There are people that go on adventures and then there are adventurers.
John Patrick Sullivan, or Sully, as we knew him, was a true adventurer. He was a very rare person; a leader with a booming voice and commanding presence. Strong and practical, swift and kind.
Sully wanted all of the Unicorn community to come together; to raft, to celebrate, to reconnect (the company was sold in 2003). We were so excited to get up to the rivers and see familiar faces we hadn’t seen in years (17 to be exact).
This summer Sully suffered greatly and died. A tragedy no one could have seen coming. Sully was that immovable force of nature that we all knew and loved, how could he be gone?
The Unicorn 40 Year Bash he conceived of became his memorial. His true love Beth carried his ashes down the Penobscot, down the Kennebec and scattered them into the Dead. His ashes were spread in each of these rivers that were his home. Greg took Harry (our 13 year old) down the upper Kennebec and got to guide the raft (thank you Matt and Monique 💙) through Magic, as Sully had taught him 20 years ago. They watched as Beth spread his ashes at Cathedral; a hallowed and breathtaking place on the Kennebec River.
I walked the steep steps down Carry Brook with baby Peter and Eily (and Adrienne!) and we joined up with the trip, this beautiful procession of rafts pulling up as we descended down. It was like every boat was synchronized with the type of harmony Sully always exuded. It was a great, great, great day on the river. Each person was having their own unique adventure; but we were ALL there together for him, in his memory. It was such a powerful and overwhelming trip. Extremely sad and extremely beautiful.
There is no promise of what we dream of, however pure and beautiful; or what tomorrow holds. When a dream is dashed; by death, or by some other sudden and awful detour, can we find guidance by stopping and looking at the intense beauty surrounding us?
Shall we Gather at the River
Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With it’s crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?
Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.
On the margin of the river,
Washing up it’s silver spray,
We will talk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day.
Ere we reach the shining river,
Lay we every burden down;
Grace our spirits will deliver,
And provide a robe and crown.
At the smiling of the river,
Mirror of the Savior’s face,
Saints, whom death will never sever,
Lift their songs of saving grace.
Soon we’ll reach the silver river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace.
The rivers to me mean life. Back in 2002 I became a raft guide and I found God (again), love (Smoochie), and a wonderful family, community, and home. Those waters are healing. They are part of me, part of my home here in Maine. I was not born here, but I was born again in those rivers and Maine is my home.
For the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd. He will lead them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'” Revelation 7:17
I really pray Beth can remain strong, steadfast and kind (like Sully) in this heart wrenching pain. I think some sadnesses are meant to linger forever. I don’t think that type of grief is ever supposed to disappear. I think we are supposed to face it, let it take over us and change us; make us strong, swift and pure. Rest in Peace Sully.
Truly, truly, I tell you, you will weep and wail while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.
Heading down to the river.
Greg and Chris Hewke reunite at the dam
Unicorns as far as the eye can see; all of these rafts (including the one already in the river in the above picture) were filled with Sully’s friends and family. Some also swam the river sans boat.
Baby Peter braved his first class III whitewater (black brook rapid) and then snoozed the rest of the way down the fast but calmer waters of the lower Kennebec.
Our little (and big) future raft guides.
Greg helping me paint a Cornoslavakian flag to fly at half mast before the trip (P-Roy’s idea!). Cornoslavakia= the realm of the corn, as in Unicorn.
Greg and P-Roy