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Meadowlark Hospice

Dawn's Notes

Following the Light of the Sun... - October 2019
by Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW

The man had a vivid imagination; he was a dreamer; he was persistent and would not take no for an answer.  He was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451, the son of a weaver.  He had 3 brothers and one sister.  One of his brothers, Barolomeo, was a map-maker, and perhaps Barolomeo’s job intrigued the young dreamer who went to sea at a very young age.     

He wanted to sail west in search of the Indies, to find a shorter trade route to Asia where spices and silk were sold, but he did not have the money to fund his dream.  The young adventurer was Christopher Columbus. 

Columbus tried unsuccessfully to convince King John II of Portugal to fund his trip.  Next, he approached Italy and England but to no avail.  He finally convinced monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain to pay for his venture.  He left Spain on August 3, 1492, with crews and 3 ships—the Pinta, the Nina, and the Santa Maria. 

Columbus wrote “Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World.”  They headed into the sun on the evening of August 3.  They stopped at the Canary Islands to restock the ships then proceeded westward on their journey. 

After a 5-week voyage across the Atlantic, on October 12, at 2:00 in the morning, they spotted land.  A shout went up from the crew, but Columbus must not have been surprised.  He said he had seen a light a couple of hours earlier; he must have been eagerly watching for that first glimpse of a new world. 

The ships first landed in San Salvador, now the Bahamas.  Then they landed on the northeast coast of Cuba on October 28, 1492.  Next they found Hispaniola, which we now know as Haiti.  Columbus took 11-25 prisoners with him when he left Hispaniola, but only 8 survived the trip back to Spain.   

The trip was dangerous for Columbus and his crew.  The ships were tossed about in storms so rough that Columbus was surprised they survived, and he gave thanks to God.  One of his ships, the Santa Maria, ran aground and had to be abandoned.  Columbus left 30 Spaniards behind on one of the islands, and when he returned he found 11 bodies.   

Contrary to belief, Columbus was not the first to discover “the Americas”—the land was already populated before his ships arrived.  Erik the Red had visited Greenland in the tenth century, and Leif Erikson came to North American in the eleventh century long before Columbus.

Columbus’ legacy is controversial due to how he treated the indigenous people.  Even though he went through a time of disgrace, his contributions were acknowledged toward the end of his life.  His voyages changed the world, resulting in ongoing contact and trade between Europe and the Americas, and he is still remembered!  He died on May 20, 1506, at the age of 54. His remains are buried in Spain.   

I have wondered why Columbus risked his life by sailing into the unknown.  Was he looking for riches and fame, or did he want to spread Christianity?  Regardless of his motivation, I admire him for pursuing his dream, for his bravery, and determination to search for a new life.    

I still remember some of the lines from a poem about Columbus from my grade-school years.  “In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  He had three ships and left from Spain.  He sailed in sunshine, wind and rain.”   

After my husband died, I felt a little like Columbus.  I was sailing in uncharted waters, into the “unknown,” with no idea what I might find.  I can relate to Columbus’ quote:  “Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World.”

Maybe your “Old World” can be compared to the life you had before your loved one died.  Maybe since your loss, you have wondered which direction to go, and maybe you have been afraid.  

Like Columbus, we can look for new possibilities for our lives and have faith there is something good “out there” waiting.  So keep your eyes open for any tiny glimmer of light.  Your memories will give you strength on your journey.  Have faith as you set your face toward “the light of the sun,” and just keep on sailing.     

Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
Meadowlark Hospice
709 Liberty, Clay Center, Kansas
(785) 632-2225
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator