Paperwork overload...How does everyone do it?...

This is my boy, Little.  How does a human being fall in love with a pig?
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
A young male kudu and Little are watching the mongoose eat some meat we tossed out.  Kudus and warthogs are herbivores, although warthogs will go after a bone now and then, mainly for the nutrients in the bone marrow.
This morning I received an email from Jury Duty in Clark County Court in Nevada.  I’d written an appropriate letter explaining my recent surgery and that I couldn’t leave South Africa in time to meet the April 15th call to jury duty.  

In most cases, being out of the country is sufficient cause for dismissal. Apparently, I needed better proof than my sworn statement. What’s the purpose of a sworn statement if they don’t believe you?

This morning I sent them two letters from the cardiologist, hoping this will suffice.  If it doesn’t, a warrant will be issued for my arrest.  Gee…would I have had to die in order to be excused?
Young kudus in the garden.
With a problem with the connection with our two-year-old portable scanner, it took me no less than 30 minutes to get the letters scanned and sent by email. What if I didn’t have a scanner and was housebound for medical reasons?  

Not everyone has someone who can help them with such tasks.  Of course, we’re fortunate to have access to technology that can expedite such a situation, even with its current technical difficulties.

Paperwork slays me.  There’s no escaping it, is there?  I often wonder how folks who don’t speak English, seniors with dementia or other medical issues can complete all the paperwork required in their daily lives. 
When the pellets were gone, they trotted off.  Kudus tend to leave when there's nothing left to eat while others can hang around for a while, especially warthogs, who are patient and know someone else will be coming soon and more pellets will be tossed.
Next, as soon as the insurance company pays the hospital bill, supposedly, at the end of this month, I have to get to work to complete complicated forms and scan more documents in order to submit a claim for reimbursement from the insurance company for the angiogram part of the hospital bill.  

We paid the angiogram bill out of pocket on February 7th which was a separate claim from the bypass surgery, transpiring five days apart.  

We’re waiting to submit the claim after they pay the bigger bill of approximately ZAR 770000 (US $53,551) at the end of the month.  The angiogram bill which we paid in full was for ZAR 80000 (US $5562) for which we are responsible for a co-pay of ZAR 228743 (US$2000) for the co-pay.  
These baby kudus were born this season.
Thus, we’re hoping to get back the difference after the co-pay.  We’ll see how that works out.  Of course, now the insurance company has doubled our rate to continue insuring us.  Today, we’ll know if they are going to exclude any possible heart-related incidents in the future.

Then, at the end of January, we asked our bank to mail us, via Fed Ex International (not US Postal Service), our new debit cards which will expire on March 31st.  They were expected to be here no later than the middle of March.  

Alas, we called the bank to discover they weren’t sent, as promised by Fed Ex International (which we would have received in a maximum of 10 days since the shipment date) but instead were sent by US Postal Service which we specifically stated wouldn’t work here in South Africa.  
Check out the tiny babies in this band of mongoose.
After spending over an hour on the phone with the bank, finally, they canceled the cards that hadn't arrived and issued two new cards to arrive as requested.  We should receive them by April 6th.  We’ll see how that goes.  As of March 31st, we won’t have a working debit card between us.  Mine expired at the end of February.   
Next, as soon as the insurance company pays the hospital bill we have to return the funds we borrowed from ourselves from our retirement plan to pay the hospital bill if they didn’t come through.  

We have to return that money to the fund in 60 days from the original withdrawal date to avoid paying taxes on the amount.  Oh, good grief.  It’s not as easy as sending them a check.  More paperwork is required.  Tom will handle this.
We've had zebras stop by almost every day.  They are definitely in the "eat and run" category.
Then, before too long, I’ll need to get our taxes ready for the accountant. We'll have to file an extension this time.  I don’t feel up to doing the tax stuff right now.

The list goes on and on.  We always say, “You can run but you can’t hide.”  If we were living under a palm tree on a desert island weaving baskets, we’d still have paperwork to do!

May you have a paperwork-free day!                                                                                                

Photo from one year ago today, March 26, 2018:

Tom calls them Guinea Hens, making me laugh.  They cluck a bit like a combination of turkeys and chickens.  For more photos, please click here.

Trying to get back into the groove...

This forkl of kudus consisted of three boys and two girls.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
Two Big Daddies sharing celery tops and pellets.
It would be nice if we could head out in air-conditioned comfort in search of wildlife along the Crocodile River.  At this point, I can't imagine bouncing around in the little red car on the outrageously bumpy roads for any length of time.  

