A departed friend returns to the sea he loved


He once owned a boat called “Nautilus” and lets just say that it was not the most seaworthy craft, and he was not the most seaworthy sailor. But if you ever wanted Bob Slowey to dive deep into his rich treasury of stories, you only had to ask him about that boat, how it leaked, almost sank, how he  polished its teak railings with a toothbrush, and how his earliest close to death experiences happened below deck while his boys Chris and Bob Jnr were batting down the hatches up top, to survive the hurricane.

How appropriate then, On Sunday last, on a balmy afternoon on Chesapeake Bay, that Joan and the family  took Bob’s ashes after they had been cast in concrete to be placed in the deep as part of the artificial reef made from the remains of  Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. As the concrete was lowered, Grandson Liam cried out, “Goodbye Granpa.” Liam regretted not tying a quarter to it, because when he was four years old, Granpa dazzled him with the magic of the disappearing quarter. Daughter Mary Jo told the story of thinking as a kid that her Dad was a spy, because every phone call from work, he would sign off to wife  Joan, “1, 2, 3.” Mary Jo only discovered later that it was their secret code for “I love you.” As she looked out at the roses the family had cast on the sea, she  whispered ” 1,2,3, Dad.”

These and so many other stories were told and retold as the boat took us out to the Bay.  The  experience, meant to be the closing act of a great life, was also the opening act of a whole new set of memories for us, and assuredly for his grand-kids.  And maybe  it was the promise of new practices of how we do funerals in this  energy and environment-conscious world.

Funerals are traditionally about black clothes and coffins and days of mourning and condolence-honoring the real sense of loss.  But Bob’s  family and friends did not mourn that way-The funeral mass was held in a Delaware Bar-and the liturgy transitioned from sacrament to saloon even before the final prayers. Death’s sadness was not ignored, but it was taken to be a part of how life inevitably unfolds.  Why imitate death in a ritual of silence and sadness when we the living are still responsible for being life givers and  life preservers.  Nature does not waste death-so why should we? Life is always the bigger story.

Just as we all drank to Bob at his funeral, we commended his remains back into the circle of life, knowing that even now, the whole marine ecosystem is renting out space for fish and crabs and all diversity of sea life. And Mary Jo even  gave us the co-ordinates, N 39 12.430′ W 076 18 400′.  It made us jealous because Bob gets a head start on the rest of us at the Second Coming. Jesus won’t need the GPS.

Bob’s funeral was as unique and memorable as his long life.  He always told Joan he wanted to be where he could see the three bridges of the Bay, and that is where we placed him, to await the parousia. And in doing that, with the sun gleaming on the waters, we all felt on this glorious day, that perhaps there was a fourth bridge too, and we were on it- Bob had passed over, but we were surely waving our goodbyes from the other end.  He was not gone, as the old preachers used to say, but simply gone on ahead.

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13 Responses to A departed friend returns to the sea he loved

  1. Bob Anastasi says:

    What beautiful writing Paul. Thank you for including all of us in a very memorable day. If I made a mistake in this note, it is because of the water in my eyes. love to all.

  2. rocco ferretti says:

    What a great article about my friend’s Dad. Your words captured warmth, family and love.

  3. Bob Slowey Jr. says:

    That was beautiful! Thank you Paul for all you have done for my family. We love you!!Bobby

  4. Patty Frame Stevens says:

    Wow awesome article Paul! I can hardly see to type this but what a nice tribute to Bob and the wonderful Slowey family. He is greatly missed but the bay is his resting place and a place we can all think of him when we are near.

  5. Jeff Auen says:

    Very nicely written. Thanks. It made me feel like I was there. Good bye big Bob.

  6. Kathy White says:

    That is beautiful! Thanks for allowing us all to share in such an amazing moment.

  7. nan whalen says:

    Good bye to wonderful Bob. I will miss you always.You were a great friend.

  8. Tim Galligan says:

    Wonderful story; thanks for sharing. Reading this, thinking about Bob I remember the line from Captain and the Kid “He’s somewhere on the ocean now that’s where he oughta beWith one hand on the starboard rail he’s wavin’ back at us…”

  9. admin says:

    Thank you for the comments and I only am realizing this minute that last Sunday was the second anniversary of my sister Sue’s death-i had the 19th in my head for some reason but it was the 17th of October 2008, so I find that amazing-Sunday on the Bay was an occasion of grace for all of us I think, hence the desire to share it.

  10. Dick and Bobbie Pioli says:

    We are overwhelmed by the power and poetry of Paul’s description of Bob Slowey’s celebratory burial at sea, as well as the Slowey family’s unique and loving reaction to life and death.

  11. Cora Massaro says:

    I first met Bob Slowey at the ALpha Camp Maria when weperformed a skit together. It was such a pleasure to shareAlpha times with Bob and his family. I loved this kind,gentle soul. My prayers are for Bob, Joan and Mary Jo asI remember their many kindnesses to the newest Alpha memberat that time. What a wonderful send off to Bob. You broughtme tears of joy. Gabe and I send our love to all the family.

  12. Marian & Don Di Julio says:

    Paul,we were deply moved not only by your very poetic description, but by Bob’s gentle and very special personality.He was a dear person, who as he inhabits our minds now, will make us better by his presence.Thanks for a beautiful and touching tribute. Love to all theSlowey’s.Marian and Don Di JulioOctober 20, 2010

  13. We miss you, Bob! Driving over the Bay Bridge now will bring you and the life you lived into better focus. Our grief takes time to heal. So, we will be thinking of you and your great family and relish your friendship, humor, laughter and red wine! True to your life course, you have completed a successful crossing. So now, “Captain Bob,” help us follow the course that leads us our eternal reunion.We have written down the coordinates. One day, we will get Matt to take us out on the Bay. He’s become a good sailor; so we shall visit your spot and raise a cheer to a man and friend of the sea.lived into better focus.

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