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