A Healing Power
by E.A. Kelly
December 25, 1998
I have written this story in memory of my mother, who died recently. She was always a woman of faith, and a strong believer in the power of God’s healing. Sadly, healing was not a part of God’s plan for her. But I do believe He has reserved that healing power for the family my mom left behind. With God’s help, our lives continue on.
Harriman Nelson wearily climbed the ladder of the conning tower. The mission he and his crew had just completed had been a difficult one. The fact that two of the sub’s hands had lost their lives, was not going to make for much of a happy homecoming, especially with the Christmas holidays only a week away. This mission had taken it’s greatest toll on the Seaview’s Captain and the Admiral’s best friend, Lee Crane. Pushing the deck hatch open, Nelson glanced up into the inky darkness, the night sky lit only by the brightness of countless stars gleaming in the heavens above.
“Lee?” Nelson called tentatively. “Lee!”, a little louder this time. Harry climbed out of the opening, looking anxiously at the solitary figure of his friend. Crane was leaning against the rail, staring intently into the blackness of the night, lost in the inner turmoil of his mind. He was totally unaware of his friend’s presence.
Nelson reached out a hand, placing it gently on his Captain’s shoulder. “Lee. are you all right?” He turned the man to face him, peering deeply into the pain-filled eyes that returned his appraisal. Harry winced as he sensed the depth of his friend’s anguish. “Why don’t you come back inside? The wind is whipping up, and it’s getting cold.” He shivered at the sound of his own words.
“I’m okay Admiral” Lee responded quietly, his voice lacking conviction. “I just need to be alone right now.”
“It’s not your fault Lee!” Harry grasped the Captain’s arm reassuringly. “You can’t blame yourself for Grady and Benson’s deaths. They died because of an unfortunate chain of events- something you had no control over!”
Lee pulled free from Nelson’s grasp, his voice cold and hard. “But it was my fault. Everything I did led directly to those men’s deaths.” he replied bitterly. “I don’t think I can ever forgive myself!” His hands shook as he turned back to grasp the rail. “Please Admiral” he whispered hoarsely, “Please just leave me alone!”
Nelson stared at Crane, noting his trembling body. He sighed deeply, wanting to reach out and embrace his friend, but Lee Crane was a very private man. Harry knew that compromising this man’s quiet reserve at this point would do more harm then good.
Sadly, Nelson acquiesced. “Okay Lee, but don’t stay up here too long. You need to get some sleep before your next watch.” Crane simply shook his head in mute acknowledgment, as the Admiral once again descended into the bows of the boat.
Bright sunshine glistened off the long, sleek lines of the Seaview as she approached the breakwater off the coast of Santa Barbara The control room thrived with activity, in preparation for the great sub’s docking. Despite the events of the past week, an air of excitement stole over the crew, in anticipation of spending the holidays with family and friends, in the comfort of their own homes. But while the crew’s eagerness grew, the officers silently watched the anguish of the man they called Captain.
Lee Crane had slept little in the past few days; what rest he’d gotten punctuated by nightmares. His coloring was pale, with dark circles beneath his lackluster eyes. He talked to no one, other then to give necessary orders. He went about his duties meticulously to insure the safe arrival of all. But he functioned automatically, a response only to his years of experienced training. He allowed himself no show of emotion, no “crack in the facade”. . . For if he dared think, he knew he might not be able to pick up the pieces.
Chip Morton knocked once on the Admiral’s cabin door, opening it before Nelson had a chance to reply. Sitting with Nelson was Will Jamieson, the Seaview’s doctor. Both men looked at the Exec expectantly, knowing why he had come.
“Admiral, I’m sorry for intruding” Chip started as Nelson waved off his excuse. “What are we going to do about Lee, Sir? I’m afraid he’s close to a breakdown!”
Nelson sat grimly staring at his desk, twisting a pencil in his fingers. Raising his eyes towards the doctor, he asked “Will?”
Clearing his throat before beginning, Jamieson replied “There’s not a lot we can do. Lee’s shutting everyone out at the moment . . .”
The pencil in Nelson’s fingers snapped abruptly. “We’ve got to do something!” his voice crackled angrily. “Lee is falling apart before our eyes, and you tell me there’s nothing we can do!”
“I didn’t say ‘nothing’” Jamie interjected. “We can let the Captain know that we care; that we’re here for him if he needs to talk; that he has our support for however long it might take. But gentlemen, this is something Lee has to work out for himself.
“But Doc. . .” Chip interrupted. “Shouldn’t we reassure him it’s not his fault- that there was nothing he or any of us could have done? We’ve lost men before. Why should his feeling of responsibility be any greater this time then it’s been in the past?
