By Ellie Langer
Recently, I searched for a folding canvas chair for a very special person. The chair needed to be strong, yet light and portable, easily carried on land, able to fit into a tight storage locker on our boat, and withstand sea spray and corrosive marine environments. The chair should invite one to comfortably relax in contemplation and remembrance. Not just comfortable, it needed to be beautiful.
I found the chair at the Harbour Chandler, Nanaimo, in navy blue canvas. White cording laced through metal eyelets attached the canvas to a sturdy aluminum frame. Its varnished wooden arms promised comfort; the intricately embroidered compass on the attached head cushion made it a thing of beauty. I had found Gerry’s Chair !
Let me tell you about my big brother, Gerry. An avid sailor, he was happiest at the wheel of his beloved Dharma, despite the physical challenges he faced in his later years. His philosophy was to play the cards life dealt you, and Gerry played his cards well. He faced each challenge with grace and great appreciation for life. Over the years, Gerry spent many happy hours cruising our coastal waters with family and friends. He circumnavigated Vancouver Island several times and sailed to Alaska with some adventurous buddies. An easy-going man with a wide grin and twinkling blue eyes, Gerry attracted people wherever he went, and acquired many lifelong friends. He maintained his curious, gregarious nature, and was determined to live life to its fullest.
Several years ago, Gerry was unable to continue sailing due to mobility issues. He and his devoted first mate, Audrey, sold the Dharma to an enthusiastic young family. Gerry and Audrey fondly reminisced about the happy times their family spent aboard the Dharma, as they passed her on. He carried on with other pursuits, and a rich social life.My big brother Gerry died of cancer on March 11, 2021, at the age of 79. Ever an adventurer and optimist, he managed to visit several places on his bucket list between chemo treatments; the highlight being a three-week road trip through Canada’s maritime provinces with Audrey, their daughter Jane, and a lucky me. Gerry gaily explored quaint docks and communities, oblivious to our struggle to keep up with his motorized scooter. He was in his glory sailing out of Lunenburg on the Bluenose. He and I toured a Cape Breton coal mine in Glace Bay. Its tunnel gradually narrowed to a mere four-foot height, not a great experience for the claustrophobic. Gerry cruised through easily, as I hunched over and held on to the back of his shoulders for support.
Gerry spent his last year in Covid shut down, but appreciated every phone call and the visits from family and friends that were able to visit. He never lost his smile.
This summer, Gerry’s Chair has accompanied me on several land and sea excursions. I feel embraced and comforted as I sit in Gerry’s Chair and share with him the beauty of a quiet garden, sunrise over a peaceful bay, the wonder of a starry sky, the joy of children’s laughter. And I remember.