To fill you in on what is happening in my life:
Life at sea is full of exciting, wonderful, horrible, thrilling, boring, breathtaking, and utterly devastating moments. In my career at sea, I have witnessed a search and rescue effort to find survivors of a plane crash in the North Atlantic, I have witnessed the devastation that an earthquake causes, seen the aftermath of a tsunami, witnessed a body washing up on shore, to name a few.
But I have also seen amazing sunsets, met some astonishing people, seen the smiles on people's faces when they enjoy the shows I perform.
A couple years ago I met a woman, Merle, who was sailing alone on one of the world cruises. She and I just kind of "hit it off" and have been friends ever since. She has sailed with me several times, and this past year, she was in the middle of a cruise when she got a sore throat. This turned into a relapse of her cancer, and before I knew it, I got an email from her saying she had collapsed and was now bedridden waiting pretty much for "the end." She lives north of Brisbane, just off the Gold Coast, which is about an hour and a half from where our ship docks. We email several times a week, and I continually try to keep my emails upbeat. Her cancer has spread to her brain, and having dealt with that with my grandmother, I know that once cancer hits the brain, it metastasizes fairly quickly.
Merle wants nothing more than to come on a cruise. She can't get out of bed, however. She has said on several occasions that she would like me to drive up to see her. This makes me very nervous. Foreign country, different laws, I don't drive a great deal, much less on the opposite side of the road. Frankly, I am terrified of the many things that could go wrong. I could miss the ship, get lost, etc. So I have gently been putting it off.
This past cruise, I got a message from the Cruise Director that there was a woman on board who wanted to talk to me. He said that we have a "mutual friend who is very sick." I figured it was a friend of Merle's and mine.
Well, this past cruise I was dealing with my own bout of depression and homesickness, not really wanting to go out or talk to anyone. I think I got off the ship once the entire cruise. I didn't call the cabin number I was given until today, the last day of the cruise. I tried to time it where I knew the occupant would be out of their cabin, because I really didn't want to go out and talk to anyone. I told the automated voice mail that I would be at a certain place at a certain time, and if they wanted to meet me, that's where I would be.
So I showed up and met a lovely woman named Carolyn. Yes, she is a friend of Merle's. She told me that Merle is not doing well at all. She had been up to see her and basically people are starting to show up to say their goodbyes. A tear came to my eye, as the Merle I knew was one who I would meet in one of the lounges to take a spin around the dance floor. She is a proud woman, and talk about strong-willed... this lady does not take no for an answer. To picture her bedridden is devastating. She told me that Merle's family has basically been acting like vultures. They have disposed of most of her personal things, without her permission and knowledge of where the items have gone. Is this what I was like when my grandparents passed?
Carolyn asked me if I would be interested in going to visit her on one of the times my ship is in port. Talk about an answer to a prayer. I of course said yes, and we now have plans to go visit Merle on the 2nd of December. We are going to keep it a surprise. I will post here how that goes. I am planning on taking her copies of the shows from the ship, and I am trying to get her to stay positive enough to gain some weight and try to at least get her into a wheelchair. I'd love to be able to take her outside and "dance".
The holidays are coming up, and for some reason I always question my own mortality at this time of the year. Though my homesickness has not gone away, I am able to recognize that I have got to get out of my funk. I have plays to write, a musical to finish, and other projects i need to see to fruition. I am going to win a Pulitzer Prize for drama. This is my goal. My personal story of my last six years of hell is capable of it. In the meantime, I continue to travel and see the wonders of the world, and thanks to people like Merle and Carolyn, Peggy and my parents, my sister, and my extended family, I am grateful to be here.
J. Michael Beech