“Don’t negate his feelings” Doc cautioned “Only Lee knows why it’s different this time. Perhaps it’s a culmination of guilt that’s been building inside him for the past few years. Benson and Grady were the final straws. . .” Will trailed off helplessly.
The three men sat silently, staring glumly at nothing in particular, each lost in his own musings of their friend’s emotional anguish.
The Exec finished his final check of the boat. Everything was as it should be, with only a skeletal detail assigned for security remaining aboard. He stopped in the hatchway approaching the control room. He watched silently, observing the rigid motions of his Captain as he made preparations to depart for his leave.
Crane talked quickly at the Admiral, giving a summary of the Seaview’s status for the upcoming weeks of stand down. His tone was clipped and professional, leaving no detail unaddressed. When he had finished his report, Lee abruptly turned away. With a brusque, “By your leave Admiral”, he started towards the conning tower.
Softly Harry called to him “Lee?” There was no mistaking the query in Nelson’s tone.
“Merry Christmas Admiral!” Crane tried to force a note of joviality into his words “Have a great holiday, and give my best to Edith!” A profound look of sadness underlay the smile he had pasted upon his face.
“What are you doing for the holidays?” Nelson asked . “If you’d like to spend Christmas with Edith and I , you know you’re welcome. In fact Edith would insist upon it. She’s already invited Chip- he’s on standby, so he won’t be going to Chicago. Will’s coming too. His kids are taking their families to Disney World. He told them he’s had enough adventure in the past few weeks . . .” The Admiral stopped suddenly, his words echoing hollowly in his own mind.
“Thanks Sir, But I’m flying up to Massachusetts to be with my mother. We haven’t spent a Christmas together in a long time.” Lee replied wistfully, a flicker of pain disappearing from his face almost as soon as it appeared. “I’ll see you in two weeks.”
“If you change your mind. . .” Nelson’s words drifted after the Captain as he hastened up the ladder.
The Admiral stood watching as his friend disappeared from sight, a profound sense of loss suddenly overwhelming him. He wiped at the moisture forming in his eyes, and jumped when the sound of approaching footsteps caught him off guard.
“Admiral” Morton spoke up “Lee’s mother is spending the holidays in Europe again this year.”
“I know Chip. I know” Nelson responded sadly.
It was Christmas Eve. The clouds were dark and heavy, seeming to hang perilously in the steel gray sky. The waves crashed upon the shore, their ferocity a testimony to the approaching storm. A solitary figure walked upon the beach, oblivious to the encroachment of the elements.
Lee Crane kicked aimlessly at the waves with his bare feet. He wore a shapeless navy blue crewneck sweater over a pair of white Docker’s. The wanton breeze ruffled his hair, while the mist from the oncoming fog dampened the dark stubble on his face. As he had done for the past five days, he climbed to the top of a nearby rock outcropping, settled himself down with his elbows propped upon his raised knees, and stared emptily out to sea.
Each day he had come here, to this spot, in order to ponder the senselessness of life as he knew it. Each day he asked himself the same question- What if . . .
He recalled the many incidents where his actions, or lack thereof, had cost another human being their life. He replayed each scene in his mind, over and over- What if . . . And each day, he found no answer.
Sleep had not been a welcome companion to Lee. Nightmares plagued his nights until fatigue overcame his fitful tossing and turning, allowing a brief respite. His appearance reflected the anguish gnawing at his soul. He had easily lost ten pounds; the gauntness most noticeable in the hollows of his face. His once bright, dancing eyes were now sunken and lifeless. His hands shook ever so slightly, as he unconsciously twisted the ring on his left hand.
The ominous sound of a nearby foghorn intruded abruptly upon his reflections. Lee turned suddenly to look at the beach, startled to see a slight form struggling in the surf. Adrenaline raced through his body as he stumbled down the rocks towards the hapless victim. The waves conspired against him as he dove repeatedly, calling out in vain to the unknown figure catapulting below the surface. Gasping for air, he finally burst through the rolling planes of the surf, a lifeless body in tow. Desperately, he fought to reach the shore, knowing every second was imperative for survival.
Gently, Lee laid the still form on the sand. For the first time, he looked closely at the person he had just pulled from the sea. She was so tiny, only a slip of a girl. She can’t be more then 20 years old he thought sadly. Placing his hand under her neck, he tilted her head backwards, attempting to breathe life into her lungs. “Breathe!” he said aloud, “C’mon- BREATHE!” He leaned over her, alternating breaths with compressions, his body trembling at the effort. Finally, after countless minutes, he felt her body stir, as she coughed up some of the water she had swallowed. “Are you okay?” he asked, wiping the water from her brow.
