Sheldon the Fisherman This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

August 9, 2011
Death is a vague one. You think that he can't possibly touch you or anybody you know. You go through life skipping the obituary section in the newspaper and holding your breath as you pass a graveyard. Then with no warning, he appears like a rude house guest. But when he leaves, he take someone with him.

I spent most of my childhood at the small bait and tackle shop that my father owns and runs. Daily, I'd play games in the parking lot in front of the building – catch with my brother in the grassy field out back, or (on rainy days) Clue in the small upstairs area my dad called an office/storage area. I grew up with the most frequent customers as friends, people like Teddy Abbadessa and Fisherman Jack. And Sheldon Sladen.

Sheldon could probably be best described as … I don't know. A man who spent his life fishing and lobstering; who was short but made up for it with a personality that could knock you over. A man who was dark, rough, and weather-beaten from years spent at sea, yet gentle enough to befriend a toddling girl with ease.

He seemed eternal, a man who would always be around. I always thought that when I graduated high school, came home and helped at the shop during college breaks, he'd come into the shop with a hello and a grin. I thought I would be hearing his little jokes and tidbits of fishing news for years to come. But last spring, my mother gave me heart-shattering news – Sheldon had died.

He had been fishing in his boat outside Cohasset harbor and apparently had a heart attack or stroke, became entangled in his line, fell overboard, and drowned. I suppose it is a comfort that he died while doing what he loved best, but nevertheless, I was unable to force my dinner past the growing lump in my throat and spent most of the evening crying into my pillow.

True to form, his will stated that rather than be buried, he wished to be cremated and have his ashes scattered into the sea. That day hundreds of people gathered on the shore to pay their respects to a wonderful man, and the overcast sky made it seem like even nature was mourning his passing. As the priest scattered the ashes, however, the clouds parted, the sun broke through, and a rainbow arced across the sky – a pathway of God, laid out for the angels to travel and bring a great man home, for his eternal rest.

Good-bye, Sheldon – wherever you are, please know that you will never be forgotten.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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