The few trips we've embarked upon only required a few minutes on the bad dirt roads as I held a pillow close to my chest. Any more than that would be difficult to take. "They" (whoever they are) say the breastbone fuses and heals in six to eight weeks.  

Tomorrow will be six weeks since the dreadful surgery and although I don't have chronic pain in my chest, each time I reach for something I feel a sudden burst of pain.  It's definitely not totally healed and for now, it feels as if it could be months in order to be free from discomfort.
Such a handsome kudu bull.
If my legs were totally healed I could declare I am feeling pretty good overall although most task I perform wear me out.  Also, I can't seem to stand on my feet for very long, hoping this will improve over time.

This morning Tom and I got to work preparing dinner to last for the next three nights, one of our favorite dishes, Low Carb Chicken Pot Pie with an Almond Flour Crust.  We both were feeling like some "comfort food" even with the heat and humidity we're continuing to experience.  

Fall began four days ago and with it, we're hoping it will soon cool down.  Lately, the humidity has been impossible, especially with all the rain.  The many power outages add to the discomfort level when we can't use a fan in the lounge or aircon in the bedroom.
It's not unusual to see a few Big Daddies behaving as close "friends."  We see this in many species.
This morning Linda sent me a letter Eskom posted today stating there won't be any outages this week.  That will be nice if they follow through which seldom occurs.  Next week will be another matter.

This week we'll continue to focus on my recovery with no major plans on the horizon.  On Friday, we return to Nelspruit for the second post-op appointment with the cardiac thoracic surgeon.  On April 8th we return to meet with the cardiologist.

Tomorrow will be the last day I have to wear the compression stockings, a full six weeks after the surgery.  I feel confident my legs will heal better without the tightness of the stockings on the incisions, especially where the infections are close to my ankles.  The stockings irritate the wounds each step I take.

Without the stockings, I'm hoping to be able to increase the walking in order to return to the previous  40 minutes daily I'd worked up to prior to the infections setting in.   By this time next week, I plan to be able to begin escalating the walking time from 40 to 60 minutes a day.  Also, it will be easier to walk as the weather hopefully cools down a bit.

Once we get to Ireland in 47 days, I'll join a local fitness center which is the best environment for me to maintain a regular fitness program.  I've never enjoyed exercising from "home" (wherever that may be at this time in our lives).  There are no fitness centers within a 75-minute drive from Marloth Park.

Have a lovely Monday!
Photo from one year ago today, March 25, 2018:
At such a distance, it was difficult to get a clearer photo but we were none the less thrilled to get photos of this hippo.  For more details, please click here.

What???...Let nature take it course???...

Although a male, Fourth Babby's warts haven't fully developed.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
Four species in one photo; bushbuck, kudu, duiker and Fourth Baby.
There are two statements at the top of my list that are frequently used that I consider cringe-worthy.  They are:
  • Sorry for your loss (when a loved one passes away)
  • Let nature take its course (when an animal is injured or ill)
The "sorry for your loss" makes me want to scream.  It's become a "canned" comment for those who don't want to take a moment to express their empathy for the living with a more inventive phrase.  How about, "I so sorry to hear you lost dear Bill.  He was a wonderful man, we'll all miss."  Or, my heartfelt sympathies over you losing Mary.  This is truly a sorrowful time for you and all of her loved ones." 

As for "let nature takes its course," oh, good grief this is a tired and overused comment when one can't be vulnerable enough to express how a suffering animal makes us sad or feeling helpless.  Isn't it acceptable to say, "I wish we could do something to help there something we can do to help?"  And then, do it if possible.

He often sits in this goofy pose when eating pellets.  This was how we knew it was him.  The others kneel but don't set their butt down while eating.
Or perhaps, when circumstances are such where we cannot help the poor animal, "I am sad to see this creature suffering" or, "It breaks my heart to see any living being suffering."  No one in your presence will think less of you for these types of statements.

Almost every time we've been on a safari with others, we encounter one of the passengers in the vehicle saying, "Let nature take its course."  When seeing photos of injured animals on Facebook or other social media, some of which we've posted, invariably a viewer writes, "Let nature take its course."

