Last One Standing

Over the last few years I have seen many come and go. I have stood on the dock of which ever country we happen to be residing in and I have waved; waved off buses, land rovers and coaches: Waved off orphans, surgeons and accountants, VIP’s, engineers and a small Chinese woman who will one day change the world.

I have said goodbye to single people, couples and families and sometimes 50 people at a time. This ship community is a revolving door of activity and of course there are some people who you will gladly carry their luggage so that they leave more promptly, but there are also people that leave and leave you a little empty. I’ve come to love and hate goodbyes. That feeling when you are standing on the dock, tears rolling down your face is not my favourite but I also feel blessed to know that I have friends all over the world worth crying about.

It is also not easy to leave the ship, I get that, but I would argue it is worse to be the one left behind. You organise leaving dos, meals out, write cards, organise gifts and make sure you spend time with those you may not see for a long time. Then they leave, you walk down the gangway have a final hug, cry, wave, wave, cry and then walk back up that gangway and carry on life without them. Back to reports, to patients and their attention requiring dressings, back to that to do list that you’ve neglected so that you can give a good send off. But you do it all with a small amount of loneliness.

I have been left standing on that dock countless times and yesterday may have been my last. I was not really looking forward to it to be honest. Three wonderful people left to prepare the way in Cameroon, our next port of call. They will embark on a massive adventure, one that takes them to many cities, many offices and before many important men in suits that exude aftershave. They’ll work their socks off and most of the community will have no idea the lengths they’ll go to make this work. They will be underappreciated and at times frustrated. They serve this ship, organisation and their God in a different way. Not holding small malnourished babies with cleft lips that will get many likes on social media but buried under protocols, license plates, customs officials and the general messiness of paving the way for a 152ft ship with 45o crew who carry out 2500 surgeries in 10 months.

They are three of my closest friends on board and to say goodbye was hard, I was once again left standing with tears streaming down my face as another landrover pulled off. Luckily Bowie was there to give me a hug.

I’m looking forward to being the one that leaves in two weeks’ time and not being the one on the dock, but next time you are the one on the dock…. find someone to hug and remember that you are blessed to have friends worth crying about, be kind to yourself, have a cup of tea and take time out if you need to.

Image: my ship alphabet collage

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