Losing My Best Friend

One morning in early November Ivo collapsed and was hospitalized; the diagnosis was stage 4 cancer. It was fortunate that he did not suffer much pain and passed quickly.  Even though our connection was made deeply many years ago, most people did not know Ivo very well.  He was a very quiet and private person who did not share easily.  Through these past seven years I discovered his gentle soul and loving heart and being able to tell you about his life brings me joy.

Ivo, first and before all else, was a seaman. Beginning as an apprentice at age 20, he spent twenty years in the engine room of cargo containers. By the time he retired he was chief engineer.  During his career on the sea he spent time in many towns and countries.  A few of his favorites were the island of Monserrat, Dubai and Rio de Janiero.   His travels took him around the world on three separate occasions including the treacherous voyage around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of South Africa.

I have a photo of him standing watch on his ship during the three day war between Israel and Egypt. His ship was part of a convoy in the Red Sea, sitting at anchor waiting for a break in the action so they could safely sail on.  Utilizing only a forward anchor and the high winds made the ship’s stern swing around.  His early watch would be nearer to Israel while the change in the evening’s wind would push it closer to Egypt.  He talked about keeping low on the top deck as missiles flew over the ships during those very long and stressful days.  He was greatly relieved when his ship reached the Mediterrean and finally his beloved Adriatic Sea.  Ivo’s greatest love had always been the sea. It was his beloved mistress for years.  It was clear to me that he did not choose the sea; it has chosen him.

Ivo was Croatian, a Dalmatian.  But first he was Dubrovchan, which meant he was born and raised in Dubrovnik.  There is a strong bond and unmatched love affair existing with those born here and he was no exception.  Ivo loved his birth home and during the last few years has become disillusioned by the many cruise ships depositing massive crowds on to the Stradun for a few short hours during the season.   Far too many tourists were invading and he often would tell me Dubrovnik was no longer our beloved town of many years ago.  Locals, including us, have moved away and the old town is now one massive expensive tourist trap.  The last few years we have spent all our time sipping coffee and enjoying the view on the Cavtat Riva, miles away from Dubrovnik but within view.

During the last seven years I learned how much Ivo loved music, all music.  He would even listen to the latest punk rock, albeit not for very long.  He enjoyed the music from the 70s and 80s but he had the deepest appreciation of classical music.  During the Christmas holidays he would close his eyes and silently conduct every version of Ave Maria, one of his most beloved joys.  He dearly loved listening to Pavarotti; his favorite was an aria from La Bohme and he always joined in on the very last note and bellow VINCERA!  Ivo was greatly saddened by Pavarotti’s death and on our terrace facing Italy with tears streaming down his face, declared that the world has lost the greatest tenor of all time.

Four years ago we rescued a small black and white puppy and Ivo named her Abby, his favorite character from NCIS.  He fell in love with this small bundle of fur and she became his steadfast companion very quickly.  As Ivo would lie prone on the sofa, Abby would make her way up there and sleep on his tummy for hours.  There is no doubt that Ivo loved Abby; she was his always at his side and still looks for him today.  It is my strong hope that someday soon this country, the health care personnel and locals begin to understand that pets have a special place in the home and that there is great value with pet therapy for the terminal ill.   Western countries have been utilizing pet therapy for the past three decades and it has been proven to improve the quality of life for patients who have access to pets.  I have often remarked how Croatia is a lovely country but is indeed still fifty years behind in many ways.  Eventually the health professionals will begin to look toward the future and finally understand pet therapy has merit.

Ivo was my companion and my very best friend these past seven years, a short time that I cherish. I will always feel the emptiness that his passing has left in my life as I remember the tears and laughter we shared.   And as I gaze at our beloved sea, I know he has begun his last voyage and is finally at peace.  Farewell my dear friend, we miss you.

