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 Post subject: HE DIED WELL
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2007 1:22 am 
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Being a small island, the passing of someone and the associated funerals tend to take on a more personal sphere. Often there is some (outside of the church) commenting and remembering. This is more “community” instead of the normal “personal” remembrances. It is at one of these (outside of the church) gatherings that I came across a conversation that interested me very much. Recently I decided to write about it but stretched and rearranged the situation enough to not be intrusive to such a private moment.

You also have to take into consideration that funerals on Aruba tend to take place on the hottest or most humid days of the year. Combine that with the unwritten custom that the deceased deserve the adult men wearing a suit – mostly a black one. In any event, as I remember it, funerals were sweaty for the ‘living’ that attended and rather comfortable for those that ‘passed’ since they get to ride and are always in shade and in relative comfort. At least this was my take on it – but then I wasn’t even 10 years old yet and had a way of oversimplifying things.

HE DIED WELL

He fished. Only a few years ago, all that he measured was related to fishing and the ocean and the shores and the weather and the fish. He was a fisherman and his family grieved his passing. The lines at the church were long and here and there groups of men wearing black suits with wet hanging ties stood in groups and as they lit cigarettes and talked about “Chen”. I was a kid and stood to the side. My long sleeved white shirt was painted to my body by the heat and I listened to the men. As I listened to them, I thought about seeing Chen at the seashore preparing to go out and most of all, remembered the one time that he and my father allowed me to go fishing with them. My passage for this event was that I had to make fish balls from ground fish bits and shore sand. They brought me thousands of these little fish that were all ground up and buckets of sand. I made baseball sized fish balls that would be used when the men were out at sea and – I was going to be with them.

On that day, before we left, Chen came over to inspect the fish balls that were now in a large bucket covered with an old wet towel. He lifted the towel and looked at my work and then said to me – “Nan a muri bon” They died well. With this – of course he meant that their lives had ended with a good purpose. Somehow I understood that.

The small fishing dingy set out with me sitting in the middle. I was hovering over my bucket and looking at my father in the front (looking at something on the horizon) and Chen in the back. Chen held the handle that came from the small motor that hung off the back of the dingy. I remember that it was a small black motor and that it puttered and that it was made by Johnson. I remember the long red hose that went from a gasoline tank, which sat inches from my foot, to the engine. We puttered and went out into blue water that threatened to become black, but never did – thank god. The puttering went on for a while and my father looked out at the ocean and then would swivel his head back to land. He did this over and over and would from time to time give Chen a hand signal for going to the right or the left. On that day, they were two fishermen and I was the kid that sat in the middle with balls of small fish that had “died well”. We slowed down and finally the small “puttering” from the engine ended. My father dropped a small anchor over the side and I watched a large ball of line disappear into the ocean as it followed the anchor.

My task was to drop these sand-fish balls over the side one at a time. Either Dad or Chen would signal when I should drop one and I (looking back on the day) did a splendid job. The fish-sand balls plopped into the water and followed the shafts of sun beams that disappeared into the black nothingness below. I became scared. Then the men dropped their hand lines over the sides. Each line had a large hook on it with a morsel of something fishy dangling on the hook. All of it disappeared into the nothingness below and I was scared. We sat a while and I looked for signals to drop more sand-fish balls but the signals never came. They were still and so was I. All that remained was the slapping sound of Blue-Black Ocean on the hull.

Finally Dad jerked his line and started to pull it in. You could see that there was something on it by the tightness of the line but it was a hanging-weight and not a fighting fish. Finally it came up and Dad swung it into the dingy. There it was – a nice sized fish that seemed to have given up at the onset of being hooked. Just gave up at the start I guess. Anyway, it was a fish. Chen looked at it and said “Ela muri por nada”. He died for no reason at all. With that, he meant that there was never a fight and that this fish had just given up. Then Chen jerked his line and immediately said, “Esaki ta bai muri bon” – This one will die well.

And so it went. When a fish fought, he died well. When he gave up, he died for no reason at all. It was how Chen measured the last moments of the fish’s lives. Finally, Chen jerked and it seemed as if the ocean jerked back and he fought a fish for a while. I remember that it seemed ‘personal’. There were no poles with lures or shiny things. This was sand-fish balls, hand-line, a hook, some bait and a personal struggle between two living things. It was a struggle for life and Chen won. This was to be the last fish for the day and was a big one.

We puttered back to the shore line and the ocean became light blue and then the small dingy hit the white shore sand. For that moment, “I was one of the men”. We all jumped out and pulled the dingy up on the sand further and then we recalled each fish and the way they had died. For me, this was an entirely new way to look at the lives of fish. In my life, as I grew from boy to man, I sometimes referred to this in my mind. Baseball teams would loose and – if they played well – they died well - etc, etc. It became a measurement. It was a fisherman’s measurement that could be applied to so much in life. I realized that life (for fish at least) is measured not by how you live but by how it is perceived that you died.

Not many months after that day, I heard that Chen died. I stood in my white shirt outside the church and listened to the men talking about Chen. It seemed that he had a reputation for the measurement of how fish died. It was talked about and the men at the funeral smiled as they recalled him saying – “Esaki a muri bon” – This one died well. I felt they wanted to laugh about this but did not do so out of respect for the moment. Probably Chen would have enjoyed the quip.

The funeral started to wind down and a few of the men stayed on to talk and smoke cigarettes – I went over to them. As they talked, I waited for an entrance to comment or ask a question but could not imagine what it would be. I just needed to say something. Finally there was a lull and I tugged on the coat sleeve of a friend of my father. I looked up and wrestled with my “something” that I felt I needed to say. Nothing came out and then from the side of the group, one of the guys said – “Drumi bon awe nochi– pasobra Chen a muri bon” Sleep well tonight because Chen died well.

I slept well


be well
charles


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2007 9:00 am 
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Great Story :!: :!: :!:

Thank you.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2007 9:37 am 
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That was a great story. Thanks for posting it...

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2007 9:58 am 
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Thanks for posting a great story.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2007 10:59 am 
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As always Charles, a great story.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2007 12:53 pm 
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Thanks for sharing!

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 Post subject: a touching story
PostPosted: Sat Dec 29, 2007 7:23 pm 
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Location: SC
This is the first time I've read your posts, and your writing is moving.

Thank you for sharing, and for putting a new vision of Aruban life out there. I feel more a part of the life there when I can find bits and pieces like these to remove me from my tourist role. I try with each place I go to step inside the daily life, to get to know the people of a place. Your story allowed me a brief glimpse into such a life.

Thank you for sharing it.
L.

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It is what it is...deal with it! Balashi helps!


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 Post subject: Re: HE DIED WELL
PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2008 11:29 pm 
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Charles, your stories are always poetry! This one was especially poignant....hope to meet you one day!

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 Post subject: Re: HE DIED WELL
PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2008 8:46 am 
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Gracias great story.

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