Seeing A Divine Hand At Work
Wednesday - May 31, 2006
BORA BORA, TAHITI - The lessons learned onboard the Regent Paul Gauguin cruise were not so much about this wonderful land in the South Pacific, but rather a confirmation of the importance of life, love and God’s hand in our everyday lives.
The beauty here is undeniable. Poets have penned works extolling the serenity and spirtualism found here. Authors, such as James Michener, have written about Tahiti’s sheer and utter beauty. Painters, particularly Paul Gauguin, have aspired perpetually to capture the islands’essence on canvas. Although I have a deep appreciation for their efforts, as always, impactful experiences boil down to the lives of men and women.
Fran is an accomplished photojournalist and author. Her travels have taken her to some of the most exotic and desired locales around the world. Her stories of adventure would rival those of Indiana Jones, save for the gunplay and pursuit of artifacts. Nonetheless, her life is rich and continues to be that same adventure. Her husband of so many years, Roger, passed away some time ago. Despite her partner no longer being physically by her side, there is no doubt he is just as much a part of her life as he ever was.
Astrid is a remarkable woman. The one thing that captures your attention is not so much her lyrical accent, but her penetrating eyes. When some speak of the eyes being the window to the soul, Astrid allows you an un-censored view of herself. Without the benefit of conversation, you already sense a life of purpose - strong, but not belligerent. Perhaps the loss of her friend and partner Gunther (just 10 months before) gives her a dash more resolve. Regardless, Astrid needs only to flash her broad smile and your day has just become a bit better.
My beautiful wife Bernadette and I were fortunate enough to be invited to dine with the ship’s staff captain our first night at sea. We found that Fran, who is travelling solo with our group from Hawaii, was invited to the same dinner. Walking into L’Etoille Restaurant, we were somewhat giddy at such an honor. We were escorted to our table and awaited the captain. The seat assignment cards revealed there was one more guest to join us.
Friendship is a wonderful thing. There are, as I am sure you know, differing degrees of friendship. Some relationships can be as casual as an aquaintance, and others have the intensity of brotherhood, or in this case, sisterhood.
Fran spoke of her wonderful friend as we were seated. After recently returning from the Mainland to visit her grandchildren, she booked her travel just two days before we departed. Nobody really knew she was making the trip. Bernadette and I had the chance to learn of Fran’s family and we spoke of ours.
The final guest approached the table. She was elegant, yet it seemed she was distracted. Perhaps, travelling on her own, she was wondering why she was being seated at the captain’s table and with whom would she have to make small talk tonight. Berna and I introduced ourselves and Fran, already connecting the dots, simply said, “Aloha.”
Astrid barely looked away from her seat and returned the greeting. It was then Fran stood up and called her by name. Astrid, taking time to process whom she was seeing, let out a tiny scream and these two friends were united, embracing one another as one who is rescued would hug his rescuer.
The joyful stories would come. It was the moment realizing these two had somehow found each other in the same destination, on the same cruise ship, at the same dinner and at the same table took us beyond chicken skin. When Astrid explained she was on this cruise to honor Gunther, on what would have been their 53rd anniversary, the tears streamed. They had always talked about cruising Tahiti, but as brilliant as life can be, it can be taken from us. Astrid and Gunther ran out of time to spend this moment together, but to see Astrid celebrate their lives together, and now with a friend who is indeed her sister, that was a blessing.
There is no coincidence. Astrid and Fran were not the subject of happenstance. I believe the hand of God was revealed before our eyes. These women, with so much of their lives shared, were directed to be together at this auspicious time.
The lesson taken sounds like the words to a song. Cherish the time you have. Use your days on earth to love as deeply as possible the people in your life. Tell your wife, husband, mother, father, sister, brother and others you love them, and just how special your life is because they’re a part of it. If you’ve dreamed great dreams together, fulfill them. We should live our life free of regret and only hope in times of challenge we have relationships like Astrid and Fran. I thank God every day for those I love and those who love me. I hope you will, too.
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