She looked up at him, confusion on her face. “What- what’s happened?” she questioned hesitantly, attempting to sit up. Dizziness overwhelmed her as she slumped against the warm body of her rescuer. She slipped into darkness, aware only of the strong arms that wrapped themselves around her.
Lee picked the girl up, carrying her back to the safety of his nearby home. Pushing his body against the door, he entered the great room and placed her on the oversized couch. He went into the laundry and quickly reappeared with large towels and a blue terry cloth robe. Kneeling beside her, he gently removed her wet garments, briskly drying her in the softness of the towels. When he had finished, he wrapped her securely in the warmth of his own bathrobe. Pushing himself to his feet, he went over to the fireplace, placed several logs on the hearth and laid a match to the kindling. Within a few minutes, large, bright flames arced upwards to be reflected on the bright brass fittings of the firescreen. Standing there, stoking the flames, Lee became aware of his own dampened state as he began to shiver uncontrollably.
Wearily, he climbed the stairs to his bedroom. What he needed was a long hot shower, but the presence of the mysterious girl on his couch hastened his actions. In very short order, he returned, somewhat relaxed, after allowing the heat of the pounding water to ever so briefly ease his aching muscles. He had pulled on a gray Navy sweatsuit, well worn and comfortable. His ebony hair was damp and curled against his forehead, giving him at first glance, the appearance of an unruly boy. But the fatigue and anguish etched in the lines of his face were mute testimony to a life too full of unpleasant memories.
Lee sighed deeply as he bent over the sleeping form lying curled on the sofa. He watched silently, measuring each breath she took, making sure she was indeed asleep. Gently, he reached out to brush away the golden strands that had drifted over her eyes. How soft her skin feels, he thought as he trailed his hand over her cheek. She’s so young- I wonder who she is? Where did she come from? He pulled the quilt from the back of the couch and quietly tucked her in. He sat in the easy chair opposite, listening to the sounds of the storm raging outside, keeping a silent vigil. As he watched her sleep, he felt himself relax for the first time in a week. He didn’t know why, but just being near this girl gave him a sense of peace that had long been lacking in his soul. Laying his head back against the chair, time was lost in the glow of the firelight as Lee drifted into a deep sleep.
Water was pouring in on top of him. He struggled to stay on his feet, as wave after wave pounded him back against the bulwark. He reached out desperately for a handhold, only to slip perilously closer to the sea. Somewhere he heard voices, their words distorted by the howling of the wind. He called to them, begging for help- and suddenly two figures appeared before him. Their faces were gray in death, fingers pointed in accusation. Sunken eyes stared at him, blame and hatred languoring in their depths. The figures moved menacingly forward, whispering angrily “Murderer! Murderer! Murderer!” Lee shrunk closer to the edge, his footing increasingly unsure until he knew there was nowhere else to run.
“NO! Don’t! Please don’t!” his screams echoed loudly in the silent room. Fine beads of sweat covered his brow, as he tossed from side to side in the chair. “I didn’t want anyone to die! Please don’t die!” he moaned.
Soft hands gently stroked his face, as murmured words of reassurance penetrated the darkness. “Shhh! It’s okay Lee. It’s only a dream- you’re safe now!” His body calmed as he opened his eyes to an angelic face, one of ethereal beauty. Kneeling in front of him was the girl he’d pulled from the sea. Startled, he pushed away, knocking her backwards onto the floor.
“Oh! I’m sorry!” He was immediately repentant. Scooping her up in his arms, he lifted her back onto the couch. “Are you okay?” he asked with concern, tucking the quilt once more around her body.
Her quiet response was one of reassurance. “I’m fine” she said simply.
“Do you need anything?” he asked, his eyes studying hers, looking for any indications of discomfort.
“No, nothing.” again a simple reply.
Taking her hand in his, Lee questioned “Who are you? Where did you come from?”
“My name is Rebecca.”
He waited silently for her to continue, but she offered no further information.
“Rebecca” he repeated softly, listening to the lilt of her name on his tongue. “That’s from the Old Testament.” She nodded her assent.
“And what about you?” she asked. “How are you doing?”
“Me?” he asked surprised. “I’m fine” he started, before turning his head to avoid her gaze.
She gently squeezed his hand, until he looked back into her pale blue eyes.
“Tell me about it- please.” She pulled her knees up under her chin, making room for him on the couch.
