Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Burial of Kelvin and Maud...

Sunday: First of all, why me? Why come up to me and ask this? Is it because I am the new guy? Was I destined to do this? Did the universe know this and then chose me to be the first to do this? The answers are all Yes. I swear to you, as I am sitting here right now, the answers are all Yes.

When my boss Joel came up to me tonight as I stood there in my tuxedo by my backdrop, he asked me "Mike, do you want to photograph something special tomorrow?". Being keen on "First impressions are everything" I said "Yes....but what is it?"...something that has never done before.....then he told me: "There is a request by the family to photograph a burial at sea".

I immediately took an indescribable honor to what I had just heard, although I hate to admit that I still joined in on the jokes at the crewbar later on. "Wait! Squeeze in around the urn folks! now smiiiiiiiiiile!" the laughter stopped (at least for me) when it actually hit me: there is a corpse on this ship. My ship. Less than one month into my first contract and I am acting as if its MY ship, yet I laugh at the jokes. Then something else hit me: Sure, there is a corpse on this ship, but there are people here grieving. This isn't a vacation for them. This is a mission. Thats why they are here, no other reason but to bring a loved ones last wish to truth. And I will be there. And I DO take it to heart. And I am honored. Deeply.

Monday: How exactly do you photograph a funeral again? I figured I wasnt really supposed to get amazing angles or anything like that, they just wanted someone to document it, and so I did. Plain and simple. Oh, I also had a feeling the funeral was for a man. Well its not. I soon saw the photo of a woman that could have easily been my grandma's twin. And now, there this woman was, her ashes divided up into three little blue boxes, one for each of her children. The captain of the ship, Stefano Rivera, gave a few words and spoke from the bible, and then stood at attention while the ashes were emptied into the sea.

At the Gallery a few hours later, I was feeling kinda empty, almost like I knew this woman and was grieving as well. I am not afraid to admit that when the ashes were spread, and some people started to cry, I was among them crying too. One of the gentlemen looked up at me and smiled through his own tears. These are people that I have only known a week, and have seen them many times on the ship, but now I almost felt like family. Having said that, when one of the gentlemen came into the gallery later on, I had to ask for the woman's name. "Maud Nielson". I told him that the service was lovely, but I was under the impression that it was for a man until I saw Maud's photo.

"It was, Michael. Her Husband, Kelvin, died twenty years prior and was cremated. Maud and Kelvin had promised each other to be buried at sea together, and so she held onto his ashes for twenty years so that they could forever be together"

Life is a fragile thing, but True Love always holds it together.


Heather in Beautiful British Columbia said...

That was very touching Mike. What unique adventures you have - and wonderful you are documenting them to share with us! I'm eagerly awaiting each post....Heather

Michael Wachniak said...

Thanks there kiddo! Greetings from Melaka Malaysia by the way! Now i gotta run! ciao!