I remember some people leaving, and at lunch time, everyone in the dining hall sang.
(I think we sang, ‘Auld Lang Syne?’)
I remember feeling like my heart was exploding.
(You can watch some video excerpts of good-bye moments with people here starting from 14:19).
Every week, people came, people went.
Every week, the people whose hearts they had wiggled their way into would assemble on the dock early in the morning (this was when the transport left) to wave them off.
This is an excerpt (edited) from my diary about one of my Goodbyes on the Africa Mercy:
‘It’s a beautiful thing to watch all of us assemble. We don’t talk about it. We know what the drill is; what to do. Sleepy, mostly silent, we line up all along the dock. After the luggage gets carried down the gangway, often with the help of a friend, the precious little seconds of hugging begin; this is our closure.
The car begins to move.
They wave back.
It’s one of the most terrible, but beautiful and hopeful, moments of the Africa Mercy.
Long after the people in the car aren’t able to see us anymore, some people keep waving.
This practice happens regularly on our dock – our own type of funeral.
But we hold funerals for phoenixes, for we are also watching births into new lives.
I love the tradition. There is significance in it …
We all trickle back up the gangway.’
At the end of the field service, there was a mass exodus. I was one of those left behind. I remember walking around the night before, seeing all the goodbye notes dotting the doors, paper trails of friendship. People can’t carry everything back home with them, so (diary excerpt): ‘People’s stuff outside doors, then suddenly disappear (from the same spot I saw at least two disappear xD) We who are left behind – scavengers 😛 ! Girls … keep popping into room offering me free stuff xD’
The goodbye in the morning was Something Else.
Diary excerpt (edited slightly):
(You can watch the small part that I video’d on my device here – it starts at 15:06)
‘Saying goodbye to everyone.
People waking up (going through the discomfort of early wake up on Saturday. I don’t know what’s worse – people leaving or having to wake up so darn early on a Saturday for people leaving lol) for other people, the mass of tears, the hysteria, the cards with people’s names scribbled on them clutched tightly in people’s hands, the emotion, the hugging …
The honking of the ship horn during the slow exit of the buses – poignant, fitting touch – made it an occasion – it recognised the significance of the moment – the beauty and the pain did not sail by unnoticed. It was heralded, these seconds of humanness …
The multitude of people waving, some near the end of the line touching hands with people on the buses as they rolled slowly away –
The image of an arm waving is beautiful to me; it signifies connection and love.
You meant something to me, I meant something you, we acknowledge that.
It felt like I was watching a funeral – but one with large hope.
The Aftermath: ghost ship.
I go back to sleep.’
Goodbye Dear Day Crew.
We held a celebration to pay tribute to our day crew (Mercy Ships hires people from the host country to work onboard during each field service) at the end of the field service.
(You can watch several seconds of the part i video’d here starting at 12:20).
Excerpt from a message:
‘… It is possible for one’s heart to hurt with joy. I witnessed beauty in an undiluted, unadulterated form today. My heart was so full that I couldn’t stop tears from falling. Today, we celebrated our day crew … We were asked to describe our day crew in a word. Mine was, ‘Friend.’ After seeing the dances/songs/presentations that they performed, my other word is, ‘Flow.’ There was so much NATURAL FLOW in the room, the music combined with JOY combined with laughter and celebrating-achieving-something-awesome-and-bigger-than-ourselves-together combined with Togetherness/comraderie combined with shared successes and hurts just FLOWED through their bodies as dances (some of them – to me, it was as if they could not not dance!) that were alive, alive, alive! My heart was full, full, full! I felt so privileged to be allowed to stand in the flood of this moment. And later they named some of the day crew who were exceptional, and waxed eloquent on why they were exceptional … these people of calibre keep inspiring me to aim to be a person of calibre/value. ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’ – Galatians 6:9’
Diary excerpt (edited): ‘These people inspire me to be better … Fond of so many of them – e.g. Angenickel who used to place stickers all over my face, Nate with the different hairstyles (caregivers got to him) and nail colours (patients got to him) … Claudia who is the embodiment of compassion and delight with everyone around her and doesn’t realise how damn beautiful she is … Franko who was excellent at all he did including vacuuming and receptioning and dressed so much better than me (although everyone dressed so much better than me), all those translators (benny, le bien, all the night time ones who used to tease me about staying up late) … (And of course, Tsoa and Sergio ❤ My very own comms team day crew. Everytime I hear Wiz Khalifa’s ‘See You Again,’ I think of them – it was our friendship song <3)
‘There were many tears today – lots of sadness because day crew leaving – means end of something good – it meant something.
Sat with two girls crying.
One girl, ‘They were speaking words of life to me …. It was beautiful.’
Another girl, ‘They had so much to give.’
These were high-quality day crew – a beautiful people
Laughing about Gerard dancing with no shirt – he had been waiting to rip it off haha.’