Swimming a Few Laps Around Barbados: Spending Life Living

Swimming a Few Laps Around Barbados: Spending Life Living

My dear friend Lucinda went into cardiac arrest two days ago. She lies in a top U.S. hospital, unconscious.  Tests aren’t giving doctors clues as to what caused her heart attack, but they can tell her heart is badly damaged and, if she comes to, she might suffer significant brain damage as well.

If she comes to. Right now she’s on life support.

Even if she does pull through, she might be permanently brain-damaged.

If she pulls out of this with her amazing brain intact, they’re saying it will be a miracle.

Lucinda’s young.  Well, she’s mid-fifties, but that sounds pretty young when that’s your age, which it is mine.  She works as an attorney in Washington, D.C.  She’s as lovely as Meryl Streep and as adventurous as Robinson Crusoe. She raised her brilliant, Oxford-educated son on her own.

Lucinda at Round House in Barbados, March 2008

Lucinda at Round House in Barbados, March 2008

I was barely settled in my island home a year ago January when Lucinda called to give me her flight arrival info.  She was the first of my family and friends to visit me in Barbados.  (How many people say they will but never do, figuring they have all the time in the world?)

She arrived knowing the names of all our parishes, the names of all our different palm trees. She also knew which trees and plants were indigenous to the island, which were imported, which flowered, which the monkeys favor.

She made my mind reel with all she knew about my new home — and everything else.  For example, I knew it was time to leave the room when she learned that my sweetheart Greg was fascinated by Civil War history and asked him what his favorite battle at Gettysburg was. I can’t imagine a discussion more exhausting than that. But what do you expect from someone who never turns her brain off?

Her physical energy matched the alacrity of her mind.  She never stopped.  She couldn’t get enough swimming and snorkeling; she ran into the sea behind our building, St Lawrence Beach Condominiums, every morning and every evening .. and in between never stopped exploring, reading, thinking, eating, and eating up every moment of her life with a spoon.

Maybe she moved so fast because she somehow knew she didn’t have much time.

Lucinda couldn’t understand why people didn’t swim around the island for exercise.  Greg explained that even for an island just 14 x 21 miles in size, swimming around was a very long way indeed – and the Atlantic Ocean along the eastern side life-threateningly dangerous.

Swimming around the island became a joke between us.  She never stopped moving and talking and gesturing and laughing and playing and looking for new things to do and by early afternoon each day I’d tell her to go swim a few laps around the island while I took a nap.

The catastrophe that befell Lucinda last week brought up a prejudice I didn’t realize I had:  If her heart attack had occurred in Barbados and she wound up in a Barbados hospital with local docs unable to understand what happened to her, I likely would have criticized our local doctors for lack of training.  But she’s in a prestigious U.S. hospital; her doctors there are puzzled.

In fact, earlier today I saw a Barbados physician for a chronic ailment that was misdiagnosed and mistreated by a U.S. doctor last week.  Even without fancy tests, my local doc saw immediately what my problem was and prescribed medicine that began working immediately.

I’ll be leaving this prejudice behind … shame on me.

I’m praying for Lucinda’s miracle.  Right now, Lucinda’s life is a waiting game. A torturous waiting game. Her son is by her side. He’s searched his mum’s home for her living will and can’t find it.

Lucinda was talking about coming back to Barbados for another visit.

I hope to hell to see my friend here again.  She still needs to swim a few laps around the island.



11 Responses to “Swimming a Few Laps Around Barbados: Spending Life Living”

  1. vicki says:

    Jane, you have written a beautiful tribute to our dear friend. I last saw Lucinda on Sunday, for a lunch/book club meeting, a mere 4 hours before this catastrophic event occurred. A book club member mentioned she wanted to visit an island in the Caribbean, and Lucinda sold her on Barbados in less than 10 seconds, and specifically on your magnificent apartments in St. Lawrence Gap. Lucinda loved her visit with you and loved Barbados.