Taking a deep breath, Lee began to recount his nightmare. The words tumbled out as he bared his soul. Rebecca sat silently, listening intently.
“I don’t know if I can ever get beyond this overwhelming feeling of failure. I was responsible for those men’s lives! Because of me, they, and others in my past are dead! If only I’d done things differently . . .” his voice trailed off brokenly.
“Lee!” Rebecca agonized as she shook her head. “You can’t do this! Don’t punish yourself for something beyond your control!”
“But I was in command!” he interrupted. “I’m the one who decided to close that hatch on Grady. If I had only waited a few more minutes, we might have saved his life!”
“And lost how many others in the process?” she asked softly.
“We don’t know that anyone else would have died!”
“That’s right Lee- you don’t know! How many men lived because you had the courage to make a difficult decision?”
Lee growled in frustration, running his hand through his hair. “Don’t you see? Benson and Grady are not the only men who have died because of something I’ve done! There was Farrell. . .” he broke down, covering his face with both hands.
Tenderly, she leaned forward, embracing him while sobs shook his body. She caressed his hair, waiting for him to regain a measure of control.
When he quieted, she began speaking of her own life. “I’ve learned through experience Lee. You aren’t the only one with a lot of “What ifs” in your past.
His head came up in surprise, his eyes searching hers. “But you can’t be that old!”
She smile wanly, “Age doesn’t dictate one’s life experiences. Besides, I am older then I appear!”
“I’m sorry! Go on.” Lee encouraged
“You asked me where I came from.” she glanced out into the storm, watching the waves crash upon the beach. “The sea. . . Every year on this date, I go out to the point, just beyond the breakers.” Rebecca bowed her head as she continued. “That’s where my husband and children died.”
Lee took her hand, wanting to give strength. She folded her fingers over his. “I’ve gotten past the pain.” she reassured him. “You see, like you, I blamed myself for what happened to my family. It was my idea to go sailing that day. Afterwards, I kept asking myself ‘What if. . .” What if I’d thought of a picnic instead? What if we’d gone visiting? - or fishing? . . .” I spent a long time dealing with self-condemnation.
“How did you get past it?”
“Actually, it was an offhand remark by another person that began my healing. ‘Who do you think you are? Do you think you can control or change events already determined by God?!’ I have to admit this person’s bluntness angered me! But the more I thought about it and read about it- I knew he was right!”
Lee leaned closer, entranced by the brightness in her eyes, the look of serenity on her face.
“You see Lee. We can only control how we react to a situation. Every person has a choice. We can’t decide for another how they should respond. Neither your choice nor mine dictates what actually precipitates an event, only how we’ll deal with the consequences!”
He struggled with her words, wanting to believe, hoping for the same strength of conviction mirrored on her face. He had never been a particularly religious man, although he did believe in a higher being. The practical nature of his work had always kept him from pondering the point too deeply.
“Sometimes I wonder at the term ‘Hell on Earth’ ” he mused.
“Oh NO!” she exclaimed. “Don’t ever think that! All you have to do is look around at the beauty in this world to know that can’t be true!”
“Well” he grinned sardonically, “maybe purgatory then? A number of religions believe man must move to a higher plane of life before he can achieve heaven. Who’s to say that all the suffering we endure on earth isn’t a process of atonement?”
“But people don’t always suffer. You must know some joy in your life!”
Lee nodded in agreement. “Yes, there is joy, but isn’t joy a part of hope? God wouldn’t condemn us to a life of reparation without the hope of someday reaching an ultimate joy! How can we strive for that joy unless we know something of what it is?”
The heaviness of his words hung in the room. Each was absorbed in their own thoughts, pondering the possibilities.
Rebecca finally broke the silence. “Lee, there is an old prayer I find comfort in. It dates back to 500 AD- the philosopher Boethius. You’ve probably heard the first stanza, but the others are just as poignant.” Reverently she began to recite:
God grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference;
Living one day at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
Trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life’
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
He closed his eyes, resting his head against a pillow as her dulcet tones swept over him. He felt the tension and anger retreat as he drifted slowly into unconsciousness.
“Lee! Wake up!” Someone was shaking him.
“MMMM” he muttered, turning away from the anxious entreaties. “Leave me alone!”
The hand on his shoulder moved upward to pat his face. “Are you okay honey?”
He groaned as he turned back towards the sound of the voice. Obviously, he wasn’t going to get anymore sleep. Slowly, he sat upright, rubbing his hands over his eyes. Suddenly, his head snapped up, looking into concerned eyes that matched his own in their golden color.
“Mom”?! he asked incredulously.
