I would think very few have ever taken in or completely understood or comprehended the magnificence of Nature, to behold its stupendous and overpowering might, its raw and blistering breath. In July, 1979, at the breakwater of Saint Andrews Bay, Florida, I most certainly did!
I was a commercial fisherman aboard the 55 foot fishing boat, The Miss June. There was a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico and we were attempting to make safe harbor when a rogue wave came menacingly upon our stern, towering above us like a mountain. There were six of us and we braced as the sea consumed us. I remember tumbling like a rag doll, head over heels, like one doing cartwheels in the swirling torrent of an angry and very dark sea. I was lost and in the belly of the beast.
The turmoil ceased and I was adrift in the darkness and could hear the dull sound of the boat’s propellers somewhere in the distance. It was quiet and I thought to myself “My God! I’m going to die! The next thought was of my wife and two young girls but it was so peaceful. I saw a great white light that was beckoning to me like the mythical sirens that lured Jason’s Argonauts to their deaths. I remember taking a few weak strokes toward it.
In the next moment, I was on the surface, in the midst of a maelstrom like in the last frames of the picture, The Perfect Storm. I was riding the crests of gigantic waves but I was breathing crisp salty air, I was alive!
Possibly I had been unconscious and imagined the light but I have seen that light three times in my life; In Vietnam and during recovery after open heart surgery. One might suppose I was unconscious in all three episodes but really? I was rescued by the Coast Guard that night or was I ransomed by God?
Now I am an old man and I am again facing that which is inevitable and that brings me to my new word, “kismet.” It is your fate or destiny or might we say “God’s Providence.”
My time doth draweth nigh, I envision it like steam hovering above water, still, wispy and vaporous; I hear it like windblown grass rustling as something passes unseen; I catch glimpses of it as the fleeting imaginings at the corners of my eyes; I sense it like the cool stillness before the thunderstorm, the sense of the tempest approaching. One might call it a portent or an omen, a harbinger of the inevitable; for no man can save his soul from the hand of the grave; for what man is he that shall liveth and shall never see death?
Shall I wail in anguish and wring my hands? Shall I in sack cloth and ashes bereave the certainty of my appointed time? For my days are with him that doth all things well.
Indomitable and indelible will I face the specter of death, that pale fade that stands just in the shadows awaiting the appointed hour. That wraith, in his imagined cloak and cowl, whose face is hidden in the recesses of his dark demeanor. I fear not! That dark angel is that which will transport me from this existence unto that unknown place, that esoteric place, we Masons call “the undiscovered country from which no traveler returns” For it is a certainty that I will follow all those love ones who have gone before me.
As the pendulum swings and the pentameter ticks, so does my time wax away; the imagery of the sand draining through the hourglass is fixed and of a prophetic certainty.
I know not where thou art my brother for thou has been gone ten long years, a decade of sorrow and remorse has not assuaged thy memory nor the sorrow of thy passing. I beckon thee to come quickly when I do call upon thee for I see a dark forest and no sign of thee nor a trail to follow. I would hope you will meet me at the bar, that shoal that separates the safe harbor from the infinite sea. I will stand at the edge of infinity and await your appearance from that dark valley. For I know of a certainly you will come, holding aloft a torch or lantern, to brighten my path, to illuminate the darkness and relieve my fears, to be my guide. We will once more tread upon the soft needles under the statuesque pines; we will once more gaze into each other’s souls for you are bone of my bone. To again kneel beside that still stream, to drink from that which slakes the thirst of our souls.
We will again find each other, for you have always been faithful in coming to wherever I was and whenever I called. We always met somewhere in the morning dews and shared the hunt. We will again be young warriors in search of adventure. What is heaven if you can’t have your wish to again experience the sublime?