Reflections: The Bliss of Dreams

George Rowe

For 500 years international fishing fleets raped and pillaged the ocean around Newfoundland until the cod fishery had been depleted to astronomical proportions.

In 1992 the Federal Government announced a moratorium on the cod fishery industry which directly affected 400 coastal communities and left 30,000 fishermen unemployed.

This ended a way of life that had endured for generations and the life of fishermen and Newfoundlanders would never be the same again.

One such fisherman was John. John, a very bitter and cynical man, was now well into the sunset years of his life and thought he had no reason to keep on living.

The sinking sun was now casting long shadows as it slowly nestled on the distant horizon. John filled his old tin cup with real black coffee, took his pipe and some extra tobacco as he wandered out on the deck so that he might catch the glory of yet another setting sun.

He slowly positioned himself in an old swing that he had built for himself and Susie. With the swing gently moving back and forth John fell into deep thought. Of course he could never sit in that swing without remembering Susie. For sixty-one years John and Susie enjoyed the total sweet bliss of marriage. They raised three boys and two girls and had a number of grandchildren.

Two of the boys lost their lives while fishing on the mighty Atlantic and the third boy moved to the mainland because of the moratorium—there was little work to be found on the island.

The two girls were doing very well. The eldest daughter, Sharron, moved to Ontario and the youngest daughter found employment at some government sponsored program and decided to stay on the island—Jennie was never the one to move very far since her mom passed away and her dad was alone.

It is now six years since John lost Susie to that dreaded disease of cancer. John called it “…the disease from hell.” Their marriage was so blissful they often talked about how one could not function without the other. When Susie was diagnosed with cancer it quickly became evident that the emotional rollercoaster would also affect John in so many ways.

John was with Susie when she received the devastating news and in the presence of the doctor and some members of the hospital staff, John and Susie held each other and prayed that God would give them grace and strength as they would walk through this crisis together.

When Susie passed away only Jennie came to the funeral—Sharron was too busy with her career and her own children and the eldest son, Robert, was still bitter with the loss of his two younger siblings, the closing of the fishery and the death of his mom was just too much for him.

With the subtle movement of his body and the gentle breeze of warm wind from the west moving the swing John fell into a deep sleep. Sleep would be kind to this very bitter and cynical fisherman as he drifted back in time to recall and remember stuff that would change him forever.

In his dream John was but a boy as he recalled the smells of the ocean, the blissful music of sea gulls early in the morning and the sound of laughter and a sense of excitement as the fishermen would unload their catch at the local docks.

He remembered well the intimacy and closeness of his parents and siblings. His dad was an awesome fisherman and his mom was the world’s greatest domestic. He got along well with all his siblings, four girls and four boys. Around the kitchen table there would always be laughter, good conversation and well laid plans for tomorrow.

His dream brought back moments of pleasure when swimming in the local stream, playing hockey on the frozen pond and all the domestic chores that were done with pleasure. In the early stages of his dream he was but a child looking into the future and now, very quickly, he was a man looking back on his life.

As strange as it may seem, John, who went into his dream as a broken man feeling that he had absolutely nothing to live for, was about to experience inner healing that he never thought was possible —he just kept dreaming.

At age 21 he said, “Susie, will you marry me?” Before she could respond he continued, “I don’t have a lot to offer. Just a commitment to love you till death us do part. I am but a humble fisherman but a faithful husband I will always be.”

Bashful and blushing Susie reached out and brushed his cheek and with the other hand she held his and said, “John, I will marry you and I will love you and be the mother of you children. Though I am but the daughter of a humble fisherman I will love you till death us do part.” If you were in John’s presence during that moment of his dream you would have noticed a very subtle but definite smile during this pleasurable flashback.

“It’s a boy!” the doctor shouted, and “His name is Robert,” said Susie as tears ran down her face. John, not a man to show a lot of emotion, sat by his wife and just allowed his tears to roll down his cheeks and splash on the grey tiled floor. Still but a young man, John’s hands were calloused and scarred and crippled from the arduous life of being a fisherman and when the nurse gently placed Robert into the rough hands of his dad, John was overwhelmed with how fragile his son was.

John gently lifted Robert toward him and placed a soft and gentle kiss on his forehead. “Robert, you are the child we prayed for. You have already brought much pleasure to your mom and me.” With the gentle and warm breeze of the westerly wind brushing his body, John smiled while still in a deep sleep and a dream that was bringing inner healing.

Next week we will see where John’s dream leads him from brokenness to healing and a reason to keep on living. Until then remember that the sun is always shining.