I always love it when “special folks” come on tour with us, and I am not referring to celebrities. I really ALWAYS love it when those amazing people show up, like the guy who called from Arizona to book a tour and asked what we wanted him to bring us from Arizona. He and Neil had a big laugh about scorpions and ex-wives. What do ya know…a few weeks later this guy shows up with a small scorpion paperweight for us!!! What a guy!!! We loved it!
I love the people that take their hard earned vacations and drive or fly all the way down south, so we can show them this amazing wild world we love. They may be the customers who call a few times to “make sure” we haven’t forgotten them. New Orleans traffic can be a nightmare! We so appreciate the patience!!! We know when we do get them on that boat; they always experience some of the most unbelievable sights still available to the human eye. I have never seen someone walk off those boats acting like it was just another day on vacation, and let me tell you before I met swampman, I was the queen of traveling. Now I spend most of my time watching other people go on vacation, but that has really turned out to be a pretty cool gig in itself. I also love it when we do go places and meet people that fall in love with swampman’s stories about “his swamp, “ and so I must tell you about my special friends Gregg and Mary…
Last year we met this incredible couple while on vacation. Neil loved Gregg because he had a buddy to hang out with on the upper deck. I loved them both just because they felt like a real life storybook love story couple. We had no idea what they were dealing with or what had brought them on vacation, but as time went by, we learned that this vacation was one in a long line of vacations that Mary had planned to help keep Gregg’s spirits up. At the end of our cruise, they both told us they were coming to see us and to take a swamp tour in March. March seemed like a long time away to me when I found out what was up. I wasn’t sure if I would get to see them again…honestly, Neil and I both weren’t so sure, but we gave lots of hugs, exchanged information, and decided to hope for the best.
March did come, and so did Gregg and Mary, along with their family. Mary had called me and told me not to expect a lot. I knew things were tough, but they wanted their sweet little granddaughter to see the swamp, and Mary said it seemed to mean an awful lot to Gregg. The best two kids any parents could ask for showed up with them, and it was more than good to give them all a big hug, go out in the boat, and see all the smiles! Gregg was now in wheelchair and on oxygen, but there was just something SPECIAL about this man. Even with all he had going on, even with an oxygen tank attached, he looked like the coolest kid ever! This man had that same sneaky little grin plastered all over his face that I saw the day I met him many months and many treatments ago. That evening it seemed like every single animal in the swamp came out to see Gregg because Neil had told him they were there, and they weren’t going to let either of these men down. I saw my swampman be the consummate performer that only he knows how to be when his heart is about to break. He was at his best and so was the swamp! It came alive with birds, raccoons, alligators…yes we saw alligators in March, and hogs. Neil told all the best stories he grew up hearing, the very ones he told me when he first brought me to his special world. We all went to eat that night, and those grown kids kept hugging us telling us how much this meant to them, and Mary said she hadn’t seen him that alive in months. She said he had been talking a lot about coming to see us, and he sure made it. Today Mary and her family are saying goodbye to this very SPECIAL man who loved Mary for 38 years and lived for 58 years on this earth. I just do not have words for how much it means to have the honor to get to know such angels that shine down on us for a little while. Gregg was so wise beyond his years. He looked right into the eyes of big old bear of a man and told him to slow down, to not work himself to death, to take the vacation, enjoy the ride a bit more…Thank you Gregg. Thank you Mary and the whole family for sharing him with us when your time was limited.
We get a lot of truly SPECIAL people on tour each and every day. Sometimes we know their stories, but more often than not, we don’t. I love it when we have the chance to be part of their story, like the fantastic couple who got engaged on one of our tours, had Captain John video the whole event, and then shared it with us on our Facebook page.
Life is so full of a so many things. We are blessed to have a small place where we get a chance to share some of the best of life with the special people. In honor of Gregg today, I ask you to smile a little bigger (he had a thing for a good smile) and to slow down, not work yourself so hard, take the vacation, but mostly to enjoy the ride a bit more.