This post was written in July. Since then there has been some editing, and checking in with this friend about revisions to get things right. I’m happy to say that the overall situation has lately been looking like a much longer-term process!

Birch Island, in July

A dear, dear friend of mine has had a progressive, seriously disabling illness for all the years that we’ve known each other, now nearing 20. From walking with some difficulty, and scooting up stairs backwards, things have moved to significant adaptive equipment, and various complications. Not too long ago she said to me that, although in some ways things are getting better, she can also feel her systems gradually shutting down. She is in her 50s, formerly a Buddhist with a dedicated spiritual practice, and now someone who says of herself that she “just tries to be awake.” She said to me that she is welcoming the opportunity to stay present through this experience of her body closing down, simply noticing what is happening, and embracing joy. Approaching dying with consciousness and a sense of well-being.

The second time that we talked about this, I could feel that her groundedness had deepened further, and her sense of peace about both the process and the prospect was strong, and centered. I, on the other hand, while listening gently on the phone, was later bereft, filled with grief at the loss to come. Wondering how I will go forward here on the planet, without her steady, supportive presence.

Then a funny thing happened. I on the boat, she called me on the cell phone. I knew it was her because the caller ID showed her number, but when I said hello there was no answer. The phone had not hung up, and the screen showed as if there was a call in progress. But no sound on my end. After a few moments of saying that I couldn’t hear her and that I was wondering if she could hear me, I hung up, and a few moments after that she called me back, this time with a regular connection, saying that she could hear me in the previous call, even though I was hearing nothing. Later I thought that oh, this is the universe telling me how this communication thing works. Somebody crosses over, leaving this physical time on the planet, and it’s not so easy to hear them. But they are hearing you just fine. I thought about this, but my friend and I didn’t talk about it, and then over the next couple of weeks we had phone calls that went through with no problem.

The day before yesterday (end of July) she called me again, while I was sailing, and again there was no sound, but the caller ID showed that it was her. So I spoke to her, saying that I couldn’t hear her but I was thinking that she probably could hear me, and then explaining that I was sailing into a harbor at that very moment and thought that it would take me about a half an hour to get anchored and be able to call her back. Anchoring accomplished, and a couple of other delaying events (lobster dinner – thank you Reilly!) and I called my friend back. Indeed she had heard everything that I had said on the silent (on my end) telephone.

This experience with the telephone has not happened with anybody else in all the many phone calls I have received over this almost 2 months of sailing. In my grieving, by myself, about my friend approaching dying, I had asked “how will I know where to find you?” And later I had, in fact, told her that I was struggling with this question. And then the universe said here, let me show you. It’s as simple as this: You can’t hear me, but I can hear you.

This is why I go sailing – to hear the most important of messages.


November 29, 2013 – In all the time on the water, this year and last over a total of 11 months, with that same phone, this is the only time that I received calls that went through in this way.