I found myself in a proverbial small boat on a large, familiar body of water. Off in the distance threatening clouds approached. From experience, I knew I needed to break from my everyday routine and head for the safety of shore. Just as I arrived there the storm hit.
The unexpected storm in the fifth decade of my life could not be avoided. Bill Sr., my friend and father, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It proved to be the aggressive sort. After a two-year battle, doctors conceded his cancer was not responding to treatment. As a result my courageous father opted for palliative treatment and hospice care. Prayer, originally our first option, was now our only option.
How do you stand and fight when bad news rains down on you with the force a hurricane, trapping you in the wind and rain and denying you shelter from its fury? Raw human emotion like the tidal wave of a storm surge washed over our family, ravaging our souls and leaving us utterly defenseless. The force of these elements drove downward with such intensity that strongholds, including the place where the essence of hope itself dwells, was in danger of being lost.
An overwhelming and relentless attack bore down on our world. It was beyond our human strength to resist it. The teaming and pooling of water created rivers of destruction; flooding the very paths we once trod in safety and comfort. It changed our familiar landscapes forever. Was there a rock mighty enough to withstand such an onslaught, a refuge impervious to anything and everything in its path? Where does hope exist at such a time?
Our family knows first hand of such a rock because Dad guided us to it. He helped us navigate through the maze of life’s distractions that might keep us from clinging to this rock of hope. Eventually we all found it and embraced it. We saw the value and the necessity of doing so because of Dad’s living example. I am of course speaking of Jesus Christ being our Hope, our Savior and a Rock without equal. From the book, Junior’s Hope.
Dad’s cancer affected his mind as his final days unfolded. The salmon hanging on the wall across from his bed became a single point of clarity for him. No matter how bad the confusion, if he could train his eyes on the fish, he could figure out who and where he was.
We all mourned when Dad went to be with his Savior in 2005. Following his death, I came to realize two things. First, I was deeply committed to the existence of the unseen and my ability to interact with it. God alone is able to receive into his presence those who have a genuine relationship with Him. Because I have such a relationship with God I know I will see my father again. Second, the relationships I still have need to be cherished.
I saw you fishing the other day as I was cleaning up the yard and stopped to sit beside you. You shared your fishing pole with me and we took turns baiting a hook with worms and dropping the line in the water. You caught a sunfish, I caught one too.
As we sat together near the water’s edge watching a school of minnows congregate on the surface of the water, my mind drifted back to my senior year in college. I had almost given up hope of finding that one person who could bring me joy, not just for a season, but perpetually. This person needed to be special, a girl who could captivate my heart so completely that I would be compelled to love her…always…forever. That person needed to believe in God and love Him like I do.
It was your beauty that first caught my eye but I resisted its appeal. Beauty, they say, is only skin deep. Then, your eyes connected with mine and opened a window of kindness that my heart wanted to gaze into. A quiet smile complemented your eyes. I caught glimpse of the love you possessed in the well of your soul and I stood before you breathless, trying to hide my feeling of awe. I was not prepared to encounter real beauty, which existed previously only in my dreams.
We strode together into the movie theatre on our first date. I beamed with pride because I had the privilege of sitting alone with you for the next several hours. I wanted desperately to say something that would make a meaningful connection. A pang of fear pierced my thoughts, what if I was not the type of guy you are looking for.
Time passed too quickly as we watched the double feature. Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase found love in the first film; Warren Beatty and Julie Christie found it in the second. I wondered if Patty would remember me tomorrow, and the day after that? Bravely, I reached out and touched your hand and you cradled it in yours. My heart beat faster. I did not want our time together to end. When it came time to say goodnight, I brushed my lips across yours. In that moment, with my eyes squeezed tightly shut, I tried to convey my willingness to be a part of your life, your dreams and your future…
The song “Downstream” was popular when we dated. I still think of Patty every time I hear it.
“Downstream” by Supertramp © 1977
Took a boat Sunday, down by the sea
It just felt so nice, you and me
We didn’t have a problem or a care on us
And all around was silence, everywhere
You are the reason I was born
Be with you through all seasons
I’ll always hear you
When you call
We’ll keep the love light shining
Through each night and day
A lonely life behind me
Oh, what a change you’ve made
So down here on the ocean
We will stay, we will stay, we will stay
Went through a lot of changes
Turned a lot of pages
When I took a boat on Sunday
I count each day I spend with Patty a blessing. Sometimes when we sit together in our Adirondack chairs overlooking the pond behind our house, fishing of all things, enters my mind. What began as a childhood experience (interacting with the unseen) has turned into a lifelong commitment.
Today I see fish as a symbol of hope. One day all things will be revealed and on that day things we cannot see will become visible. My prayer is that I will be remembered as someone who fished with patience and faithfulness.
“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NLT