A re­mas­tered icon of the sea in­spires a re­mas­tered life af­ter a life-chang­ing loss

ZOOMER Magazine - - CON­TENTS - By Toby Saltz­man

Life Ahoy! Re­mas­ter­ing life af­ter a life-chang­ing loss

WHEN YOUR WORLD feels gone, the love of your life lost, is it pos­si­ble that – by re­turn­ing to scenes of joy­ous mem­o­ries – you can re­vi­tal­ize or re­mas­ter your spir­its as, say, a ship re­mas­ters style and sea­wor­thi­ness for a live­lier course? This sen­ti­ment in mind, I lin­gered on deck as the Queen Mary 2 sailed past New York City. Stand­ing along­side cheery pas­sen­gers jostling to pho­to­graph the last fringe of west­ern land slip­ping from view, the sense of be­ing alone in a crowd con­jured waves of jux­ta­pos­ing emo­tions.

Cer­tainly, I was de­lighted to be sail­ing aboard the newly re­mas­tered ves­sel. Who wouldn’t be? The ro­man­tic ca­chet of a transat­lantic cross­ing on the re­gal Queen Mary 2 – the world’s iconic ocean liner – tran­scends that of any ship on the high seas. Yet, my heart felt tinged by sad­ness as I found my­self rem­i­nisc­ing how my late hus­band, Ken, and I had rev­elled in the lux­ury of time to­gether on two pre­vi­ous cross­ings: first on the Queen El­iz­a­beth 2, last on the then newly launched Queen Mary 2. Now – af­ter hav­ing men­tally nav­i­gated through myr­iad feel­ings just to com­mit to sail­ing solo for seven days – I hoped this voy­age would buoy up my verve for life, in­spire mind­ful heal­ing and al­low me to lit­er­ally cast my sad­ness out to sea. As the ma­jes­tic bow pointed to open wa­ter, I felt op­ti­mism fly­ing on the breeze.

Tak­ing a deep breath, as if to pro­pel my­self for­ward, I left the deck and pro­ceeded to ex­plore the QM2’ s vast in­te­rior. Pass­ing pas­sen­gers who seemed en­thralled by the Grand Lobby’s el­e­gant Art Deco details, my eyes grav­i­tated from cou­ples to those walk­ing alone. I found my­self won­der­ing about their mo­ti­va­tions for sail­ing: were they on a joy­ous jaunt, per­haps knock­ing QM2 off their list of dream ex­pe­ri­ences? Or were they, like me, sail­ing to muster in­ner strength to in­duce up­lift­ing spir­its that would ul­ti­mately rebel against sad­ness? Never mind, I thought pos­i­tively: it’s my mo­ti­va­tion that mat­ters. By re­treat­ing to an in­su­lar world af­ter Ken’s pass­ing, I’d wrapped my­self in a moody man­tle of lone­li­ness that I’d rarely al­lowed even good friends to pen­e­trate. Now I needed to – wanted to! – step out of my per­sonal dark­ness and re-en­ter the light.

That af­ter­noon, an ar­chi­tec­tural tour of the ship in­spired my new de­sire to so­cial­ize. Fol­low­ing the guide through a wide in­door prom­e­nade lined with art­fully sculpted pan­els, I ar­rived at a lounge that was so invit­ing, it shed any fear of be­ing sin­gle among cou­ples. Ad­mit­tedly, though I’ve trav­elled the world on my own, I had al­ways shied away from bars. Yet, the Cham­pagne Bar – flanked by two pedestals bear­ing exquisite Lalique vases and dec­o­rated with black-and-white paint­ings of famed pas­sen­gers – beck­oned me to re­turn later to try min­gling over flutes of bub­bly.

Be­fore din­ner, I seated my­self on a sofa when an el­e­gant lady joined me. Within min­utes, I learned that she has homes in Ja­maica and Scotland, and she “al­ways sails Queen Mary 2 be­tween New York and Southamp­ton be­cause it’s more fun and more glam­orous than fly­ing ... and more eco­nom­i­cal, too.” Then in her soft Scot­tish voice, she said, “I no­ticed you on the ar­chi­tec­tural tour. Are you sail­ing

alone?” Though I’m typ­i­cally pri­vate with strangers, I sur­prised my­self by open­ing up. “Yes, I’m a widow. I wanted to re­peat this voy­age that I en­joyed with my late hus­band.”

“Ahh, I know what you mean,” she con­tin­ued, ex­plain­ing that she was wid­owed 12 years ago, had “loved the ac­tive life” with her hus­band, and it had “taken time to get over feel­ing lonely.” We soon re­al­ized our sim­i­lar in­ter­ests in books, art, jazz and opera and grate­ful­ness for sup­port­ive fam­i­lies at home. If spon­ta­neous friend­ship can be “meant to be,” she ex­uded the warmth of a kin­dred spirit and spurred hope­ful­ness for the fu­ture. By the end of the cruise, we’d grown quite friendly, and she’d be­come my lively part­ner at bridge lessons, though her skill far ex­ceeded mine.

