Oh so precious is life…

It’s been several months since we’ve posted. It was a tough winter, with trips back and forth between our boat in Florida and home in Grand Rapids to help deal with one crisis after another with my parents. My father, a mechanical engineer who could design/fix anything, was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia a few years ago. For a number of years he remained stable, but following my sister’s death two years ago this month (still feels like yesterday), his decline began to accelerate. In early January it was clear that it was time he be moved to a locked memory care unit–for his safety and for my mother’s as well. That was such a tough time but I learned we are not alone. Dementia is so common today. My family has joined a very large and growing club.

Since our return from Florida, Ron has been readying our sailboat for summer cruising and I’ve been caring for things around Grand Rapids, volunteering at Gilda’s Club when needed. Thyme Hyssop & Wry launched late due to the delayed spring in the north.

We own a slip at Duncan Bay Boat Club, deciding to buy a slip following several years of renting or using friends’ slips. Duncan Bay is our home away from home. We have really great friends there, our summer family. A week ago Sunday, on a beautiful early evening, lives changed in a moment: we were sitting below with good friends who had stopped by for a visit when we suddenly felt as if our boat had been hit HARD. Before Ron got to our companionway, we heard Tom next door yell, “Help!” then Mary’s voice yelling for help as well. Seconds later, Ron yelled for the fire extinguisher we keep at our companionway. Before I got out of our boat I was being asked for every fire extinguisher we had on board. Ron and Mel had already gotten Tom and Mary off their boat by the time I was out of our cabin. Seconds after that, a friend from another dock (how did he get to us so fast?!) was on board our neighbor’s boat, prepared to fight the fire, but all they could see was smoke… no flames. At this point we are pretty certain that it was a propane “flash”, likely leaking from a hole in the connector hose into their engine compartment or bilge (propane gas is heavier than air so settles in the lowest areas).

Tom and Mary were both severely burned. Tom suffered 3rd degree burns over 40% of his body; Mary suffered 3rd degree burns on her feet and ankles. We were relieved to learn last week that Tom’s condition had stabilized. We just learned that Mary has successfully undergone skin grafts on her feet. And so it was a huge shock to learn that Tom died this past Sunday, one week following the explosion, from complications resulting from his severe burns. There are just no words…

We are just one of several boaters who quickly purchased and installed propane detectors before leaving for our summer cruise. We had one two boats ago that was always giving us false positives, and so we’ve relied on my nose. I never smelled propane that evening “next door” to us.

We checked through Canadian Customs yesterday and are now officially in the North Channel. It feels so good to be back here. Thing is, Tom and Mary were supposed to be here too. We looked forward to sharing an anchorage together, now that we’d gotten to know one another. It is all so heartbreakingly sad. Right now life feels so fragile, so very precious…


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