Walter’s Boat, 2004
“A terrible storm approached.” Walter, a friend of mine, a preacher, a good man, a virtuous man, is telling the story. “It was forecast to be a “storm of the Century.”
I drove an hour and a half to the place where I keep my sailboat. It’s an old marina, a little place with rickety piers and pilings that rocked back and forth with the current and the tug of boat lines, the kind of place where old timers and preachers could afford to keep their aging boats. It’s a comfortable and congenial place under normal conditions. But today, with the storm approaching, its age was showing.
I had no more than 45 minutes to secure my boat before turning back for home. The other fellows on the dock invited me to take my boat out into a nearby river with them to ride out the storm at anchor. But I had a long ride home and a funeral to perform later in the day. My wife, too, was recovering from a difficult surgery and needed me.
I have feared little in my life. The Lord’s blessings have been more than ample. Our children made us far prouder than we deserve. Our grandchildren bless us with the joy of youth. My wife’s condition, though momentarily grave, would in time be restored. My work is satisfying. But I feared for the fate of my little sailboat. To another man, she might not look like much. But my twenty-six years of memories of sailing her could not be valued by any earthly measure. As I drove home, the car radio reported the early reach of the storm surge. My boat was snugly nestled at her dock. But still I thought, “This might be it.”
The storm was terrific. The surge was higher than predicted. Flood waters swept homes off their foundations. Mighty ships were blown ashore. Tens of thousands of trees were uprooted and tossed. Many people died before the winds subsided. In the days that followed it seemed irresponsible to worry about the boat as I tended to the needs of my wife and our church family.
It was almost two weeks after the storm before I could return to check on my boat. As I drove through the country toward the marina, I saw only destruction and disarray. I feared the worse. The first thing I noticed as I approached the marina was that all of the boat sheds had been destroyed. Once handsome yachts were strewn across the field like children’s toys. Tears formed in my eyes as I searched for a clear place among the debris to park my car, certain that my little boat would be gone or, worse, splayed across a field for me to witness.
But amid all the destruction, my little boat rocked gently in the afternoon sun, anxious to be unleashed into the breeze.