The Beautiful Life & Perfect Death of Father Davidson: Chapter 9

Amelia was the youngest of three siblings. The Davidson children were Meg, Josh, and then Amelia. Her older siblings could talk your ear off: Meg was commanding, while Josh was imaginative and could tell a good story. So Amelia took a more laid-back and quieter role as a counterpoint to them; although once you got to know her, she was no less engaging than her two older siblings. She was sensitive and smart, and loved beauty. At an early age she was drawn to art and literature, and she possessed an intuitive understanding of things far deeper than many adults. She could see into the depths of things, and of people, so that her love of beauty achieved a refinement that exceeded most people’s, enabling her to see beauty where others were unable.

In seventh grade she did a report on Amelia Earhart, choosing the topic because she shared the same first name, of course. She fell in love with airplanes, and flying, and decided that she wanted to be a pilot. Her parents weren’t wealthy and couldn’t afford to indulge her new-found passion with flight lessons, but her father had the idea to teach her sailing instead. The family owned a small sailing dinghy and kept it at the local marina; so, over the summer between her seventh and eighth grade years he taught her how to sail. Sailing began as a great disappointment for Amelia; it was far less romantic than the idea of flying into the clouds chasing adventures. But over time the disappointment gave way to a reluctant pleasure, and eventually she came to love sailing even more than her previous dream of being a pilot.

Amelia admired her older brother Josh and trusted him more than any other person, because he was more like her than anyone else. He understood her. When she was upset he usually knew how to make her feel better and when she had a problem he listened and cared. She often confided in him, and he had an uncanny ability to predict what she was about to say and how she felt about something even before she spoke. The two spent many hours together in Amelia’s little sailboat, laughing when he would finish her thoughts, and also just passing time in silence—communing with one another and with the world around them—in a way that mysteriously forged life-long bonds of devotion.

How is it that these bonds can sneak up on us so magically and unexpectedly? Often we have no way of knowing at the time they are being forged—imperceptibly—how they come to be, and in what manner they grow over time. We look back to find the moment that they sprang forth out of nothing, but we cannot pinpoint a particular moment. But we are transformed together, within the complex matrix of this natural world; and then made into something heavenly—matter infused with spirit, souls intermingled as friends and family forever.

Amelia and Josh were bound together in this way, as family and as friends; and naturally out of these intimate bonds there arose between them many solemn agreements and oaths. One such solemn pact is of particular note and importance that it should be shared now so that you, the reader, may better understand what transpires in the following chapters of Father Davidson’s story:

It was late winter, the two had been sailing together for much of the day, staying within the shelter of the cove. The water was choppy, but manageable for a talented sailor like Amelia, and not nearly as dangerous as the waters in the bay beyond. The small, light craft sliced through the water, bouncing slightly as it glided over and through the waves. The little sail was full and taut, and pulled them forcefully forward, yanking on the lines in her hands like an eager puppy pulling at his leash. The boat chased some imaginary prey just beyond its reach, its bow lurching slightly to the left and to the right searching, searching for something just over the next wave.

As Amelia tacked she caught sight of something, or someone in the waves off the starboard side. She yelled to Josh to look and pointed in the direction of the lifeless form some thirty yards away. As she pulled close she let the sail down and used a paddle to try to slow the boat’s momentum. It was clearly a person, face-down in the waves and motionless. Josh pulled some lengths of webbing stashed in the stern of the boat then tied them off to the tiller.

“Aim, I don’t think we can pull them in. Try to keep the boat close, and I’m going to try to pull them up to the stern, and see if we can tie them off somehow using the webbing.” Josh took his shoes and jacket off, then jumped into the water and swam to the body. He was a strong swimmer and was able to grasp the person around the chest, turn them over, and pull them up partially onto his chest as he leaned back into the waves, with one arm clasping them close. Amelia had actually brought the sailboat closer to them, which impressed Josh, though he didn’t have much time to think about this fact until much later. As he approached the stern of the boat he hit his head against the side and momentarily saw stars as the sharp pain engulfed him. Had he more time he may have indulged the pain, but adrenaline, and the sure knowledge that time was not to be wasted now prevented him from yielding to it, and he worked hard to pull the body up to the back of the boat where Amelia then grabbed and held the person firmly by the jacket. He turned and quickly grabbed at the lengths of webbing and managed to wrap them under the arms and around the torso before tossing the ends back into the boat.

“Hurry!” Amelia yelled. “I’m losing my grip, I’m going to lose her.” She could see now that the newcomer was a woman.

Josh scrambled up over the side and back into the boat. He then took hold of the woman and yanked her up out of the water as well as he could. He was a strong young man and managed to get her chest out of the water as Amelia pulled at the webbing, taking the slack out, and then tied it tightly around the tiller. With the extra webbing Josh reached under water at the woman’s pants and found what he hoped for—belt loops—which he managed to thread the webbing through in several places and then brought the ends back up and tied these also off to the tiller. In this way Amelia and Josh created a makeshift sling that kept the woman’s body partially up out of the water.

Amelia raised the sail and with some difficulty steered the boat back towards the marina. The weight of the woman attached at several points along the tiller didn’t make maneuvering the small craft very easy but she did it. Josh couldn’t tell if the woman was breathing, her jacket was too heavy to see, and the wind was blowing too much to feel for breath. It was impossible to do CPR properly with her in this position, but he could at least help her with some oxygen he decided. So as Amelia piloted the little sailboat to the dock he began to exhale deeply into her mouth, in hopes of filling the woman’s lungs with air. He didn’t think she was dead yet although he couldn’t be certain. He could be certain however, that she had been drinking earlier in the day because she smelled and tasted of some kind of alcohol.

Back at the marina they finally had help: the woman was hoisted up onto the dock by several of the marina workers, proper CPR was administered, and she was taken by ambulance to the hospital. The paramedics said she had a good chance of survival.

On the long walk back home from the marina Amelia and Josh walked in silence for much of the way; but suddenly Amelia burst out crying.

“That poor woman! Why did she do that?!” She turned and looked at Josh.

He knew what she meant, and had come to the same conclusion himself. They both believed that she had tried to commit suicide. He looked into her eyes, “I’m sorry Aim. I don’t know. A lot of pain I guess.”

She continued to sob. “We have to help her, we have to help people. She looked so alone, so frightened.”

To most observers it would be a stretch to think that one could see loneliness and terror in the face of an unconscious, practically dead person. But Amelia and Josh both saw and recognized the pain this woman was carrying as if it were a physical feature.

“She shouldn’t have to die. It’s so ugly. Death is so horrible and ugly. I hate it!” she screamed and then sobbed quietly for a moment, “You have to save her Josh. Don’t let her die so frightened and alone.”

“Okay, Aim.” Josh answered sincerely. “I will do whatever I can to help her. I promise.”

Amelia wiped her face with her sleeve and looked around at the trees. She took a deep breath and then sighed. “We have to promise each other only to help. We can’t hurt anyone. Please. From now on we only help…and save…people, animals, everything. I don’t want them in pain.” She looked up at her brother with resolve, almost angrily, pleading with him.

“Okay, Aim. I promise.” Josh agreed, though he felt a weight descend upon him and he worried would he be able to keep this promise. But he had to, for Amelia, for others. She was right, of course, it was the way required of him.

*  *  *

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