Sure this statement is true.  Nature will take its course in due time or, the animal will recover.  Many wildlife species seem to be sturdy and are able to recover from serious injury.  We've seen warthogs bodies and faces so badly mauled, most likely from altercations with other warthogs, that we thought the wound would become infected and they'd eventually die.

Two weeks ago we spotted "Fourth Baby" alone in the garden.
But, alas a few months pass and they've begun to heal using mud and often maggots as a means of treatment.  How adaptable they are!  Us humans, left in the wild would hardly be resourceful enough to save ourselves if we didn't have survival training.

Would we say about a human who is injured or ill, "Let nature takes its  course?"  How would those around us think of us?  How would we think of our heartless selves if we freely and truly felt this way?"  Not much.

Recently, I've heard and read Marloth Park residents and visitors saying, in regard to kudus with obvious signs of tuberculosis, "Let nature take its course."

That is ridiculous!  TB is highly contagious and if not dealt with by means of medical treatment or euthanasia, eventually all the kudus and other species could die off in Marloth Park or even in massive Kruger National Park.  
None of the other mind sharing pellets with him.
Nature taking its course has resulted in entire species becoming extinct, let alone the entire eradication of species due to human intervention and blatant disregard for saving wildlife for future generations to appreciate and revere.

Recently, a little warthog, about six months old, was separated from its core group.  We referred to them as, "Mom and Babies" especially when verbally acknowledging them from our veranda using my irritating-to-some, animal-speak voice. 

A few weeks we noticed the Mom and Babies now consisted of only three babies, not the usual four.  They'd been coming here daily since the piglets were no more than a week old.  Easily, we've come to recognize the mom and the four little pigs.  Now there were only three.

Sadly, we speculated that the fourth piglet may have been run over by a car, fell under the prey of a dangerous cat that had entered Marloth Park or succumbed to an injury after being chased and injured in a fight with an adult warthog, usually an aggressive adult male such a "Basket" who is known to chase piglets when there's food around.

At six months, warthogs are weaned and fending for themselves for sustenance, although they may stay with the mom and the other piglets until she's ready to deliver her next litter. The siblings may remain together for extended periods until they are fully mature and begin their search for a mate to have a family of their own.

We've often seen mom warthogs with another adult female who perhaps is yet to find a mate of her own.  Often males hang together for extended periods, such as Mike and Joe and, Sigfreid and Roy, who've been together as pairs since we arrived over 13 months ago.  They may stay together for life which can be upwards of 15 years.
We're hoping that at some point he'll reunite with his family.
As for the missing fourth baby, a few weeks ago, he, by himself showed up in the yard.  We knew him right away.  After all, we'd been observing the five of them for over six months.  He knew how to ask for pellets and oddly, he was the only one of the four piglets that always ate lying down with his front legs tucked under in the usual warthog kneeling position when eating.

Did he get lost from his little family or did the mom send him on his way?  We'll never know for sure.  However, he now stops by every day and so does the mom and three babies but always, so far, at different times.  We're hoping to see them reunite at some point, especially if he'd been lost from the group.

So, now, this little guy fends for himself and hopefully acquired enough skill from the time he spent with his mother learning how to forage for food, dig for roots and plead with residents for a few pellets here and there.  In this case, we can say, "Let nature take its course" when we feel confident this little guy will figure it out on his own.

The question remains in the minds of many that humans are superior to animals.  But, after spending the majority of the past 13 plus months observing wildlife in our garden and in Kruger National Park, we've far surpassed this mentality.  

We all have a purpose and make a contribution to the world around us and we pray that understanding and compassion for all living beings supersedes all other perceptions of where we stand in the pecking order. 

We're all important.

Photo from one year ago today, March 24, 2018:
Waterbucks at the Crocodile River.   For more photos, please click here

Behind the eight ball...

Four species in this photo from far left to right: duiker, kudu, warthog and bushbuck, all sharing pellets harmoniously.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
Although the bushbucks would like to eat pellets, they stay out of the way of this warthog, who happens to be Little who is often quite willing to share with them.
By far, this is the least motivated I've felt to get things done since we began our world journey.  On six heart medications plus two (non-narcotic) pain medications, many of which slow me down, I am struggling to feel motivated to do the simplest of tasks.

Also, I can't comfortably sit at the table on the veranda for any length of time since my legs are still very painful and the chairs are too low for the table, resulting in the necessity of raising my arms to reach my computer's keyboard.

With the sternum yet to fully recover raising my arms and holding them in place is challenging even when using a fork to eat at that table.  But, each day all of these simple types of movements become a little easier and I'm looking forward to the future.

