Shrimp Boats

My parents were both diagnosed with Dementia in early 2011. My father passed away not too long after this, in January 2012. The transition from running his own life, to being institutionalized is what killed him, ultimately. I don’t mean to be simplistic, or dismissive about it. Maybe another post later on, for now, this is about my Mum.

My Mum went from a temporary nursing home in our home town of Winnipeg, Manitoba, to one in the same town as my older brother, John, and his wife, Wendy. My finances didn’t allow me to make the 2500 km trip to see her very often, and after growing frustrated with trying to keep in touch with my Mum by phone, I switched to writing letters, which was a great success. Phone calls were characterized by being so in the moment. A typical call would end abruptly with, “I’m watching TV.” Another typical one went like this:

  • Me:      Hey, Mum, it’s me, Laurence
  • Mum:  Oh, hi, Laurence, I don’t have a pen
  • Me:      Why do you need a pen, Mum?
  • Mum:  I wanted to ask you for Diana’s phone number

Diana is my younger sister.

There’s also the time difference of 2 hours, and my busy life. But life as a bus driver meant I had these spare moments that were all mine, and I used those to write her letters. I committed to writing her a letter a day for 100 days. I have that first letter,

mom_letter_001

If you’d like to read the rest of the letters, click HERE

While visiting Mom I wanted to have a conversation, and somehow figure out more about something she’d said earlier that same day,

“I just want to die” and another time, “I want to go to be with Jesus”

My response was to hug her and ask if she’d mind sticking around for a while longer, and she said she’d probably live another 20 years, with a resigned sort of laugh.

But she spent most of her time with us just enjoying our company, not speaking much at all. On our last evening with her for that particular visit, we were driving her hometo get her home in time for bed, 8:30 pm. The highway from our Hotel in Winkler to her home in Morden was dark, and snow lay all around us. If you’ve never driven in such conditions you would not know how quiet it can be. The snow absorbs the ambient sounds, and the car was especially quiet.

She was still alive, but waiting to die. And I think she easily slipped into the role of Mother. I wasn’t able to handle the idea of her death, just yet, while she was quite content with it all. A recent book I’ve read, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life” by Parker Palmer, makes note of something called “Third Things”. Direct questions about things that are difficult to talk about don’t yield desirable results. We don’t even tend to admit things to ourselves. Repression and suppression are subtopics here. It was me, in that instance, that refused to accept her passing away. I needed a Third Thing to help me sort it all out.

We’re back in the car again, and into the silence I said, “Mum, I wanna hear your voice”
“What? Singing?” She inquired
“Sure Mum…” I replied,
“I’ll just sing what’s been going through my mind”

Shrimp boats is a-comin’
Their sails are in sight
Shrimp boats is a-comin’
There’s dancin’ tonight

I was so shocked to hear such a stream of coherent words at length coming from her, and I pulled over and Googled them, to find they are from a 1951 hit by Jo Stafford, and then found a the recording by Jo Stafford was made in July, 1951, on YouTube, and was actually able to play it for her over the car’s stereo system through my iPhone, she was pleased.

Later on that night I bought the song through iTunes. As I drove back to Winnipeg from Morden the next morning with our sister, Diana, I played the song over and over again, tears streaming down my face.

A little more about Third Things. My reflections on this song and it’s meaning tell me about what I’m going through. I also believe God speaks to me in this way, to comfort me and challenge me. Your reaction will be quite different than my own. If we had a chance to have a dialogue about it, we’d learn about one another, and a little more about ourselves.

There’s this line in there:

’til once more they ride high out to sea

‘ride high’ because the boats are empty.

  • When we’re young and full of hopes and dreams, when we find ourselves at the Alter giving our humble lives to our great and wonderful saviour… our few loaves and fishes placed into his hands
  • We spend our lives ever yet abiding in him, and he in us… and we bear fruit… and our ship’s hold becomes laden with the catch… the fruit of our labours
    • this is an intangible thing
    • we don’t know who we’ve touched in an eternal way
      • Bonhoeffer speaks about this in The Cost of Discipleship. The Tree is unaware of it’s own fruit. Here’s a great story about a friend of mine, Ken Peters.

Mum’s boat was pointed toward shore, and she was full of HER journey’s catch…

  • her children that love the Lord are amoung the many lives she’s touched
  • the fruitful life of one who has lived her life committed to honouring her Lord
  • there was a peace in her heart, and satisfaction of having completed what she signed up for!
  • She was truly happy

At the time I didn’t pretend to know how long that last leg of the journey was going to be for her, but Mummy’s boat was pointed toward shore, and she liked what was coming, “I want to go be with Jesus” she said quite plainly, simply, with a quiet peace in her voice. No whining, no sadness… just her matter of fact way of speaking…

It’s so precious that it would be a song like this that is ringing in her heart. It carries with it the echo’s of our father who loved such songs as these. It’s simply poetry, and I am so thankful. I don’t own this message, it came first in a surge of tears and emotion, and ineffable thoughts flooding through my mind.

Mom is happy, at peace, and content…

Oh…
Shrimp boats is a-comin’
Their sails are in sight
Shrimp boats is a-comin’
There’s dancin’ tonight
Why don’t-cha hurry, hurry, hurry home
Why don’t-cha hurry, hurry, hurry home
Look here! The shrimp boats is a-comin’
There’s dancin’ tonight

(Shrimp boats is a-comin’, there’s dancin’ tonight)

(SLOWLY):

They go to sea with the evenin’ tide
And their women folk wave their good-bye
(Ill sant vas… There they go)
While the Louisiana moon floats on high
And they wait for the day they can cry…

Shrimp boats is a-comin’
Their sails are in sight
Shrimp boats is a-comin’
There’s dancin’ tonight
Why don’t-cha hurry, hurry, hurry home
Why don’t-cha hurry, hurry, hurry home
Look here! The shrimp boats is a-comin’
There’s dancin’ tonight
(Shrimp boats is a-comin’, there’s dancin’ tonight)

(SLOWLY):
Happy the days while they’re mending the nets
‘Til once more they ride high out to sea
(Ill sant vas… There they go)
Then how lonely the long nights will be
‘Til that wonderful day when they see…

Shrimp boats is a-comin’
Their sails are in sight
Shrimp boats is a-comin’
There’s dancin’ tonight
Why don’t-cha hurry, hurry, hurry home
Why don’t-cha hurry, hurry, hurry home
Look here! The shrimp boats is a-comin’
There’s dancin’ there’s dancin’
There’s dancin’ there’s dancin’

Shrimp boats is a-comin’ – tonight!