Sea air truly was invigorating. As John leaned over the railing and watched waves lap against the sides of the ship he wondered what his new life would be like. He would miss his beloved Ireland, but not its hardships. So many had died in the famine and so many were still dying yet. He and his family had decided that to stay there would only lead to further suffering and so they had spent their last pennies on buying passage to the Americas.
This ship named the Erin was one of the McCorkell’s line. It was stoutly built and so far they had managed to escape the dangers of the sudden summer storms. They were only a month out and the blue of the ocean surrounded them in every direction. Today was another gorgeous day, sunny, warm and with a healthy breeze to keep them cool and to blow them ever closer to their destination.
Life on the ship was a hard one. The ships that made this trip to the Americas and back were known as ‘coffin ships” and for a good reason too. Disease and infection were all but inescapable with so many people crammed together in a confirmed space and for such a long time.
John’s family had been lucky so far. At this thought, he knocked his fist discreetly on the wooden railing. It was him, his parents and three of his siblings; Colin, Frank and Mae. The youngest two, Ian, Hannah were left behind with his Aunt Colleen back in Kilrush. His mother had wept bitterly at leaving the two babes in the famine-ravished Ireland, but the journey to Canada was far too dangerous for such young children. Hopefully in ten years or so, they would have made enough money for the little ones to come across the ocean as well.
John was excited by the thought of Canada, this new and fresh land were a man could forever change his fortunes. The opportunities there would be boundless and as long as a person was willing and able to work hard, the future could be so much better than the past.
Along with excitement though, came a very real fear. Certainly thus far their passage had been a good one, but danger was ever present. Disease, famine, injury or even a storm that could sink the ship were all very likely to happen out here in the open seas. Even if they all made it to land safely, opportunity was not certainty and a new land could very well hold new perils.
All these thoughts swirled aimlessly through John’s mind as he gazed out at the beautiful seascape before him. He leaned back and stretched out his arms; it was time to get back to work. Every one on the ship had a task as the safe arrival of the ship to its harbor was everyone’s concern.
Looking back one last time at the beauty of the sunlight dancing on the waves, John remembered his Aunt Colleen’s final words to him. It was a common Irish blessing and one John had heard many times throughout his life, but never before had the words meant so much to him.
May the worst day of your future be the best day of your past.
John wanted a better life both for himself and for all those he loved. He would work harder than he ever had before to ensure that that was exactly what happened. He would make enough money to bring Ian and Hannah across the Atlantic and their family would be reunited and happy in the future to come. He would allow nothing less.
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