Two more bushbucks in the garden.
Looming in my mind right now is entering the countless receipts to be logged onto our spreadsheet, preparing tax information for our accountant in Nevada (most likely we'll file an extension), filing the insurance claim for reimbursement for the angiogram (we're waiting for the insurance company to pay the big claim the end of this month) and of course, our immigration status yet to be resolved.

Once we know the big hospital bill is paid by the end of the month, Tom will send the funds we "borrowed from our retirement plan" back to the financial company to ensure we don't have to pay tax on that amount.  

Also, Tom will continue to research flights and hotels for upcoming travel over the next six months.  I've left these tasks entirely up to him to complete.

Ms. Bushbuck and duiker getting along well.
In the interim, we have two upcoming trips to Nelspruit, one to see the surgeon next Friday and another for an appointment with the cardiologist the following week.  

There is some type of wire sticking out of my midriff from one of the two drainage tubes placed in this area during surgery.  This must be stitches yet to be removed.  Hopefully, the surgeon will repair this next Friday.  

I know its time to get these looming tasks done.  I must admit that every chore or task I take on right now takes all the strength and motivation I can muster.  I made a low carb coconut cake for my evening snack a few days ago and I thought about it all day until I was finally motivated to put the eight ingredients together and pour them into the pan. 
Female and male bushbuck snacking together in the garden. with a duiker by the cement pond.
I suppose this is to be expected five weeks after surgery especially considering this painful infection in my legs which has set me back a few weeks in my recovery.  I can honestly say if I didn't have the infection, I'd be feeling quite good.  Although, I imagine the lack of motivation is to be expected at this point.

It's funny how I have no trouble doing the daily posts with relative ease and commitment.  Taking photos is another matter and I expect once I can walk more easily, I won't hesitate to jump up for any photos ops.  Tom does what he can but, as we've noted in the past, his photo taking skills leave something to be desired although from time to time he produces some gems.

Tonight, we're going to Jabula.  I'm hesitant to go but we both need to get out, and this is the perfect place to do so.  We'll mingle with our friends who come and go throughout the evening and will enjoy another great meal, ribs, and rice for Tom and grilled chicken breasts with a big plate of cabbage and spinach for me.  
Young male bushbuck with budding horns.
I'm still not drinking wine and don't plan to do so anytime in the near future.  Not only have I lost my taste for it but it makes no sense when I'm taking all these medications.  I'm considering totally giving up on alcoholic beverages since I'm not convinced that red wine offers any benefit to heart patients.  I didn't drink alcohol for 20 years and it will be easy for me to forgo it in the future.

Next Tuesday I'll be able to stop wearing the compression stockings.  Without the constant pressure on the incisions from the stockings, I'm expecting my legs to heal more quickly.  

I've procrastinated enough this morning and now its time for me to do the walking around the house.  If my legs didn't hurt this would be easy and I'd be up to an hour by now.  But, it is what it is...and I'll do the best I can.

Have a pleasant weekend!
Photo from one year ago today, March 23, 2018:
Read our story of this amazing chimp rescue by an amazing woman from her book, "My Bane is Missy."  Gail and Missy in Liberia by the pool.  Please click here.

The big dilemma...

Mom and Three Babies...the fourth has been missing for almost two weeks but alas, he showed up by himself a few days ago.  We'd hoped he hang around long enough to reunite with his family but they left and he appeared about an hour later. 

"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
This is Basket.  He lost his right ear in a confrontation a few months ago.
As I speak to family members and friends on Skype, text or email, the question always comes up, "I've read the blog but how are you really doing?"  Its a tough question to answer.
No doubt, I don't want this online medium to be a whine-fest about my concerns, pain, and frustration after this dreadful but life-saving operation.  However, in our posts we always try to tell it like it is, resulting in an oxymoron; Mentally, emotionally? I'm OK.  Physically?  I'm not OK yet.

I am getting better, in bite-sized pieces.  Some patients say they have good days and bad days.  It's really not like that for me.  I have days I progress and days it stands still.  But, they are days.  And, I'm alive.

The concerns are many.  How do I eat now, do I go on a strict diet as espoused by the American Heart Association which statistically doesn't reap many benefits.  Or, shall I continue with my low carb, high fat, starch and sugar-free way of eating?

