Sunday, September 10, 2017

Wine, Men and Memories

Two years ago, Mark and I went on our first and only gay cruise together, on a beautiful ship - the Royal Clipper - in a beautiful place: the coast of Croatia. We made wonderful memories together and met guys who became good friends. It was a life-changing experience.

One of those friends was/is Dan Karslake, pictured above in the green shorts with Mark, me and another friend. Dan and I hit it off instantly and have became very close friends. I affectionately refer to him as my BFF. He is an independent film maker whose award-winning documentary, "For the Bible Tells Me So" (dealing with the intersection of homosexuality and conservative Christianity), had a profound effect upon me as I was coming out. 

A few months after Mark died, I became involved in the production of one of Dan's current film projects, "For They Know Not What They Do," Last year, I went on a cruise in Tahiti with Dan and other friends where we raised over $25,000 to help finance the production of "For They Know." 

Dan and me with new German friends after whale watching in Tahiti 

Tomorrow, I will leave for Rome to join another gay cruise on the same ship Mark and I were on - the Royal Clipper - where I will see many of the friends Mark and I met in Croatia as well as a few more I met last year. We will also be raising funds on board for "For They Know," and will hopefully meet or exceed the amount we raised last year.

Last year's cruise was far more triggering than I had anticipated, there being a number of guys on board who had met Mark the previous year. It was a bittersweet experience that was in some ways emotionally very draining. This year, more time has passed, and I look forward to seeing those friends, being with Dan, meeting new people, having fun and seeing amazing places.

Now for the wine part. After the cruise, I will spend a few days in the Paris area, taking day trips to wine regions in Burgundy and Champagne that I learned about in my recently completed French Wine Scholar course. Though I served my Mormon mission in Paris many years ago and have visited the city a couple of times in the last five years, I will be seeing and experiencing new things on this trip. I'm looking forward to those experiences as well as celebrating my birthday later in the month with Dan and his husband, Russ, in their new home in Berlin.

Thoughts as I prepare to leave:

Change is inevitable; growth is optional. I choose to grow. It's scary sometimes; but in the end, what other choice is there? 

Sometimes, I think about experiences that Mark and I had together, and I think, "Wow, I (emphasis on  "I" - who had lived a very different sort of life prior to coming out and meeting Mark) experienced that (emphasis on "that"). Like the night we danced on the beach on Maui under the light of a super moon. 

How lucky am I? Very. I'm grateful for all the life I lived with Mark and for all the life that I have yet to live. I'm grateful for memories made and those yet to be made. I'm grateful for my children, for my friends - near and far - and for the opportunity I now have to make this trip. 

Let the adventure begin.

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