Working away from loved ones for long periods of time can be a lonely and isolating experience for seafarers, who can find themselves missing out on so much while they’re away. SeafarerHelp was contacted by a seafarer who had tragically lost his wife while he was on board and wanted to share his experience with us. Unfortunately he also recently lost his mother but was unable to attend her funeral as he was at sea. SeafarerHelp has supported him through this difficult experience. You can read his story in his own words below.
“We have just battled with hurricane Irma within the last few days... and I believe we seafarers always think of one thing: until when can I stop sailing? However, rough seas and bad weather are only few of the things we encounter. What about family matters? What about problems at home and not to mention, home sickness? What about loss of our loved ones?
At the age of 39 after being married for three years, my wife passed away during the time she gave birth on the eve of Christmas 2016 while I was on board. I want to share my how I handled (and still handling) this lowest downfall of my life.
Let me tell you how we met. She was so naive when I first saw her on Facebook (FB). She was into a failing relationship and I was coping with my breakup with previous girlfriend. I should say, the common link between us is her previous boyfriend and admittedly I contacted her to win their relationship back.
To cut this part shorter, her relationship with her ex-boyfriend didn’t work at all so during her curing stage, and mine as well, we started chatting thru Skype and FB (and Yahoo Messenger that time) and it all continued for over a year. In 2011, most of the ships are already starting to have an internet access but mine was using the old fashioned e-mail system. We communicated in my on-board stage still, and to avoid divulge of our precious “friendly” communication we devised our own language that worked for us. When we were asked what was that, we said it was combination of German and our own terminologies when in fact, it was just done with letter replacement. THERE WAS NO SINGLE DAY THAT WE NEVER COMMUNICATED.
She was 24, I was 36. She calls me Kuya (term of endearment for a big brother in Filipino) because she’s the eldest in the family and no Kuya at all; and I called her Sis. But the Kuya-Sis relationship flourished into something better in about one and a half year. This time, when I finally had her YES, I was assigned into another vessel with internet this time. Our email system became something more tangible, more real time, more realistic. Our communication became as often as five times at least in a day and summing them all up, around one hour spent in one single day. :)
I had my vacation that time and even when having vacation we were still having our relationship flourishing.... I am from Cavite (near Philippine capital Manila), she’s from Bacolod (somewhere in Visayas) and we're an hour away by plane. I decided to visit her, I met her family for the first time. They are all wonderful people, and my intuition of her being the perfect woman to be my wife became stronger despite my age.
Honestly I felt like I was running out of time so I decided to propose. Still, we were still away when we were fixing our wedding. I was onboard, she was still in Bacolod. When I had my vacation around 3 months before our wedding, it was the only time when we really spent together. However, my father was so ill that time so I had to leave Bacolod and attend to my father. (My father passed away a month after our wedding).
After getting married, I was assigned to my new company with 1MBPS shared connection so video calling thru FB worked well. We were granted with 2 hours time in a day that resets every GMT+00 so our 1 hour sometimes became the full two hours. That happened every day.
During vacation however, I always made it a point to get some bucks enjoying our lives together travelling. We went to various Philippine tourists spots: Sagada, Baguio, Pagudpud, Boracay, Negros’ Lakawon Island, Guimaras, and many more. We went to Singapore and let her experienced the cozy stay at Marina Bay Sands for an overnight. We went to Malaysia and stroll there for several days. We went flying with a parasail… and it made me so amazed the way she conquered her fear of heights only because she was with me. We also went hiking in Mt. Maculot.
We were so happy when she got pregnant on early 2016 while I was having my vacation. I left on September 2016 without having any clue that sooner, something life changing would take place. In her pregnancy we were still chatting. She’s showing me every kick made by the baby… when she feels vibration of fixed manner that we thought to be the baby doing hiccups, and even when the baby tries to change her position by persistently pushing one side of her tummy. I witnessed all those via video calling and some recorded videos. She would tell me “Hon, batiin mo muna si Baby oh… Nagwawala na naman, nagpapapansin.” (Honey, the baby wants you to say Hi to her. She's restless catching your attention). And she would stop after I greet her.
We celebrated our third anniversary on December 22, 2016. She asked me if she could go out with her mom who happened to be with her. She said she wants to take long walks because sooner our baby was on due (for birth) so she needed some effort to do strenuous activities for easier birth. She had a date with her Mom saying that would be the last time we’d celebrate with her “alone”, because next year, there will be three of us. After her date with Mom, I had my one final chat to her… the usual one full hour of chat. And we said goodbye without a clue, it was final.
December 23. When I woke up (I was in Brazil) she left me with an offline FB message “Hon, I think this is it. I had spotting so by the time you get this message, we’re in the hospital. Don’t worry, I will be fine. :) I’m so excited!”
In around my noontime at Brazil, I was informed by my mother in law… I already had my child and I am already a father. But my wife’s blood pressure was dropping. I never expected things would go wrong because as always, I trusted the Lord things won’t go wrong.
December 24, I asked them what was going on, they told me there was a condition called “Amniotic Fluid Embolism” taking place. I googled and I felt sudden rush of my blood to my head… It was really scary. Still, I mumbled, “Lord I trust you nothing bad will happen.”
My sister was asking if I could come home. My mother in law asked me too, if I could come home. It was when I thought something bad already happened… “Is my wife dead?” and had a very tragic “yes…”
I went home on Christmas Day with my wife in a casket. The over 24 hours of travel all the way from Brazil to Qatar (plus several hours of waiting) and finally to Manila; was the longest time of my life. I’d always think of nothing but be composed.
Nothing in her live looks resembled her appearance inside the casket. She was so pale, bloated, and the only thing I remember it was her was the shape of her forehead and her cute button nose...
We were almost perfect. We both lived a comfortable life. We travelled, we endured every moment of our lives together. We also endured moments of being together when we were physically away.
With her death, sometimes I have unanswered questions… but the mere fact I am alive is I am still loved. It is hard for me to confide because I always think everything every people will say to me, I already know them. I do not know God plans…. YET at least. But I do know He has plans. I am thankful though, that our child is healthy.
In every tear shed, in every mourning casted, in every burst of emotion; there is my wife up there hurting the most. That is why I always tell myself lessen my shedding of tears, mourning, and just continue life.
Being a seafarer is indeed a challenge. It would have been greater if it didn’t end up with her leaving me, but I am so confident that it has always been possible to be happy with it. I am happy though, because I have good memories to recall. I have good memories to tell to my child.”
If you are a seafarer going through a similar experience and need someone to talk to, you can contact SeafarerHelp at any time – all our contact details can be found at seafarerhelp.org.