In a period of three months, this way of eating eliminated 30 years of excruciating pain generated by a hereditary spinal condition.  Had I not done this strict diet I'd be in a wheelchair by now, unable to walk, unable to move freely, spending lots of time in bed as my dear sister Susan (four years older than me) who suffers from the same spinal condition and has been lying in bed for 12 years or more.  That would have been me.

We'd never have left the US and traveled the world as we have for almost six and a half years, with hopes and dreams of more.  It was only months after the pain and inflammation subsided that we decided to "step outside the box" and travel for as long as we could.  

It's been a glorious situation and we long for more.  Is this all I get?  Am I greedy to want more?  Goodness is it wrong to want more happiness and fulfillment when we've worked so hard to achieve it?  This lifestyle in itself hasn't always been easy.

Kudus hanging out with Basket who was less aggressive than usual.
If I follow a low-fat diet, the pain will return and within months so will the quality of life bringing a rapid end to our travels and the lifestyle we so much love.

If I continue to eat low carb, high fat, moderate protein diet, will my arteries become clogged again in a few years?  The two doctors, the cardiologist, and the thoracic surgeon both said diet for me has little to do with what transpires in the future.  

They said the plaque developed over a period of 20 or 30 years, most of which I spent eating a very low-fat diet as espoused by the US government as healthy.  Even then, knowing my heredity, I was trying to avert the inevitable, as I'd watched family members suffer and die from heart disease, diabetes, and other inflammatory diseases. 

I "assumed" by staying slim and fit, I'd be exempt.  How wrong I was!  Before I began this way of eating in 2011, I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, only a short time away from taking medication.  

Once I began this way of eating within months, I was no longer pre-diabetic...there was no indication of any potential for type-two diabetes which ran rampant in my family.
Harmony in the garden on a sunny day.
My heart disease is not gone. It's a hereditary and ongoing illness. The pipes have been replaced but they can and most likely clog again in five, eight, ten years.  Would I have to go through this again when I'm in my late 70's or 80's?  Could I go through this again?  It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my entire life.

Science is unclear.  Studies are conflicting and many are skewed.  There's no clear answer.  Pain or heart attack, which do I choose?  Therein lies the oxymoron, the conflict, the frustration coupled with the uncertainty of the future.

But then, we're all uncertain of what the future holds, aren't we?  And I've recently spent the happiest six-plus years of my life.  Not everyone can single out a segment of time where they've been fulfilled, content, and in awe of the world around them.
As darkness fell, Mike and Joe stopped by with a few zebras and helmeted guineafowls.
The doctors here both told me my heart was very strong and healthy.  They even went as far of stating it is the heart of a 35-year-old and that my lifetime of exercising is why I am alive today when I had three of four arteries 100% blocked.  I was functioning at 25%.  My strong heart kept me going.  Thank you, my heart.  Thank you for saving me.

For all the criticism I received from family and friends that I exercised too often, too much, claiming I was obsessed, now proved to serve me well.  Why I didn't collapse from a heart attack during those years with blocked arteries, baffles me today.

So now?  Am I "telling it like it is?" Overall, the answer is yes although I must admit I've kept some of it to myself.  Seeing it in print sheds a whole new light on the reality of this dilemma the answers to which I'll continue to research until I'm satisfied the path is clear.

Heredity is a lot bigger part of our future than I'd ever imagined. In time and with advances in science solutions may become more clear.  For now, in part, its speculation and a guessing game.  

May we all come out as winners.
Photo from one year ago today, March 22, 2018:
This morning, in the rain, nine zebras stopped by for a visit and some snacks.  It was delightful to see them a second time in our yard although it wasn't the same "dazzle" of zebras as the last time.  For more photos, please click here.

Power outages leaving us frustrated...Why don't we leave?...Holiday time in SA...More tourists in the park...

Mr. Duiker resting in the garden
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
This mongoose must have been injured when he was dragging his back legs using his front legs.  So sad to see.
Many of our readers have written to us asking why we don't leave and go somewhere else while we await our flight to Ireland on May 11th.  The heat, humidity, and power outages are outrageous.