She smiled ruefully as she tenderly stroked his cheek. He looks just like he did when he was eight years old. . . after his father died- so alone- so lost! “The Admiral was right.” she sighed “I’m sorry I wasn’t here when you needed me son!” Tears trickled down her face, as she wrapped him in her arms, rocking him gently.
Lee laid his head upon her shoulder, feeling once again the security only a mother’s love could provide. He felt his whole body relax at her whispered words of encouragement and love. He reached out to wipe the tears from her cheeks.
“It’s okay Mom. I know you would have been here, if I’d asked you to come. I just didn’t want to bother you. You’ve always been so active- I didn’t want to. . . to intrude upon your life.”
“Intrude upon my life!” she laughed through her tears. “Oh Lee! I didn’t want to intrude on your life! I am so proud of what you’ve become, how hard you’ve worked . . .” her voice trailed off. “I didn’t think you had time in your life for me.” she whispered brokenly.
“Mom! I love you!” This time, he wrapped his arms around her. “Don’t ever think I don’t want you as part of my life!”
She sighed sadly, “ When I think of all the time we’ve wasted; the loneliness of months spent apart without as much as a phone call or a note! If only-”
“Rebecca!” Lee jumped to his feet, jerking his gaze around the room. “Where’s Rebecca?” he asked, turning back to his mother’s startled face.
“Who?” she asked in puzzlement. “There’s no one else here. I found you sleeping on the couch when I arrived,”
“But. . . the girl- Rebecca. . . I pulled her from the sea! She was drowning!”
His mother frowned as she raised her hand to his forehead. “Lee, are you okay? Maybe you’re running a fever?”
He pulled away, heading for the kitchen. “No! She was here!”
He searched frantically throughout the house, finally making his way onto the balcony overlooking the sea. A stillness crept over him as he gazed off into the glory of the rising sun, towards the point, beyond the breakers. He felt his mother approach from behind, lying her hand upon his own as he clutched at the rail. An intense feeling of serenity overwhelmed him as the words of a prayer, and a soft lilting voice filled his mind.
God grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference;
Lee bent towards his mother, gently placing a kiss upon her cheek. “Merry Christmas Mom!”
They stood together, hand in hand, watching the sunrise. Mother and son shared the start of a new day, knowing each had found a special gift this Christmas morning!
Several weeks later, Lee Crane returned to his office at NIMR. He arrived early, ahead of even the Admiral’s secretary. She found him sitting at her computer, engrossed in what he had found on the screen.
“Hi Lee!” Angie greeted him. “Anything I can help you with?” she inquired.
He startled at the sound of her voice, jumping to his feet in embarrassment. At that moment, the Admiral entered the door.
“Lee!” Nelson greeted his friend with a handshake and an accompanying smile. He noted the calm air of serenity in his Captain’s eyes- eyes that once again sparkled with a joy for life. “You look good- much better then you did before Christmas!”
“Thank you sir” Lee replied quietly. “I feel better too!”
“What’s your secret? Did you discover a guardian angel or something?” Nelson joked.
Lee hesitated for a brief moment before responding “Something like that” he agreed, an enigmatic smile on his face.
Angie and Nelson watched Lee Crane in bewilderment as he turned towards his own office. Once he had disappeared through the doorway, they looked at each other in perplexity.
“Did we miss something?” Angie asked
The Admiral shook his head, shrugging his shoulders in response. “What information was the Captain looking for on the computer?” he pointed towards the monitor.
Angie sat at her desk, focusing on the screen. “It looks like old newspaper archives.”
She scanned the page in front of her, stopping at a story of local interest. She zoomed in on the story and began reading, sensing the Admiral over her shoulder, doing the same. The news report told of a family lost at sea while on a pleasure jaunt off the point.
“Now why would Lee be interested in this?” Angie queried.
“Maybe he knew the family?” Nelson replied
“No” his secretary said. “Look at the date on the paper. This accident happened over 100 years ago. Two children, a husband and wife all died during a storm. The Coast Guard recovered the bodies of all but the wife, Rebecca.”
They read the story in silence, Angie wiping a tear from her eye. “How sad!” she commented. “But I still don’t understand why Lee is interested.”
The Admiral peered thoughtfully towards his friend’s office. “I wonder. . . “ he mused.
In his office, Lee sat facing the giant glass window overlooking the sea. Staring into the distance, he sat silent, watching the thundering power of the waves battle the golden hue of clouds springing to life on the horizon.
Glancing up towards the heavens, he whispered softly “Thank you Rebecca! Thank you for giving me back my soul!”
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