The Boat

A couple of summers ago, our family went out on the lake with some friends on a hot summer day.  We had a great time, the kids getting towed and trying knee-boarding for the first time.  I worked a little on my basic wakeboarding skills (which consist of getting up on the board, hanging on for dear life, and collapsing into the water), we ate lunch on the lake, got a little sunburned, and enjoyed our day.

I had a picture appear in my mind today while I was driving.  It was of my family on a boat.  Let’s call it Life Before.  The five of us, cruising along toward a common destination, laughing, having fun, hitting an occasional wave, enjoying each other.  There aren’t many clouds in the sky, the sun is strong and warm.  The world seems safe.  There is no sign of trouble ahead.  Only smooth waters.

What could possibly go wrong?

The next image that came was what I suppose we can call Life After.  The boat is gone – it doesn’t exist any more.  Except, that is, in pieces all around me in the water.  Something’s happened.  It’s been shredded.  The safety that our ship gave us is gone.  I’m in the water, hanging onto one of the larger pieces.  Waves are steady, crashing over my head.  Air is difficult to find.  There are moments where I admit that I just want to let go.  And sink.  To close my eyes and not wake up again until I’m on the other side.  The air has turned cold, so much that when I can breathe, it hurts.

But I don’t let go.

Our children are out there too, in the water, holding on to bits and pieces of boat.  Pieces that look familiar, but don’t fit together any more.  Thank God, I find them near me in the water.  I want to let go, but I don’t, because they are here.  They need me to hold on.  Knowing that gives me enough strength to at least function.  I pull them in, I pull us together, and we grab onto whatever we can.  To the pieces of our Life Before.  To each other.

They are cold, in shock, dazed, scared.  They don’t know where they are.  We don’t have to say it to each other – we all were thrown into the water from the wreck, but one of us is missing.

The boat doesn’t get fixed in a day, or a year.  It never will look the same.  But we are holding onto each other, and the pieces that we find.  Some days we paddle, while others, we just tread.  There won’t be a rescue boat to come by and make things like they were.  We are rebuilding, but it will take time.  (A life-time, I think)

This is the image I had the other day.  I almost hesitated to post it – it seems so depressing. Just know that I’m truly not trying to illicit sympathy with this.  There are moments when it feels hopeless, yes.  But there are more times where God does remind us in different ways that we are going to make it.  And while we weren’t ever promised the luxury liner of a life, there is much to be hopeful about.  I just want to give you a little more insight into where we are these days.  And also, so you can know that there are lots of people around us experiencing all kinds of loss.  For me, it feels like this right now, and for them, it may feel similar.  If this can help you understand the process of grief a little more, then it’s worth it for me to share.


13 Responses to “The Boat”

  1. carter law Says:

    Dear,uncle Jerel
    That story touched my heart.Your a very good writer.Your going to do well on that book your making, I know it.


  2. Cammie Howard Says:

    jerel- I have had you on my mind a lot. I know as more time passes, I do not want you to feel your pain is forgotten. It is not forgotten. Love you brother! Cammie

  3. Carolyn Says:

    Jerel – I am so glad that you made the decision to post this. I, like so many others, have said before that you need to write a book on this experience, and this post solidifies that thought. And when you do, this post definitely needs to be a part of it. We “hear” your heart in your writings and may it help in some small way to know that so many, many people care.

  4. Lisa Bucy Says:

    Jerel as always thanks for risking honesty & vulnerability – and for giving words to what so many feel and experience.

  5. Kristin Brown Says:

    beautifully written thoughts about surviving- good for my soul-

  6. Cathie Bowers Says:

    Thanks you, Jerel, for your extreme honesty. You are able to express in words what so many people feel but don’t know how to express. Many of your posts I copy and share with a recent widower in our SS class at FBC. He truly relates to each one.

  7. Tyson Aschliman Says:

    Please don’t hesitate to post the “depressing stuff”. Very Job-like of you, and I know that God is glorified by each and every Job out there. This is a beautiful and poignant illustration… the word that comes to mind is “aroma pleasing to the Lord”… like an offering on an altar. Blessings. And heart-wrenching prayers for you and your family.

  8. Joanie Says:

    Been thinking about your post since yesterday and found this song today
    and thought of you….How Emptiness Sings by Christa Wells. You don’t “sing” per se, but you write as if you do. I know your faith inform you that God is in the emptiness too.

    I think that link will get you there. I found it at a site called “A Holy Experience” ~ Susan was most likely to know of it. It is Susan Voskamp’s website to accompany her book A Thousand Gifts. we

  9. Charlotte Lennartz Says:

    Thanks so much for posting the hard stuff – it just helps us know how to kep prayinf for you – love you! Charlotte

  10. Kara and Bennett Says:

    Thank for posting this, Jerel.

  11. Kara and Bennett Says:


  12. lisa Nageotte Says:

    Jerel, Hang on. don’t let go. Your children will help you find strength! You are loved, and your writing will continue to help people. I am thinking of you often and will continue to pray for you and the kids.

  13. Misty Dove Says:


    I loved this post! It was beautifully written and such a PERFECT analogy. This is EXACTLY how I felt in the first few months after Alan passed. I am getting so much better now, but I still have many days like this. Thank you so much for posting! I needed this!

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