Friday, August 31, 2007

On August 24, 1985, I was sailing with a friend on Sardis Lake when a sudden storm appeared. The wind was strong and reversed its direction, making it impossible for us to tack our way in the tiny two-seater to the shore. A park ranger sat on the hill in his car blinking his lights as a signal for all boaters to get off the water immediately. There was a bass tournament going on, so all boats but ours were fishing boats with motors. Seeing the difficulty we were having, he sent one of the fishing boats back to tow us in.

In the confusion of trying to catch the tow rope tossed to us, my friend lost his footing and went overboard. The rain was coming down hard, the wind was strong, and lightning cracked dangerously close. The fishermen managed to pull Mo from the water, but in the meantime, the sailboat was blown further in the opposite direction. Rather than turn around to come rescue me, the four men in the fishing boat headed to the shore, leaving me to fend for myself. "Better one drown than five," they concluded, as I watched them disappear in the darkness that enveloped me.

I, who had never been in a sailboat in my life before that day, prepared to meet my Maker. "It's up to you, Lord, whether I live or whether I die. I'm ok with whatever you decide." A peaceful calm settled in my soul as I was tossed by high waves on a lake that had just an hour before been so serene. There was nothing left to do. The rain was so hard it stung, so I wrapped beach towels around me. And I began recalling Baptist hymns about storms, so I began singing.

I’ve seen the lightning flashing, I’ve heard the thunder roll.
I’ve felt sin’s breakers dashing, trying to conquer my soul...
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone!

When the storms of life are raging, stand by me...

I’ve anchored my soul in the “Haven of Rest,”
I’ll sail the wide seas no more;
The tempest may sweep o'er the wild, stormy, deep,
In Jesus I’m safe evermore.

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind,
The answer is blowing in the wind...
(okay, so that one hasn't made it to the Baptist Hymnal yet)

For the next 90 minutes, words came to me that I didn't realize I knew, and couldn't recall afterward, and I sang them loudly in defiance of the destructive force swirling around me. The park ranger contacted the sheriff's office to bring the dragnet, so sure he was that I was gone. Mo sat in his truck crying throughout the whole storm. He had tried to persuade the fishermen to go back for me to no avail.

Finally, the storm blew away and the sun broke through. The sailboat had been blown out of the bay into the larger lake, completely out of sight of those on the bank, but I heard the boat motors when the fishermen started out to search for me. It didn't take them long to find me. My relieved and elated friend Mo was in the second boat that arrived, and he made sure his friend and sailboat were towed to safety. Needless to say, I've had no interest in sailing since that day.

I relate this favorite August story to preserve it for posterity. I've always thought it was the tailwinds of Hurricane Juan, but according to Wikipedia, Juan did not develop until two months after this occurred, and there were no hurricanes blowing through Oxford on that day. There were tornado warnings, I learned later, so maybe it was just one of our pop-up summer storms. I know the remembered date is correct because it was midway between LaRue's birthday on the 21st and Don's on the 27th, one of those trivial facts that floated through the flotsam that day. I could probably dig into the Oxford newspapers for that week and find exact data for the weather conditions, but is it really that important? Just another reason that stories need to be written down when the details are still clear.

The important thing I want my grandchildren to know is that your Gramma has enjoyed the adventures of life. They didn't all turn out like I hoped, but I survived, with the help of the Good Lord, and usually learned a thing or two from each one. This particular adventure taught me that sailing is not my thing. Praying always helps, as does singing.

But the main thing is:


O, God Thy Sea Is So Great And My Boat Is So Small
Prayer of the Breton fisherman


mornin' said...

I'm so glad you posted the story!! Do you remember that you called me not too long after to relate it to me? I was worried by "what ifs" for days after you told me. Thanks for sharing it again so I can, again, thank our Father for taking care of you.

dmccrory2 said...

Cathy, this story resonated with me. I had life-threatening experience when I was 18, a sophomore at Millsaps. I was kidnapped and it is a miracle that I was not killed. But after I finally turned it over to God, saying, as you did, "God, it is up to You whether I live or die, and I accept that" the most amazing sense of peace flooded my body and mind.

I'm glad you're still here. Keep telling your stories!

C J Garrett said...

And I can't wait until you start a blog and begin telling yours. I'll be a regular reader, for sure.