There are several reasons we haven't left and here they are:
  • We prepaid the rent for the Orange house until May 11th and don't feel it would be fair to ask Louise for a refund when it's already been paid to the owners.
  • We can't leave the country while we await our visa extension which may or may not be processed in time for our departure.  The power outages are country-wide not only Marloth Park.  Eskom the provider has run out of money and resource.
  • If we left we'd have to find another place to live and pay for the new place and all of its expenses.  After all the money we lost canceling venues when I had to have the triple coronary bypass surgery on February 12, spending more doesn't make sense to us.
  • We may not have daily housekeeping service which has been a tremendous help during this period of time.
  • We have many friends here who've been helpful and supportive.  Although our social life is limited until I recover more fully, our friends have been a vital element in my recovery.
  • Seeing the wildlife each day has had a positive effect on my recovery.
  • Unable to travel for 90 days due to surgery and complications.

Bushbucks munching on pellets.
And then, of course, there's my old theory of "Love the One You're With" like the song found here.  This house, the bush, the wildlife, and our friends have been our home for the past 13 months.  When one is ill or recovering, the need to be in familiar surroundings is a vital part of their recovery. Everyone wants to be "home" during such times.

But, that doesn't make us feel more tolerant of the scorching heat and the almost eight hours of power outages each day.  It isn't like the US here in Africa when houses have "central air conditioning."  The high cost of running central air here would be outrageous.

Zebras have stopped by almost every day.
Luckily, when we do have power we can escape to the bedroom with its wall aircon which is very good at cooling the room.  No, we don't like spending time in the bedroom during the day but it is a means of relief for an hour or two.
Aside from all of this, we have established a good routine that is working well for us as I continue to heal.  I have yet been able to follow our old routine of sitting outdoors at the big table all day since I have to keep my feet up due to the infections which are now beginning to heal, a little more each day.

Instead, I sit up with pillows propping me to a sitting position with my legs on a pillow on the sofa.   There's a large table fan running aimed directly at me.  This helps a lot.
Such an adorable face.
Are we upset and unhappy now?  Not at all.  We both feel hopeful for the future, enjoy each other's companionship and are otherwise comfortable.  Tom downloads his favorite podcasts so we can listen during the power outages.
We're extremely conscious of ensuring our phones and laptops are fully charged.  When the power goes out so does the WiFi. Luckily, we can play games on our phones when the power is out.  Neither of us cares to sit quietly and do nothing for the better part of the day.

Soon, Tom will leave to go grocery shopping and to the pharmacy for more bandages and antibiotic cream.  We really don't need much food right now since we're well stocked.  

Plus, with the power outages, we'd prefer not to keep a lot of perishables in the fridge or freezer.  We'd made my pie in an attempt to keep me from losing more weight if I ate one piece each night after dinner.  But due to the power outages, we had to throw away the second half when it had mold on it.  I guess I won't be making any more of these.

That's right.  Pose for the camera and see if you get pellets.  You did!
I'd like to go to the market with Tom but can't walk well enough for the trek around the market.  I tried this last week and it was a fiasco.  I wouldn't want to wait in the car in the heat while he shops.

With most of our friends gone right now, to their other homes, I made a reservation for the two of us for Jabula on Saturday night.  I definitely feel a need to get out of the house and mingle with other local friends who are often mulling around the bar at Happy Hour. 

National holiday times are often referred to as "school holidays" here in South Africa.  This school holiday began on March 18th and continues through April 1st leaving only 10 days until it ends.  We have seen less wildlife in the garden but not as few as during other holiday periods.

That's it for today, folks.  Again, thank you for the many online cards, email letters, and comments as we work our way through this somewhat challenging period.

May your day be free of challenges and bring you peace of mind and comfort.

Photo from one year ago today, March 21, 2018:

I was indoors preparing dinner while Tom noticed this mongoose digging a hole in the yard.  Please click here for more.

I lost a friend...The harsh realities of aging and health...

 Colleen, my friend of 38 years, had lived in St. Thomas for 25 years and moved to Florida when her health began to fail.  Here she is holding onto her round-the-clock oxygen supply.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"

The helmeted guineafowls have been gone a few months.  Yesterday, they returned with many chicks in tow, teaching them how to "steal" pellets from warthogs.  As annoying as they can be, it was delightful to see their offspring.
We've lost a number of friends since we began traveling the world in 2012. Shortly prior to beginning our journey, we lost our dear friend Chip in Minnesota.  He happened to be a neighbor, four doors from us but I cannot say he was simply a "neighbor."

Both mine and Tom's relationship with this fine, funny, brilliant, retired orthopedic surgeon and his lovely wife Sue far surpassed the equivalency as often applied to a "neighbor," a friend made by convenience and friendliness.

