Devotionals teach sacrifice

Posted: Friday, August 18, 2006

Recently Doctor Walter Soboleff sent me a pamphlet of devotional prayers. He included the note that they would serve me like a spring line on a boat.

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I wanted to get a careful translation. I looked up spring line in the dictionary but no mention there.

I asked Buzz Ritter for his interpretation. He gave me this fine definition.

"Fore and aft spring lines are in addition to the bow and stern lines, typically crossing one another. They allow the boat to move fore and aft without the bow or stern swinging toward the dock, thereby cushioning the vessel against the violent motion of the sea or tide."

So Walter meant me to have something that would steady me and give me balance.

The sea offers so many parables and messages to those of the Judeo-Christian faith.

Close by to the motherland of religion is the mighty sea of the Mediterranean. Not only was it the benign "wine red sea" of Homer, which you can still sense as the sun goes down and the remaining light casts an amber glow on the waters, but it was the violent ocean that destroyed many traveling pilgrims.

In the Old Testament Jonah was imperiled and briefly met his fate with the whale. Herman Melville in Moby Dick gave a sermon through Father Mapple on the subject.

In the psalms there is the powerful poem of the men who go down to the sea in ships and do business in great waters, where they encounter the stormy wind which lifts the waves. They mount up to the heavens and down to the depths. The mariner's soul is melted because of trouble, until the Lord makes the storm a calm so that the waves are still, and the sailor comes home to his desired haven.

In the Gospels Jesus called to his first followers who were fishermen on the Sea of Galalie. In a mighty metaphor, he cried, "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."

Each spring for the last few years I have eulogized my friend Rick Nelson who gave up his life to save a ship mate. But I recently learned more about his sacrifice.

As Paul Harvey says in his radio commentary "Now for the rest of the story."

In a recent conversation Romer Derr told me what happened.

Rick came into Harri Marine in the fall of the year, and Romer sold him a survival suit. Romer wanted to sell him a second suit but Rick declined because he didn't think he would need it until the Springtime when he would hire a deckhand. Besides he wanted to pay for it, rather than get it on credit. He soon started on his fateful journey. He left Juneau alone on his boat. On his way to Elfin Cove he stopped at Gustavus. A young woman who wanted to go to Elfin Cove persuaded Rick to take her along.

They encountered stormy weather and the boat began to sink. Rick told the young woman to get in the survival suit while he put on a thin life jacket. She held him up for while, but weakening and overcome by the freezing water he slipped away. She survived on the beach for a week until rescued.

In the New Testament, it is written that there is no greater love than this that a man gives up his life for a friend.

• Lifelong Alaskan Elton Engstrom is a retired fish-buyer, lawyer and legislator (1964-70) who lives in Juneau.

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