Af­ter din­ner that evening, walk­ing to my state­room be­hind cou­ples hold­ing hands, I couldn’t help notic­ing how one man’s hand slipped around his part­ner’s waist and into an em­brace. So lovely, so ro­man­ti­cally en­twined. I re­minded my­self there’s no dwelling on pangs of lone­li­ness: I was here to men­tally sail for­ward. Alone in my room, I lin­gered on my bal­cony, gaz­ing out at the in­digo swath of sea and sky. Maybe it was the stars or the starry re­flec­tions dancing over the waves or thoughts of my an­gel above that in­duced a light-hearted aura. Some­how, by grace of the mo­ment, I re­al­ized that I fi­nally felt alive, even con­tent. In­hal­ing a re­vi­tal­iz­ing breath of sea air, I left the bal­cony and tucked into bed.

Awak­en­ing to a glo­ri­ous sun­rise at dawn the next morn­ing, I planned my week over a sump­tu­ous room ser­vice break­fast. Perus­ing QM2’ s op­tions, I re­called my man­date to be so­cial and mus­tered my courage to at­tend that morn­ing’s “solo pas­sen­ger” event. Though every­one in the room was friendly – easy af­ter im­bib­ing flutes of Cham­pagne and orange juice – I felt to­tally out of my el­e­ment when in­tro­duced to the “gen­tle­men hosts” and “lady hosts” who would be avail­able as part­ners for the pre- and post-din­ner dances, as well as lessons that promised to fi­nesse Latin, ball­room, salsa and jive steps. See­ing the other pas­sen­gers’ ea­ger­ness to meet, I re­al­ized that – much as I love to dance – my mind wasn’t yet men­tally tuned to dancing in an­other man’s arms.

Never mind. I was more in­tent on cul­ti­vat­ing a well­ness habit with mind­ful in­ter­ludes to men­tally detox and re­ju­ve­nate my soul. I headed for a brisk walk around the out­door Prom­e­nade Deck, then in­dulged in the ther­a­peu­tic waters of QM2’ s Canyon Ranch Spa-Club. Sit­ting un­der the aqua ther­apy cen­tre’s sen­sory shower, I felt my mus­cles re­lax. As I moved about the ther­apy pool, the course of wa­ter­falls, jet bursts and mas­sag­ing foun­tains soothed my back, neck and limbs. Loung­ing in the calm­ing realm of the spa, my mind drifted into a re­flec­tive state of rem­i­nis­cence, this time over the life my hus­band and I had shared, the joys of be­ing with our lov­ing fam­ily, the in­cred­i­bly ex­otic ad­ven- tures we’d ex­pe­ri­enced around the world. Some­how, the melan­choly th­ese mem­o­ries would have pre­vi­ously evoked evap­o­rated. In­stead, I felt grat­i­tude that we’d been blessed to have had a life well-lived and – with that – peace of mind for fi­nal-

ly re­al­iz­ing that there’s no rea­son to feel guilty for sur­viv­ing.

On the evening of the sig­na­ture Black-and-White Ball, I stood on the side­lines, the mu­sic trans­port­ing me back in time to ro­man­tic dances with my beloved. Ad­mir­ing cou­ples twirling arm in arm, I won­dered if I’d ever feel like dancing again.

Yet, as the ship’s cap­tain de­scribed her as a strong, stable ocean liner ca­pa­ble of nav­i­gat­ing the rough­est waters, I ap­pre­ci­ated my in­ner strength for sur­viv­ing my own.

By the time I dis­em­barked in Southamp­ton, I knew that sail­ing the Queen Mary 2 solo eclipsed my sad­ness. Feel­ing lib­er­ated, I headed to One Ald­wych, my favourite bou­tique ho­tel in Lon­don’s West End where live theatre and Covent Gar­den are just out­side the door. Ken and I al­ways saw the shows, usu­ally lin­ing up for tick­ets and some­how man­ag­ing to score great seats. Our favourite gallery, The Cour­tauld, was now also just across the street, hav­ing moved its Im­pres­sion­ist col­lec­tion to Somerset House since our last visit to Lon­don to­gether. Though I an­tic­i­pated that just be­ing in the city would un­leash tor­rents of mem­o­ries, I knew that my re­mas­tered mind could fondly deal with them.

The au­thor with her hus­band, Ken, aboard the QM2 on their last At­lantic cross­ing. Below: flash­back to 1977

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.