I guess this is the most difficult night I've spent at sea in the last 10 years, except for the night PW was sick, last year. My son officially graduated about 20 minutes ago. PW called me from her cell and I was able to listen to his name being called and all the cheering. Afterward, I thanked her for everything she's done to help her oldest step-child to get to this day and then walked out to the darkened heli-deck to cry.
Such an occasion shouldn't be spent alone in the dark, 15,000 miles away from everything and everyone that matters, but that is the life I've chosen. After I got my shit together, I noticed another crew out walking in the dark. He asked if I'd ever seen the Southern Cross and we looked for it among the many stars visible from the blackness of an oceanic vantage point. After a minute, I picked out a likely set of stars, spanning the sky in a majestic and symmetrical spread. Truly awesome. A minute later, the night fire watchman walked out and showed us the real cross. It was small and dim, barely visible in the extra atmosphere you have to peer through as you get closer to the horizon. Not exactly majestic, but still special.
As I was leaving, I saw a long-tailed shooting star, streaking silently across the sky. I made a wish for my oldest daughter's good fortune and happiness, who is also very much on my mind tonight, then came back inside to face the next 8 hours of my shift.