extraordinarily well, a healthy, happy couple, no strangers to daily walks.
A very bright lady
And Zoe was a very bright lady, a former radiologist, lately a well-qualified comparative psychologist, with a popular following of pet-owners and it's said, admired by the four-legged patients themselves. When son Tristan pursued a passion for football at school, Zoe studied the sport and became a qualified referee.
Yet suddenly the lady is no more. The shock of a sudden departure is made so much worse by the crazy state of death as well. You can't phone a soul, send a text, email, get onto high-frequency radio.
Once anyone goes, they are gone. All this is obvious, of course, and all humans know it well. As Shakespeare puts it Hamlet ...
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will ...
The story I am working on is about a really disturbing eight days in a liferaft after the luxury yacht I was delivering from Rio struck a submerged container and sank. A liferaft, a girl and me, vicious Southern Ocean weather, and a growing number of determined tiger sharks.
If Death had an easy target, there it was in very on-the-edge circumstances. Why were we allowed to survive? And yet it stole the life of a healthy, lovely, very committed woman who really did a lot of good for her neighbourhood, for our species.
Perhaps the Bard making light of it helps us to accept the final curtain a little more easily ...
He that cuts off twenty years of life
Cuts off so many years of fearing death.
The song, by the way, surfaced in 1949, recorded by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians. It became very popular almost instantly.
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