    Thanks for such a sweet tribute to her.

  2. Cynthia says:

    Jane, I am hoping this was not the friend you were joining in Miami Beach. If it was how lucky you got to spend some time. If not I am very sad that your friend has been side swiped by life.

    I hope you can keep your sunny perspective, on life, going strong.

    Take care and Wayne and I will keep you and Lucinda in our prayers

  3. Greg says:

    This is written straight from the heart, and Lucinda herself would have loved it. Her passing does us a service; it throws into harsh reality how fragile this life we enjoy really is. It was good to know Lucinda. As the Romans said, hail and farewell.

  4. Ashmita says:

    Very sorry to hear. Death never seems to make sense. This was a beautiful tribute.

  5. me says:

    As a local doctor, I deeply appreciate your effort to move beyond your prejudice.

  6. rainy says:

    Hi Jane, This is a beautiful post about your friend. After reading your post, I could not help but think about the book “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran. On friendship he writes “Your friend is your needs answered. He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving. And he is your board and fireside. For you come to him with your hunger and you seek him for peace. When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the nay in your own mind, nor do you withhold the ay. And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart; For without words, in friendship all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared with joy that is unacclaimed. And whey you part from your friend, you grieve not; For that which you love most in him may be cleared in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain. And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit. For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught. And let the best be for your friend. If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also. For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him always with hours to live. For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness. And in the sweetness of friendship, let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed. For the past six months, I have enjoyed your posts about your new found love for Barbados and its people. I thought that for once I could share something with you that I believe is a simple understanding of friendship. When I read it I think about all of the special people who have touched my life and made it all the sweeter. It seems from your post that you and your friend shared the philosophy. I sincerely, hope that this little comment makes you feel better and I will pray for your friend. I am sorry about the long post.

  7. Rainy, good evening. Thanks for this. The day you wrote it, I focused on this part: And let the best be for your friend. And it made me angry every time I read it because I could not imagine that the “best” for this dear friend, so young and vibrant, would be her passing.

    A few days have passed. Last night was the first I’ve slept the night through. Today when I read this beautiful Gibran passage again, this is the line that stood out: And in the sweetness of friendship, let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.

    I love the wisdom of Gibran. And I’m thankful that I am able to at least begin letting go of anger at Lucinda’s passing and focus instead on the sweetness of our friendship, the laughter, and the sharing of pleasures we had.

    Thank you, Rainy. xx

  8. Thank you for your generous and generous comment. I could imagine that a doc reading what I wrote might say, contemptuously, “Look at that Yank, tromping into our country and feeling sooooo superior.” I can’t write a blog that isn’t honest and I felt the sting of shame when I wrote what I did. I, too, am glad to move beyond my prejudice. Life limits us when we refuse to budge beyond our own small thoughts and attitudes. I really don’t want to be that person …

  9. You’re right, Ashmita: death does not make sense. Not when it’s someone we love.

    Thank you.

  10. Lucinda was a walking billboard for Barbados and for my rental apartment in St Lawrence Gap (at St Lawrence Beach Condominiums). … I’m wondering if my rentals will go down without her trumpeting my place .. !? God bless Lucinda.

  11. Mary says:

    Jane,

    What a lovely tribute. I just found it now, one year later, as I heard about Lu’s death only today. (I love “Lucinda,” as it very much fits her, but when I knew her 40 years ago, she was just “Lu.”) Haven’t seen her since then, but am not at all surprised to find that she excelled in everything she did.

    I wasn’t Lu’s best friend in college, not because we didn’t like each other but because we just ran in different crowds. However, especially in our freshman year, we did spend time together. She was light-years ahead of me in life, and a great guide. It was 1967 and although I wasn’t racially prejudiced, I had grown up in the south, and was not nearly as in touch with the civil rights movement as she was. She was my introduction to a lot of other serious issues at the time as well. She was so passionate about everything; I’ve never forgotten that. Sounds like she never lost that ~

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