Yesterday, a memorial long in the making was finally completed as a bench was placed at the Ol’ Blue dive site. Thank you again to all the BonaireTalkers that pitched in for the bench.

To the right of the bench is a break in the iron shore leading down to the coral rubble beach.

Embedded in the side facing the ocean is one of the small stones engraved with Jake’s name that I had made up to travel with us and leave around the world.

 

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October 16th at Ol’ Blue/Tolo   October 22nd, 2012

We arrived at Ol’ Blue around 5:30pm. Although sunset would be at 6:14pm, it was already darkening as the cloud cover was pretty thick except for this amazing break in the clouds which let the sun stream through.

We hugged and talked with everyone while we waited for the sun to set.  Many people asked me why Ol’ Blue, as locals many of us only visit this spot when taking the new visitor on an island tour. For us Ol’ Blue has been a favorite spot for beach BBQs with dear friends while watching the sun set and making S’mores. Ol’ Blue is also far enough out to be a special trip which it is well worth.

We helped each other down to the sea as the coral stone beach slid under foot. Krystyana and Martin joined me for putting the ashes into the sea.

Angela had brought some white roses which she gave to each of us to float them out to sea. Pink bougainvillea joined the roses as we all said our good-byes to Jake.

 

Thank you to everyone that came out to be with us as well as those that could not attend but did so in the hearts.

Linda, Krystyana, and Bas

 

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Plans and Donations   June 5th, 2012

For all our anal retentive planning, this I was not prepared for…
Requests for when service/memorial might be, or flowers, or donations.

So first of all here is the plan discussed with Jake. Jake is being cremated.

His ashes will be divided into three portions.

  • One will be taken back to the Czech Republic so that it can be placed with his ancestors and be near his parents who live in Prague.
  • Another will remain in the US. We are currently working on these plans but are hoping for a place in Auburn, NH as that is the town we were married in and the resting place of my grandparents who loved Jake dearly. Originally, we had thought some kind of scattering but our son, Bas, has requested a stone/urn so he has some place to call his Dad’s.
  • The last will be returned to Bonaire for a scattering in the sea to occur sometime in the fall; we are thinking October. We will let one and all know when we have definite plans so you can join us at the beach.

And a slight variation on Jake’s wishes, we are making up small pocket stones with his name on them to be left at various destinations around the world, so that Jake can continue to travel with us. He started a list with the children during his last hospital stay.

The kids and I will likely remain in the US for the summer and return to Bonaire in the late summer/early fall. We have no definite dates but plan on taking our time and spending some of the tough special days ahead like birthdays, Father’s Day and our anniversary close to the support of family.

Anybody that wants to contact us, our home in the US is:
73 Derry Road
Chester, NH 03036
or of course, you can email me at linda@lindarichter.com

Donations can be made in Jake’s name to any number of places. Here are a few suggestions that quickly come to mind.

Support Bonaire, Inc. www.SupportBonaire.org
Near and dear to our hearts, we started this US charity to fund various non-profit organizations on Bonaire.

Massachusetts General Hospital – Melanoma Center
http://www.massgeneral.org/give/howtohelp/#outright
Most of Jake’s care was under the direction of Dr. Keith Flaherty at MGH in the Melanoma Center. I cannot say enough good things about all the people that helped and cared for all of us at MGH, Concord Hospital, and NCI in Bethesda. If I started naming names, I would forget someone and feel badly about it. MGH has many clinical trials and researchers working to find a cure.

and last but not least…
Community Hospice House in Merrimack, NH
https://secure.hhhc.org/special_events/donation.php
This hospice is a not-for-profit VNA. They are wonderful people doing an amazing job at end of life.

 

Eye See Warmth in my Future   December 20th, 2011

I have had a number of folks write me to ask if all was okay since I’ve not posted anything here in the last several weeks.

For now, I will ask you to assume, for future reference, that no news is good news.

The reason I had not written anything is that whole-brain radiation is singularly unexciting, but it does wear one out. It significantly increased my fatigue and reduced my appetite. I ended up losing another seven pounds making me even skinnier than before.

Fortunately the whole brain radiation is over with since last Thursday, and I will have another brain MRI in early February once the brain has healed to see how things are going. There’s no reason to expect things not to look good then since whole brain radiation is a common treatment for the tiny tumors and bleeding I had. And my energy levels are slowly returning to their pre- brain radiation levels and the same goes for my appetite.

And being home next week on Bonaire will only improve my health, I am sure.

One of the interesting side effects of the TIL/TBI treatment I had in early October was that later in the month I noticed that my distance vision had deteriorated but my near vision had improved. When I asked my doctors about this, they had not heard of this being a side-effect and recommended that I go to an optometrist to get my eyes checked. We did that a few days later at Lenscrafters. The optometrist took the following retinal images. If you look at the right image, you see a dark blob near the center. This is called a chorodial nevus (scientific name for a freckle in the eye). The optometrist, taking my recent history of melanoma into account flagged this as something to have my oncologist look at more closely, just in case.

My left retina image

My left retina image

My right retina image - note the freckle below and to the right of center

My right retina image - note the freckle below and to the right of center

Yesterday I had a follow-up on a freckle on the back of my right retina at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, and got a clean bill of health on the nevus (woohoo!) They took new photos for reference, and I have a follow-up in late March to make sure it continues to look good. One interesting thing the doctor said yesterday was that the freckle looked like it was turning white on the edges – a condition known as vitiligo, where pigmented skin cells lose their pigmentation. Apparently vitiligo is not uncommon in people who have undergone TIL treatment and I have found a few other external places on my body where it appears (including, believe it or not, the tips of all ten of my toes.

