02 October 2016
RAW HUMANITY – FORGET POLITICS. I was high above the ground on Athanor’s deck; John was on the ground prepping his boat for a fresh coat of bottom paint. Not that he could have done anything other than break my fall, I nonetheless asked him to hold the very tall ladder for me as I descended steeply fourteen feet to the ground. Rob scrubbed barnacles off the hull as I chatted with John. Over the course of the following ten minutes, our conversation – his story – epitomized the love and the utter humanity that we have felt each and every day we’ve spent in French Polynesia.
After a few minutes of typical “boat talk”, he asked where we were from. That sparked his sharing how surprised he is that U.S. politics is dominating the news worldwide. He commented that it must be hard to know what we’re going home to (the election season). He went on to share that he (a Kiwi) and his wife (French) spent an incredible two years roaming around the United States in an RV. He said with such fondness, “We were like kids! We loved every town we visited. We loved everyone we met. It was just wonderful. But the politics are atrocious!”
Mid-conversation, we were back around to talking about sailing. He shared that, when he and his wife (Annie) sailed across the Pacific, they made landfall in Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands. They fell in love with the islands. His wife told him, “When I die, I want to be buried here.” Then he delicately, quietly, slipped into one of the next few sentences that Annie died 1-1/2 years ago. I stopped him to confirm what he said. I’m not exactly sure how much time passed between their time in the Marquesas and her passing, but John shared that, following her death, he brought her ashes back to Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva. He planned to spread them in the bay. Before he did, he went to visit the local priest. He talked with the mayor. They were fine with his intentions but, being very Christian, they asked him to consider burying her instead. He agreed.
Which brings me to the utter humanity we have found in the Marquesas, the Tuomotos, Tahiti, Moorea, and now Raiatea. With tears in his eyes (and mine), John shared that the community came together to celebrate Annie’s life, and to bury her. They dug one grave. John then spotted two trees on a hill, and he knew that was where he wanted to bury her. He felt terrible asking them to dig another spot, but he did, and they didn’t hesitate. The women from the church brought flowers, several people played music – and they buried her. Neither John nor Annie is Marquesan. They never lived in Nuku Hiva, let alone French Polynesia. And yet, John’s heart will always be in Nuku Hiva, a place few ever have the privilege of experiencing.