My bride and I visited Barbara Davis on Monday. We met her at Jasper’s restaurant in Ellsworth for a long lunch. Our conversation reminisced of days gone by, and as enjoyable as our visit was I battled melancholy and sadness throughout the entire day. Barbara is the widow of my good friend Aubrey.
Out of nowhere came the recollection of calling Butch Wheeler, our deacon chair at the time, and breaking into sobs as I told him of Aubrey’s death. Three days later I was in Maine conducting his funeral. Aubrey had pre-planned everything and had left a request that I sing, “When I Stand in the Presence of the Lord,” so I sang it a cappella. He died July 11, just over three years ago—one week before we were to visit him during our vacation.
Aubrey and I met shortly after I received a call to serve in a church plant in Ellsworth, Maine—twenty-seven years ago. I was painting the trim around the eaves of the church, and when I had reached as far as I could, I set the gallon of white paint on the top step of the stepladder, and proceeded to move it further down the roofline. Yeah, you know where this is going—the gallon of paint wobbled and fell, hitting me on the shoulder, and spilling down the entire length of my body. Just as Aubrey and his pal Neil were pulling into the parking lot!
Over the years at least part of every Shorey vacation was spent with the Davises’. Each time we arrived at their home Barbara would say to us, “Let’s make some memories!” And did we ever: We pulled lobster traps, and boiled the lobsters we caught on shore; we took long, unhurried jaunts around the beaver dam, and on to Partridge Cove; we hunted together (I shot my first deer with Aubrey); we worshiped together.
After the lunch we drove out to their home that is nestled on the rocky edge of Raccoon Cove—they call it Bittersweet. I helped Aubrey clear the house lot many years ago. As I came to the end of the driveway, Aubrey’s pickup truck was parked to my left. It looked lonely, and I wondered if it had been driven since he left us. Entering the house, I immediately went to the living room, and stood staring across the cove toward the rolling, mountainous horizon called “The sleeping giant.” Cadillac Mountain, the giant’s portly belly, beckoned memories of the many times Aubrey and I had sat in that same living room, gazing at the same vista, and talking—sometimes through an entire cycle of the tide. Today, the tide was out and all the water was gone. The cove looked like I felt—like someone had pulled its plug and drained it nearly dry. Moments came and went when I felt like all that missing salty brine was dammed up behind my eyes ready to spill out.
Barbara told us that Harry is doing fine. Harry is the bald eagle that Aubrey fed every morning. Harry once scooped up one of Barbara’s chickens, took it over to the bank, shelled it out, and ate it. Barbara was none to pleased, but she is a very forgiving soul. In spite of Harry’s transgression she still feeds him.
Around five in the afternoon, Sandy and I began a quiet journey back to our cabin on the river. After we had driven a while we revisited the different trails our conversations we had taken during the day. It seemed to ease the void left by Aubrey’s passing.
Also . . .
Bailey took his first kayak ride—slightly against his will. After a few minutes he settled in as we lazily drifted the river. Comfortable and confident he decided he would try to stand on the very small and very slippery bow of the kayak . . . splash! O yes, in two seconds he slid off and was in the water (of course he waited until we were in a stretch where the current was swift). I paddled down river below him, grabbed him by his collar, and hauled him in as he came by me.
Another idyllic, late summer day is behind us. By morning the temperature will drop to the mid-forties. The lunar light glares amid the blackened night sky. Recent and abundant rains have raised the river’s volume—its melodic tune is soothing, spiritual, and endless.
I had a little incident on my bike. I’ll tell it to you in rhyme.
I’ll Ride Again!
I jumped on my bike and was pedaling south.
When an angry hornet flew in my mouth.
In seconds my jaw was a swollen lump.
I looked like Bubba on Forest Gump.
I turned back north, now it’s all up hill,
In a desperate search for some benadryl.
Will lip and throat swell up and close?
And if it does can I breathe through my nose?
I didn’t die, so to God be the glory!
Enjoying the Adventure, signed William V. Shorey!