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Help Duncan and Siân Build a Boat for Torin

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Hello, I’m Duncan Passmore, a husband, a father and a woodworker of twenty years and this is a story about our boy and his boat.

From a very early age our son Torin was fascinated with how things worked. His curiosity penetrated deeper than the surface level of things. When he was around two and a half he asked me “where are stars born”? Another time he asked me if the underworld was real.

A little over 12 years ago, when he was ten months old Torin was diagnosed with a very rare, incurable and progressive form of mitochondrial disease. We were told that he would unlikely live long enough to get to secondary school. For a very long time we kept death at bay. We were not hostile to it and so we were able to become familiar with grief and uncertainty in intimate ways. All we wanted to do was live as fully we could with Torin in the time we had left with him. So it had to include everything even the hard stuff.

As time passed Torin’s illness became more and more apparent, we had to deal with both its progression and his growing awareness of his disease.

Not long ago I asked Torin this question. “If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be”? He answered, “Windermere, I would want you to take me sailing on lake Windermere so we can land on Wild Cat Island. Just like they do in Swallows and Amazons”. After checking he understood my question correctly and assuring him he could go anywhere in the world he confirmed his choice as the Lake District in Cumbria, North England. We started looking into it and making plans but that’s as far as we got.

One year ago during a routine surgical procedure Torin contracted sepsis whilst in hospital. Five weeks after the surgery he died very suddenly in the early hours of the morning, he was very nearly twelve years old. The shock, the horror, the grief. All consuming. He was kind, stubborn, intelligent, loving and ever so gentle.

In the days and weeks following his death our community of friends and family gathered around as we crafted a painfully beautiful funeral. Friends made a small boat for him to be buried in. Forty of us paddled him down the river Dart singing all the way. Three hundred were there at the graveside waiting for us. A holy man held the ceremony for us. The name Torin means “Chief” and we gave him a chieftains burial.

My wife Siân and I together are going to build a fourteen foot traditional wooden sailing dinghy, just like the ones in “Swallows and Amazons”. Siân is an artist and gifted with the remarkable ability to create beauty with whatever it is her hands get to make. I’m blessed beyond words to have her as my wife, as the mother to my children and as a companion in a world where our son is no longer physically with us.

There is clearly a boat theme here, from my canoeing adventures with the kids on the river Dart to Torin’s burial boat. From us forty paddling him down river one last time to now the sailing boat. I find it uncanny how in cultures the world over boats and bodies of water feature in the journey between life and the afterlife. From Ancient Greek, Egyptian, Norse and Mayan cultures to name but a few. Always the person who has died must undertake a journey from the shores of this world to the next. Torin’s funeral was our first attempt at doing what we could in our broken state to make sure he gets to where he needs to get to. One year on and still broken we want to do something devotional that acknowledges his beauty and the humility we now experience in the “spiralling gyre” that life just is.

And so, the boat and the building of it will be a prayer. A prayer of gratitude to the boy who is our son and a prayer of gratitude to the unfathomable mystery which makes possible all of our lives and all of our deaths.

Your support will help us raise £35K to buy all the materials needed, rent a workshop, buy a trailer, and sustain our little family while we dedicate ourselves to this task.

  • Materials £10K
  • Trailer £2K
  • Overheads (workshop, electricity etc) £3K
  • Filming £2K
  • Campaign Management £2K
  • Platform Fee £1K
  • Labour £15K

Over the years as a craftsman I’ve learned to be humbled by the process of making. It seems that there’s a difference between hunting down meaning, with an idea of what it will be when and if you find it, and having two hands and a heart involved in creating the conditions where it might appear.

If you would like to help us create the conditions for deep meaning and are moved by this please consider contributing financially and/or sharing with your friends and family to help us in this prayer.

We hope to start building in May/June of this year and we will post regular updates to our supporters.

Thank you,

Duncan, Siân and the team.

Fundraising team (2)

Duncan Passmore
Ian MacKenzie
Team member

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