/ Day 13. The Impossible Decision

The years-long battle with cancer that Michael Thompson’s wife succumbed to left him and their six-year-old son in shambles. Having just buried the love of his life, he wanted to get as far away from all the painful memories as possible. He wanted a new beginning. So, he sold their house, packed up their belongings and moved to a small fishing village on the east coast of Canada. After earning his captain’s license, he used his life savings to purchase a forty-foot sailboat which he would charter out to groups of tourists wanting to explore the coast. The boat, also known as a six-pack–because it carries up to six passengers at a time–did wonders for him and his son. Whenever the boy wasn’t in school, he was out with is father, plying the coast and spending quality time with his hero. For his part, Michael loved spending all of his available time with his son. But he worried. Being on the open ocean wasn’t the safest of situations. And though he’d been very careful to teach his son about boat safety, being a six-year-old, the boy wouldn’t always follow the rules.

They awoke to a gorgeous sunrise. The sun gleaming off the calm ocean waters, with only a slight breeze in the air. The weather report gave no indications of an oncoming storm. And so, it was business as usual. They went down to the docks and met their passengers. After giving them a briefing on safety at sea, he outlined the day’s trip and they boarded the boat. Everything was going as planned when Michael noticed shelf clouds forming in the sky. This was bad news as it meant a squall was on its way. At best they’d have fifteen minutes before a sudden increase in wind. He instructed everyone to get inside, including his son, and began preparations to get back to port. Unfortunately, they’d been close to the shore looking at rock cliffs, which made the boat’s current position all the more precarious. He’d have to move them and fast. He weighed anchor as quickly as he could and got underway. He soon found himself in rough seas with strong winds and rain beating away at his boat. It was at this, the worst possible moment, that his son decided to come up on deck and see what daddy was doing.

“Get back inside!” Michael yelled over the wind.

His son, clearly scared at the weather conditions he’d encountered held on to the railing as tightly as he could.

To his horror, Michael saw that his boy hadn’t bothered to put on a vest. He yelled for help, but the wind made getting anyone’s attention inside the cabin impossible. He’d have to leave the wheel, even if for a moment, to help his son back inside. It was risky, because they were still close to the cliff face and there was a good chance of smashing against the rocks they were admiring only a short while earlier. He’d have to risk it. He let go of the wheel and began approaching his son when a rogue wave threw his son overboard and nearly took him over too. If only that it had, because now he had to decide–and quickly: would he jump into the sea after his boy, or would he man his post and keep his five passengers from meeting their deaths on the rocks?

He felt completely powerless. He couldn’t let his son drown and he couldn’t let five souls he was responsible for die at his hand. To say he wanted to die would be a gross understatement. For all its fury, the rain could not compete with the profusion of tears. Sobbing and beating his chest, he yelled louder than his throat would allow as he watched his frightened son’s face fade off into the cruel and unmerciful grasp of the ocean.


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