Jake with dilated pupils and new facial hair growth

Jake with dilated pupils and new facial hair growth

As a footnote to the whole vision thing, this past Sunday morning I discovered that I once again needed reading glasses to read the newspaper and that my distance vision was back to normal (20/20) and this was confirmed at the eye doctor’s yesterday too. Go figure.

So, you may be asking yourself “what’s next?”

In the short term there’s a high likelihood that I will lose all the hard-won stubble on the top of my head again as a result of the whole brain radiation treatment, but I’ll get to keep the fur on the upper lip and chin (see image above).

And shortly thereafter I expect to be warm and sweating on Bonaire enjoying a nice time at my home with family and friends. We are awaiting a Turducken here in Boston tomorrow that we plan on bringing to Bonaire with us to feast on for Christmas with a few friends.

We get back to Boston in early January (we’ll be bringing our Antarctic jackets and hats with us from storage there so we can survive the bitter cold that is still likely to face us in Boston). I have scans and a consultation with my oncologist planned for the second week of January, which will hopefully confirm what physical touch is still confirming in my thigh, namely that the TIL cells are still attacking my cancer cells and as well as preventing new growth.

I would expect my next post to be in the middle of January. Until then, no news is good news.

 

New Day, New Country, Same Place   September 23rd, 2010

In about two and a half weeks, on the symbolic day of “10-10-10”, I will be participating in a little bit of real history. That’s the day that Bonaire, the island I live on in the Caribbean, switches countries.

Spirit of Bonaire by Jake Richter

Spirit of Bonaire by Jake Richter

Presently, Bonaire is part of the country of the Netherlands Antilles, which presently consists of four-and-a-half Caribbean islands: Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, St. Eustatius (also known as Statia), and Dutch St. Maarten (which shares a geographic island mass with French St. Martin). Up until the mid-1980s Aruba was part of the Netherlands Antilles as well, but then split off to become its own country.

While the Netherlands Antilles (and Aruba) have always been part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, they have their own parliament and government infrastructure, based in Curacao (Aruba has its own, of course).

Some years ago, referendums were held on the five islands of the Netherlands Antilles about future status, and the result of those referendums as well as various political processes, is that on 10-10-10 the Netherlands Antilles fade into history as a country that has ceased to exist.

Taking its place will be two new countries – Curacao and St. Maarten, with the same status as Aruba – countries under the Dutch kingdom.  The three smaller islands, referred to locally as the BES islands (Bonaire, Eustatius, and Saba) will become municipalities of The Netherlands. What is a municipality of The Netherlands? It’s not particularly clear because Holland has never really reabsorbed past colonies, and as a result, many things are still in flux and being decided. And other than mostly vague policies, the details of the rules, laws, and procedures that will be in place after 10-10-10 have not been communicated to the people of the BES islands yet. In fact, it’s looking likely that many of these things, two and a half weeks before the changeover, still aren’t decided or determined.

And I don’t think everything will get figured out until later in 2011 because there are just so very many things involved in running remote islands from afar – from telecommunications and labor issues to governmental structure and the environment.

One thing is clear, though, and that is that the BES will not be treated the same as a province in Holland. Dutch citizens will still need a residence permit to live on Bonaire, for example (although these cannot be unjustly denied).

Also, on a monetary basis, we will be switching over to the use of the U.S. Dollar on January 1, 2011. Switching to the Euro would have been terrible for the local economy since most of our trade is with North America and in dollars, but it requires complete reeducation of locals who have no idea what a penny, nickel, dime, or quarter are. There will be quite a bit of chaos when the mandatory switch to the dollar happens.

We also end up with interesting logistical issues, such as how to properly address mail being sent to our island. Currently, people either put “Netherlands Antilles” or “Dutch Caribbean” as part of the address when they mail things here, but after 10-10-10 the former will no longer be correct, while the latter has never been a country per se, just a geographic identifier. Technically we should be “Bonaire, The Netherlands”, but that would mean our mail would get routed to Europe first before getting here – who knows how many weeks or months that would add to current mail delivery (which is already horrifically slow). The Dutch Kingdom office on Bonaire recommends we continue to have such mail addressed with “Dutch Caribbean” for the foreseeable future, incidentally.

In any event, even with all the planning that has gone into the process, there will be countless adjustments we will all have to make in dealing with a country dissolution and transfer, especially in rather untested waters, as no modern western nation has reabsorbed previously semi-independent locales in recent times (outside of the result of warfare, of course). It will be very interesting to be part of the process as well, instead of merely observing from afar.


A note about the image that appears in this blog post: Spirit of Bonaire is an original digital painting I created a few months ago to commemorate the transition of Bonaire back into the unknown of direct Dutch rule. More specifically, with the bright colors of the flag, which reaches out into the infinite, I meant to show that the spirit of Bonaire and its people is up to the challenge of transition, and strong enough to survive anything, even in the face of change and uncertainty.

 

A couple of days ago, lightning struck a large tank filled with naphtha, a highly flammable petroleum product, at the oil transshipment facility on the Caribbean island of Bonaire, where I live. The BOPEC (Bonaire Petroleum Corporation) facility and local firefighters were unable to extinguish the flames and apparently the island actually ran out of fire extinguishing materials, so the plan was to let the fire burn itself out. And burn it did.

I captured the images below last night – the second night after the lightning strike. Word is that the flames have gotten smaller overnight, and there’s hope that additional materials and support arriving on island today will allow the fire to be completely extinguished later in the day.

Larger versions of these images are available on my Flickr pages.

 

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