Sail on, no matter what

Posted by Kitara Julian On 10:31 AM

On our first circumnavigation by ship in 1974 (the one I dreamed up, the Enrichment program, and where I was artist in residence), we were just three weeks into a 4 month voyage when one of the passengers had a heart attack right beside the swimming pool.
The ship’s doctor was on the scene quickly and tried to save the gentleman’s life, but he died. Of course the passenger’s wife was shocked. She was from Brooklyn and I remember her clearly.
(This all happened not far from Papeete, Tahiti where the great French artist Paul Gauguin spent some time, immortalizing 'French Polynesia', its culture and people.)
The widow now had to decide what to do with her beloved. In the old days, captains had authority to do burials at sea, but in the ‘70s this was no longer permitted. Everyone assumed the widow would disembark at the next port, along with her late husband.
However, she stayed on. Not only did she stay on the ship, but it wasn’t too long before she had a great time, and put the Merry Widow of Franz Lehar in the shadow. And what about her husband? The passengers all thought he had been taken off the ship and transported back to family in Brooklyn.
Since I was artist in residence, we were privy to some things which the regular passengers didn’t know. What happened was she’d arranged to have him put in the ‘cooler’ near the ship’s hospital. Gradually the news spread, it’s impossible to keep something like that quiet on a ship. When asked ‘why’, she replied, “We saved for twenty years to come on this trip, and I am going all the way around the world. He’s still with me, isn’t he? And I know he would have wanted me to have a good time.” Can’t blame her. What was she going to do, abandon this once-in-a-lifetime experience? Something Sir Alfred Hitchcock would have enjoyed. Signing off, Henri

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