Instead, over a period of 26 years Chip became one of the most important people in our lives; a social companion; an intellectual stimulator; a hearty conversationalist rife with myriad fascinating opinions; and a shoulder to lean on during tough times.  

Here's the link to our story about Chip posted on June 2012, four months before we left Minnesota.

Oh, that he would be near us now during this challenging recovery period offering his unsolicited medical advice, emotional support and always, a good belly laugh thrown in for good measure.  He and his wife, Sue with whom we've stayed in close touch, remain in our hearts each and every day.

I was honored to be asked by the family to speak at his memorial service, a month before we left Minnesota and to this day, I wonder how I managed to get through it with the lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

And, as these travel years have continued, we've continued to lose more friends.  I suppose as this generation of ours continue to develop serious age-related illnesses we'll experience more and more of these losses.

A few years later, we lost our dear friend Lane who walked into a room to make everyone's heart sing with pure pleasure and adoration.  How fortunate we were to have this special man counted amongst our friends over the years.  We stay in touch with his wife, Peggy through Facebook, enjoying many delightful comments back and forth.

Here's the link to our story about Lane posted on May 2013, seven months after we left Minnesota.

Then, we lost dear sister-in-law Lee, married to Tom's blind 90 years old brother Jerome.  Lee was his eyes, love, and support for 61 years.  We always loved her for her kindness, warmth and devoted attention to Jerome.

Here is the link to our post about Lee from December 2013.

And then, there was our friend Richard whom we met in Kauai, Hawaii and quickly became a friend to both of us. Richard and his wife Elaine, quickly welcomed us into their busy social life.  Richard was considered to be quite the social director. Undoubtedly, in the short period we knew him, he became very important to us both.

Here's the link to our post about Richard from February 2016.

The list could go on and on of railroad friends, spouses and family members that have passed away over the past six and a half years since we left Minnesota.  

And then, yesterday I received an email to inform me that my dear friend Colleen with whom I cherished 38 years of friendship, passed away in February in Florida.  

A kindly friend of Colleen's notified me after she'd recalled how often Colleen mentioned me and how she'd been such an avid reader of our site often sending me email messages as to how much she was enjoying our posts as her health was failing.

Her messages always meant so much to me. As an avid traveler, Colleen lived vicariously relived her travel days through of daily posts.  For many years, until her illness, COPD, required more medical care, she lived in St. Thomas, the US Virgin Islands.  

While we were sailing on a Caribbean cruise in April 2013, one of the ports of call was St. Thomas.  Of course, I was excited to see her and we selected a strip mall near to pier to meet.  We hugged like we'd never hugged before and proceeded to have a fantastic day together.

Tom had walked me to the shop where we met and he returned for a quiet day aboard the ship while I stayed with Colleen.  She was able to drive at that time and drove me around the beautiful island showing me her favorite spots. 

We ended at her home of 25 years overlooking the sea and sipped on tea and shared memories of our years together and our time apart.  That was the last time I saw her.  But, since that time, we stayed in close touch via email.  She never failed to write "thank you's" to me for brightening her days as she began to fail.  It was only a few months ago, that she sent me the email message, warm, loving and heartfelt.

Then, the flurry of my own condition distracted me from writing although I knew as I recovered I'd get in touch with her.  I didn't want to whine to her about how I was feeling when she was striving for her next breath.

And now, she's gone and already, less than a day after being notified of her passing, I already miss her, regretting I never called her upon returning from the hospital weeks ago.  How fortunate I was to be her friend for 38 years.

Here is the link from the last time I saw Colleen in April 2013.  May she rest in peace and may memories of her always remain fresh in my mind.

Death, the veritable mystery, awaits us all in due time.  Lately, it has been on my mind, more than ever, as I faced the rigors of this difficult and dangerous surgery and recovery.  And, now as I mend, I cherish each day and all the days I am gifted to experience in times to come. 

Embrace every moment...
Photo from one year ago today, March 20, 2018:
We visited Gail and Mark on Sunday to discuss a story we'll be posting later this Friday about the stunning and heartwarming book Gail wrote, "Her Name is Missy," of their time in Liberia during the worst of the Ebola epidemic and her heroic rescue of a chimpanzee named Missy.  Please check back on Friday for the story.  We loved seeing the birds they feed at their home and holiday lodge located across a small road from the river.  The visit prompted us to purchase a bird feeder and seeds.  For more photos, please click here.