Day 39: Fernand Brault

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(Note:  I met Fernand Brault 4 years ago as he surveyed a small piece of land near the home we’d just built in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador.  I liked him from the first moment and knew he was a good man.  We’ve been neighbors ever since.)

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Dear Fern,

At this point, I’ve been around long enough to know the difference between romantic notions of friends in far-a-way places and genuine friendship. If you were only a friend, that would be good enough for me.

I hope you do not mind if I think of you as just a bit more.

As we grow older we reflect on certain things about life. What if I had done this? What if I’d worked harder at that? A turn or twist of fate here or there could’ve made all the difference. Who knows?

screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-10-32-41-amMy childhood was good with two parents who made me their priority without question, but I never knew what most people experience with the relationships of brothers and sisters. When I am with you, it is much like the experience of how I imagine a big brother. If there had been a brother in my life, I would have wanted him to be like you.

You are a man of the world, kindhearted, passionate, demanding more of yourself than from others. It is such a pleasure in these dubious times to enjoy relationships with men of integrity and honor. Do the right thing, your mantra in a nutshell. That’s good enough for me.

I suppose the first kinship I felt with you was the day we drove you to the Jipijapa bus station as you and Frede departed for Montreal to attend the business of selling property and other details that would allow your residency here full-time. We were scrambling here and there, getting things done shutting down your property, and as we drove away, you wept.

And I understood every tear.

For someone who does not know what we feel, it is difficult (impossible) to describe, but I shared in your tears because I understood.

Thank you for the privilege of sharing the story about that bold adventure when you sailed solo from Montreal to the Bahamas and back. There is nothing I admire more than a man who sets sail for the unknown, a quest for life itself. Herman Melville once wrote:

“As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.”

Ah, the torment of forbidden seas. We share the agony indeed, my friend. I feel your pain.

When I finished my first camino across Spain two years ago, there was a period of adjustment that followed, not depression in the purest sense, but a time of sadness and melancholy nonetheless. As I finish up the book project about the experience, that sadness is the topic of a final chapter I intended to call Camino Blues. But your story has changed that title.

You shared with me the feeling of the Empty Space that ran through your soul as you passed Virginia en route back to Montreal and as your adventure neared its end. So profound, that understanding of the Empty Space. I hope you won’t mind that I “borrow” your creative thought as a new title for the chapter.

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It is a mixed bag of emotions as I leave today.  I will miss the sunsets, the cold drinks and good conversations, passing time in my back yard listening to the birds and watering the plants, and the good laughs we share.

But as much as anything, my friend, I think I will miss you. In so many ways I believe we were created for relationships, for fellowship, for breaking bread together and serving one another. There have been few greater gifts in my life than the pleasure of knowing you.

I pray for the greatest blessings in your life.

Vaya con Dios.  Until we meet again …

Signed … One who would stick as close as a brother,

Steve

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