Tuesday, November 30, 2010
What a Way to Go
One of the cruise ship stories I'm always telling is about a passenger who had a stroke and didn't survive. It was in the evening, and we were at sea, hours away from our next port-of-arrival for the following morning.
It happened on Big Band night. In our hybrid jobs as dancers and assistant cruise directors, part of our obligatory duties was to dance with the women passengers, just the boys ("drag a bag" was the nickname for that particular duty). The girls had to be there, too, but they weren't required to dance with male passengers unless they wanted to. There were always more women without dance partners than men on board.
Big Band night was usually fun. I enjoyed the 40's boogie-woogie tunes, and I faked my way through swing dancing pretty well. In between songs played by a small combo of musicians, the Cruise Director would ask trivia questions about famous names from that era, usually bandleaders such as Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman.
The older-but-still-youthful passenger who was unknowingly spending the last night of his life answered one of the trivia questions correctly. Dressed in a natty suit and tie, he was perspiring from his own agile dancing, and he was more than happy to accept the chilled bottle of champagne as his prize. We watched as he walked off of the show lounge stage, the spotlight following him to his seat.
He collapsed upon reaching his chair. The ship's doctor was there almost immediately, and the gentleman was carried out of the show lounge on a stretcher, his wife following behind with one of the ship's officers as her escort.
We learned later that same evening that he didn't make it.
We were a little spooked: we knew that ship's morgue was on the deck right above us, above our crew cabins. The body would not be taken off of the ship until we reached port the next morning. Before going to sleep we started talking about ghosts and haunted ships with the Fitness Director and Social Hostess.
Judy, the Children's Hostess, had the best perspective of the situation. "If I were to go, I would want to go like that," she had informed us.
"Sure! He was on a cruise ship vacation, enjoying a night of dancing, and he had just won a bottle of champagne for knowing the right answer. What a great way to spend the last few hours of your life. That's better than just plain dying at home."
It was a little shocking to me, at the time, but I have often thought of Judy's take on that passenger's death.
And she's right. If I am to unexpectedly meet my demise at any moment, then I want to make damn sure that I have taken advantage of every golden opportunity available, on any given day.
I want to make sure that I have danced to favorite music at home, or even in my office. I want to have laughed heartily with friends. I want to have cherished the pets in our home. And I want to have looked at Domestic Partner when he gets out of bed in the morning before I do, and realize how lucky I am to be with him.
I hope I live for a few more decades, but if my life were to end tonight I would be grateful for the many good times and for the memories made.