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And That's Final

Hoping for a Fair Wind


Imagine the calmest pond you have ever seen, without the slightest breeze to disturb the absolutely unrippled surface. So quiet you could see a pin drop in the water. It's called "the doldrums." When I was 25, I spent three straight days in the doldrums, in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle, during an Atlantic crossing I made in a 51-foot sailboat named "Jaska".

During our time in the doldrums, the motionless Atlantic mirrored the sky and clouds above so perfectly that it was impossible to tell where the blue-and-white canopy above ended and the ocean, reflecting that canopy, began. Water and sky melted together, creating the illusion of a horizon just a dozen yards off our rail.

The effect was disturbing. Rather than sailing astride the vast, tossing waters of the Atlantic, it felt as if we were floating motionless in the dead air of a small crystal globe.

The halyard slapped against the mast with a metallic ring as Jaska bobbed slightly on the becalmed sea. Beyond this sound, the silence was thunderous. Not a wave broke, not a fish jumped, not a line creaked as it strained to hold our sails against the wind.

Ian, our extraordinarily competent first mate from Antigua, even tried whistling for the wind, an old sailors' trick, and still we were stuck. We ran the engine from time to time to make a little progress. But we didn't have enough fuel to motor across the ocean. The wind would be our only ride out of here.

My three crew mates, experienced sailors all, were not worried.

I, however, was worried. In fact, at first I was reasonably sure that our being literally adrift in the Atlantic constituted some sort of emergency. It didn't.

We weren't out of water or food; we weren't suffering from exposure; we weren't injured. We were just stuck. It was a vividly tangible lesson that sometimes you have a significant lack of control over your own forward progress.

All you can do in such a situation is affect that which is within your control. So we did. We made the best of it.

Eventually the wind returned, as it always does. And not only were we ready for its return, but I was now better prepared for the inevitable next time.

Ten years later, almost to the day, I sat next to my newborn daughter, Madison Claire, as she slept peacefully. We were not, however, in a peaceful place. We were in the pediatric intensive care unit of a hospital.

Barely a week into her life, Madison was struck by Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), a dangerous virus that can kill a little one like her.

During the first few days of Madison's illness, my wife, Stacy, and I, and our families were tossed in the waves of a storm we never saw coming. Madison's condition deteriorated from bad to worse as her lungs foundered and began taking on fluid and mucus too rapidly. We realized that we could lose our precious little girl.

But through God's will and our doctors' and nurses' skill — and Madison's fighting spirit — she was brought out of immediate danger after a few days in the storm.

Then, in the early morning hours of Day five in intensive care, we were becalmed. The medical staff had worked to stabilize Madison, to put her in a position from which she could recover. But only Madison and God could provide the healing wind that would deliver her and us from this sterile hospital room, back to the lovingly prepared nursery that waited at home.

So we waited — watching CNN, sleeping on uncomfortable recliner chairs by the bed, fielding calls from relatives and eating fast food and hospital grub. And we held our little girl every minute that she was awake.

On the morning of Day six, I went down to the gift shop to buy a treat for my wife, to try to help cheer her up some. Behind the register, on a plaque on the wall, I saw the Serenity Prayer, and I thought immediately back to those becalmed days on Jaska. I spent a moment swimming in this reflection.

Then I said a prayer for my daughter, bought some candy for my wife, and whistled as I walked back to the intensive care unit, hoping for a fair wind soon. FS

(Note: Two days later, Madison was released from the hospital, after a quicker-than-expected recovery. This year, our healthy, beautiful little girl turned 4 years old.)

© 2002 Chuck Hansen

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