Sailing had always seemed like a boring sport that requires too much work to me. I’ve historically been drawn to speed on the water, the kind a motorboat can produce. My favorite place to be is on the front, hitting the waves, feeling like I’m riding a race horse. But my recent sailing experience with the Camp Chingachgook Y-Knot sailing program for people with differing abilities has changed my mind.
Yesterday, I had another notable opportunity to assist a small group of developmentally disabled adults experience sailing for the first time. These three people who drove a long way with their three companions have never been on a sailboat, and I imagine have not had many of the life opportunities that people without disabilities have and take for granted.
The boat that accommodated this group of six plus a Captain and a Crew member is a 20 foot Catalina Freedom, also known as “No Limit”. Myself and Lori, another volunteer, helped get this group situated in the well-adapted boat and set them off on their journey around the southern end of Lake George. They came back all smiles, seeming like commissioned sailors.
The organization that brings these sailors will be back two more times this month with different people who are also excited to have this opportunity.
The second group that went out in the Freedom-No Limit was smaller, so Lori and I got to go too. We had just met that morning and had some time to spend together while the first group was out. She shared with me that she hadn’t slept well since Friday when she received a call from her sister telling her that she was just diagnosed with breast cancer. Lori went on to explain that it was stage I and the prognosis was very good, but that she didn’t have any information on exactly when the surgery would be or what the exact course of treatment was.
Receiving news like this is upsetting enough, but Lori then explained that another sister died of a rare form of cancer 20 years ago, and more recently, she lost her mother to yet another form. The reason I’m writing about this with Lori’s permission is that while we were in the middle of the lake on the “Freedom”, a beautiful butterfly found us and began to circle and flutter around us and the boat. Out of the six people on the boat, the butterfly finally landed on Lori’s hair, and stayed there for about 3 minutes, allowing time for a few pictures. In my younger and less wiser days, I wouldn’t have thought a thing about this. I would have just enjoyed watching it fly around, but Lori’s story about her family got me thinking that maybe this visitor had another identity than just a butterfly, with a deeper meaning than just fluttering around to amuse us. The butterfly finally took off and flew away.
While on the lake, she emailed one of the pictures to her husband, and he said “Oh, I see Rene (Lori’s deceased sister) decided to visit you.” That’s exactly what Lori and I were thinking. Rene had a message for Lori, and it’s for her to decide what that message was. Although Lori may not have completely formulated the meaning of the visit from this beauty, one thing it did bring is a sense of peace, that another dimension of our reality was at work during this challenging time. Being a witness was enough for me to reinforce my beliefs that being open-minded about the spiritual world and seeing beyond physical matter can have an enlightening essence. I imagine and hope that Lori slept a little better last night.
Back to the title of this post: “Aye, Aye, Aunt Mary”. My Aunt Mary was a seasoned sailor. She grew up in the Lake George region and had moved away as a young bride with her Naval Commander husband, living in different parts of the United States. But it seems that she never felt really disconnected from her roots and her love of Lake George, and often vacationed here with her family during summers. Aunt used to rent sailboats while here and was probably regarded as the Captain of the family when on the water. She was completely in her element when she was behind the controls of the sails. As a kid and a younger adult, I could never figure out what the draw was to sailing as I mentioned above, and always wondered why on a vacation she would want to be involved with all the work it takes to sail.
I get it now, Aunt Mary. I get it. And every time I sail, I think of you and remember you fondly. You were a great Captain and a wonderful Aunt.
Aunt Mary died eight years ago, but this message is still hangs on my fridge. She made a slew of them and gave one to me a few years before she died. Words to live by. And because Aunt Mary thought it was so important to hand-make this message and pass them out to her family members, it strengthens the meaning behind her desire to share with others the importance of Hope.
It played out perfectly on the great waters of Lake George yesterday.