Aboard my boat “Lily,” we take folks on eco-tours up the Apalachicola River into the pristine 246,000-acre estuarine reserve on average of some 125 times a year. We’ve operated for 13 years. My license allows us to take six folks so let’s say we average three folks per cruise. If you multiply that out, that’s a total of 4,875 folks, give or take.
It’s amazing, some folks I can’t remember two days later, but every now and then one will come along and we end up being good friends even if we were only together one day.
One of those is Lawrence Killingsworth who went with us Jan. 25, 2018. We were together on that one cruise but we stayed in touch often through the years. Lawrence was raised in Edison, Georgia, a small town in the southern part of the state, population 2,000. Growing up in the country we have a lot in common. Lawrence wrote a memoir about his days growing up in Georgia, entitled, “Scrapbook.”
A valedictorian of his high school, he graduated from Emory University with a degree in chemistry, served in the Army, and with a Ph.D. settled in Seattle and pursued a distinguished career in chemistry. Did I mention he was an accomplished sailor?
As a skilled woodworker, he crafted little birds and gave them away. Each one had its own name and character and its own secret compartment. I asked to buy one but Lawrence wouldn’t have it.
“All my birds are good listeners, they don’t eat much and I will make you one with navigational skills to help out aboard Lily,” came his reply.
Shortly, Liz arrived. Well, I really loved the little bird and looking at her gave me a special feeling. But there was something missing, Liz was lonely and wanted a friend so I told Lawrence. “Say hello to Ethel. She’s been wanting to move to Florida. Don’t forget to check her secret compartment.” I opened Ethel’s secret compartment and lo and behold she had brought a little packet of bird seed for Liz.
I once wrote an article “Into the Gloaming” accompanied by one of Lane’s beautiful photographs. Lawrence read it and wrote to me “I intend to use Lane’s photo, along with your eloquent essay and display them together at my memorial ceremony — whenever that is. Together they present a beautiful picture of how the end of life should go. I’m pretty sure my traveling days are over. If I could travel anywhere, the Forgotten Coast and your river cruise would be at the top of my list. I have traveled extensively all over the world over the years, though, and I can tell you the trip to Apalachicola was one of the best experiences I ever had. I am hoping you and others can preserve the unique charm of your part of the world. So, precious.”
Lawrence untimely crossed the River Jordan Aug. 22. I will always remember him and cherish Liz and Ethel, they are members of our family. We all have a secret compartment within us, a place where we hold things dear, a place where we hold love.
Into The Gloaming
That light, just before twilight, a time of calm and peace, just before the day slips away.
Lane, in her photography is always in the search of that perfect light, elusive, but sometimes almost there.
We have a little court yard with a fire pit in the middle of Apalch, a secluded oasis, a secret garden, solitude. Tonight, as I watched the flickering flames of the fire subside into a marvelous glow, I turned out the lights and looked up at the stars and the moon. I lived through a war, business, political life, so many obligations, so many commitments, so many disappointments, yet with much happiness and love.
And, now all of those things have faded away.
All that is left is love. I thank God that he let me live to be in the gloaming of life, with Lane and family and friends, and peace.
The gloaming, the perfect light, the glow of love; I love the gloaming.