While on a cruise from Japan to China, I received the devastating news that my grandmother had passed away back in Iowa. I had to make the very difficult decision about whether to fly back for the funeral or not. Given the logistics of flying back from a remote part of Hokkaido—I wasn’t even sure I could even make it back in time—and the fact that I was the guest lecturer on the ship, I made the heart-wrenching decision not to go back for the funeral.
As it turned out though, the crew aboard the Royal Caribbean ship gave me something so very special that I will never forget it—they offered the kind gesture of holding a memorial service at sea in honor of my grandmother! One afternoon, they organized a service at the top of the ship in a peaceful place with windows overlooking the blue sea. Over 12 people from 6 countries—many of whom I’d just met for a short time on the cruise—came to the memorial service to support me and pay their respects to my grandmother even though they’d never even met her! I was especially touched since they were technically on their vacation and they still made time to come. At the memorable service, we played the song they were going to play at my grandma’s funeral, read some scripture, prayed together and watched a slideshow of pictures of her set to music that I’d compiled. The entertainer on the ship, a concert pianist from NYC, played the ‘Rainbow Concerto’ as we all stared out to sea. I’m sure that my grandmother, who’d never been to a concert in her life, was looking down from above at her own special recital that night. Afterwards, we sat at the bar and had our own little reception and I shared more stories about her.
I will be forever grateful to my new friends and to Royal Caribbean for this experience, which helped me heal and deal with my grief. I have learned time and time again that there are truly kind-hearted people that will be there when you need them the most—even if you happen to be on the other side of the world during the most difficult days of your life!