This is the primary title of the column I write. Typically, a stepping stone is something to help you get from one place to another or from one phase in life to another as well. We have all utilized them. Sometimes they are very obvious to us; very evident. Other times we just happen to stumble upon them. They can be subtle or they can be earth shattering. One thing is for sure…we use them from the day we are born until the time we die.
Some of the people who create these pathways leave lasting impressions on us. They can be teachers, parents, supervisors, spouses and friends. I’m sure everyone reading this can easily think of several individuals who have had a profound impact on life’s decisions, on helping to form the people we are today. For me, there was one individual who was always there whether I needed her or not. That being said this tribute goes out to Emily, my mom.
You see, my sister lived in the Venice area of Florida for a few years and mom visited her several times. When my mom saw her first dolphin at the Venice jetty she was hooked. She could not wait to see them all of the time. She was becoming the ultimate dolphin lover. She was true to her word and stayed on schedule with the move from Maryland to Florida.
Emily was the person who provided stepping stones throughout my life. Her kind nature and patience directed me through my early years, gently nudging me to make correct decisions. When I was grown she provided subtle hints that she was around if needed. Always the positive person, she had a smile for anyone who glanced in her direction.
I helped her make that move to Florida 30+ years ago and, very honestly, I made the move myself within 6 months. We spentmany, many evenings walking the beaches of Casey Key and she never tired of seeing dolphins. Each time that dorsal fin would rise above the water it was like the first time she had seen one. She was like a young child opening gifts on Christmas morning.
Time has passed too quickly and Emily, at age 92, is now gone. Although her memory was not what it used to be she could still see the dolphins to the very end of life. And when she did see them, that kind, gentle smile was still there. The loving look in her eyes, for anyone, provided stepping stones for all who could recognize them.
I don’t think that my passion for studying dolphins is by accident. My mom was responsible, no doubt. I don’t know how she did it but she has guided me to a place in life in which I can make others smile just by sharing her happiness. She had a magic about her that I can only hope to pay forward.
With her health failing, she had one major stepping stone left. With her life complete there is no question in my mind that, thereto greet her, were her dolphin friends.
She has provided pathways for everyone who entered her life. She was, indeed, a stepping stone herself. Thank you to the ultimate dolphin lover. Thank you my dear mom. Emily will soon swim with the dolphins forever in the waters of south Florida.
Post Script: My mom passed in the afternoon of March 23rd. Later that day I received a call from a guest scheduled on board the Dolphin Explorer the next day stating that one daughter was ill and might not make the trip, but she really wanted to see our dolphins. This youngster, although not feeling completely well, arrived for her trip. Seeing that she was really trying her best to feel good, I presented her with a stuffed toy, a dolphin, and her eyes lit up and the smile reminded me of my Mom immediately. By the way, the name of that toy dolphin…..Emily, of course!
Bob is the owner of Stepping Stone Ecotours and is a naturalist on board The Dolphin Explorer. He is a member of Florida SEE (Society for Ethical Ecotourism). Bob loves his wife (and his mom) very much!