Location: St. Eustatius
It is not fair, right, or just that James was taken from this world. Questions circulate in all of our minds, why him? Why now? It is cruel, and we will never understand why. I knew James for 69 days of his life. A fraction of the time that many people were fortunate to have with him. At first, I thought James was a grumpy old man. He was the first person from the trip I met as we flew in from San Juan together. He was older than most of the students by a few years, had already been through college, and was rather quiethis sly remarks I first misunderstood as judgmental and kind of mean. As time went on, though, I found myself laughing at his smack talk and found him laughing when it was given right back to him. He quickly became a popular member of the crew. We soon learned of James’s love for fishing from all the stories he would tell us about him and his brother catching marlin, tuna, mahi-mahi, and whatever else was out there. Well, we all wanted to put him to the test. So a group of us bought a variety of tackles, hooks, and baits. We were not disappointed. As we began our passage to Grenada and within the first 2 hours, someone yelled fish on! And James went to work. He reeled in a hefty skip-jack as James ate the heart of the fish. We never questioned his fishing ability again. He cooked us up delicious tuna steaks that night.
James’s work ethic aboard the ship was never questioned. He said he was there for sailing, and he proved it. I still hear his yell of two six! As we raise sails. There are countless instances of James’s hard work at navigation and sailing, but, even more so, his resilience. It was hard to remember that James was a survivor that he had come all this way; he had been to the brink and came back stronger. When things seem down, I can think of James, and what he accomplished, how my task doesn’t seem so daunting anymore. It makes me angry thinking about how James is gone because of how unfair it is.
How could someone go through all that, survive it, to be taken so quickly? But, James meant something. His passing will not be some random act. We were all changed that day in immense ways. I have to hope; I have to know that he changed someone for the better. Maybe one of us will go on to do great things because of something James taught and changed in us. Maybe it won’t be one of us, but maybe, somewhere down the line, something he changed in me or in another shipmate will be passed to a friend, a family member, even a random stranger who will go on to do something great. I don’t know, no one knows who or what it will be, but I know it will be someone and something truly amazing, and it will be because of something James changed in us.