With a little help from my friends

Ivo and Abby on our favorite park bench


32 thoughts on “Losing My Best Friend

  1. Dear Carol,

    Sincere condolences for your great loss. No words can make this better, but I hope you will find comfort among friends, and with Abby. (We watch NCIS too and love the idea of naming the dog after Abby!).

    Very best, Paula Goldsmid


  2. Bless your loving heart Carol. I know this leaves big hole in your life. He was a strong, salty, old soul with a big heart. You will always have his love and you know you can always touch base with him in Spirit. Elizabeth and I send a big warm hug for a good albeit different New Year. May you experience tons of love with your local Croatian “family”.

  3. WOW, Carol. I knew you were shocked and speechless when I gave you the news yesterday. I was wondering if you were going to write something paying homage to Ivan. How beautifully written, dear friend. I would love to find a way to get this to his family – just to show them how miserable they should feel. Dear Carol, I will talk to you very soon. Christiane

    • My dear friend, I know how difficult that call was for you. Ivo’s family made him invisible and they will now reap the pain of not really knowing him, a old salty soul. You must return, I will need you now more than ever.

  4. Sweet Carol, am really sorry for your loss. I know the grief is only for the living. My man, best friend, sweet gentle soul has been gone 6 yrs now & it seems like just yesterday. And it is so true, that death, no matter how or when truly leaves a “huge” hole in your heart! I always have enjoyed your posts. You have a marvelous way with words. Be well. Fondly, Carole

  5. I am deeply saddened by your loss and cannot imagine what it must be like for you.

    I will say prayers for Ivo this week at Mass.


  6. I was blessed to get to know him and he was a joy in my life albeit all too little. I know you will trudge on, and your heart will waver between sorrow and remembered joys. All I can tell you is that based on my own experience losing Dave, that the pain will ease, the memories will be sweet, and he will always be with you. Hugs

  7. A beautiful story…I have enjoyed reading about Ivo…and may he rest in peace. Both Ivo and yourself were very fortunate to have shared years of precious time and friendship together.

  8. Carol – So sorry to hear of your loss. It’s a terrible thing, to lose someone dear to you, especially at our stage of life. My prayers go with you during this grieving time.

    Joan McArthur >

  9. Thank you for sharing a bit of Ivo with us readers. Our sympathy on your loss of an important part of your life

  10. My dear Carol … there are but words I can send you in these moments of sadness and loss, while what I really want to do is to give you a big, warm, sincere Croatian/Dalmatian hug that offers solace and peace. My thoughts are with you in this time of grief. Ivo’s life was enriched by your presence as was yours by his. When you watch across our beautiful sea in the tranquil and quite evenings, you would feel that. Peace be with you.


    • Hvala my dear Daniela…he was my mentor in teaching me how to become part of the local community and our mutual love of nasa more was our bond.

  11. Sorry to read about your loss. I’ve been following your blog after my trip to Croatia and my tour of Dubrovnik with you, Carol. Had such a wonderful trip and recall you talking about your beloved Ivo.
    Best wishes,

    • Thank you Cathy, I loved to share my Ivo stories with guests, he was so unique and often very funny with his words which I have dubbed ‘Ivoisms’.

  12. Praying for Ivo, Carol – for him, his memory and for strength in the hearts of all loved one he left behind. Deepest condolences to all

    • Thank you Ina, I will be doing something very special for him on Sunday. He wanted so badly that he would be able to cast his vote for Kolinda and I will be doing it for him and Croatia.

  13. Please accept my condolences for your loss. I think you’ve mentioned Ivo on your blog at one time or another, and I’m glad you did.
    You were blessed with a wonderful friendship, and that is a true treasure to have!

  14. So sorry to hear of your loss, Carol. What a wonderful and moving story of his life. Know you will miss him so much but you have a part of him in your heart and his constant companion, Abby, with you still. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and Ivo. Chris & Joan

    • Thank you, Chris & Joan, how much I appreciate your soothing words. And yes, Abby is now my constant companion, we walk together gazing at our sea daily.

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