Gone Fishing

This is from a blog I did a number of years ago when I wanted to share some of my experiences as a hospital chaplain. The blog is called The Many Faces of Grief, and I have been reading some of those older posts as I walk this path of grief. One thing I have discovered is that it is much easier to deal with grief professionally than it is personally.

Anyway, I found this piece about a wonderful experience I had during the years I worked at a hospital, and I thought I would share it.

Sometimes ministry takes strange turns. One wouldn’t necessarily consider fishing a ministry, but in the case of Mr. Charles it was.

Mr. Charles, a retired Presbyterian minister, was our neighbor in Omaha and about a year after his wife died, he was diagnosed with leukemia. It was not the virulent leukemia that kills so many young people, He had Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, which is a slowprogressing form of the blood cancer and is very treatable for several years.

I first met Mr. Charles when I was out walking my dogs, and we would pass by his yard. He was one of the few neighbors who would be outside no matter what the weather was like, and we would often chat for a few minutes. He was thrilled to find out that my husband was a minister and that I am a chaplain, finding a common bond in shared ministry.

When I would stop to visit, some of our other conversations revolved around fishing and the great walleyes that could be found in lakes north of us, although Mr. Charles preferred the trout at a lake much closer. One day he told me how much he missed fishing, and I was surprised to find out he was no longer going out. He explained that his children, both of whom lived some distance away, were afraid for him to go out alone now that he was sick, and the friend he used to fish with was no longer able to.

He talked about this a couple more times when I stopped on my daily walk, and finally it hit me that maybe he was really grieving for this loss in his life. I asked if he would like to go fishing with me sometime.

“Oh, I thought you would never ask,” he said.

“But why didn’t you just ask me?”

“Because a black man cannot invite a white woman to go fishing,” he said. “That is the way I was raised. I could never be that forward. But there is nothing in that code of conduct that says I cannot accept your invitation.”

So, for the next year, Mr. Charles and I went fishing about once a week in prime fishing times, stopping only when winter snowed us in.

Sometimes we would talk about the beauty and bounty of God, and other times we would talk about social issues, or books, or whatever topic struck our fancy. That would always be on the drive to and from the lake, however. The time at the lake was spent in quiet contemplation of the warmth of the sun, the gentle splash of water against the dock, the screech of a gull, or the drone of a curious bee circling our can of soda.

Actually catching a fish was never a criterion for measuring the success of a fishing trip.

7 thoughts on “Gone Fishing”

  1. I had never thought of fishing as a social event – I was under the impression, from my Dad taking us deep-sea fishing with him in Acapulco once or twice, that you should remain fairly quiet so as not to disturb the fish.

    Color me wrong. And I guess you could talk while traveling to and from the fishing spot.

    Too bad Mr. Charles kids were too busy to come fishing with him, and limited themselves to nixing his pleasure. I’m pretty sure that will happen to me – the kids are as far scattered as they can be and still be in the 48 contiguous states – and we knew that would happen from the minute we got them: the professional class children follow the jobs.

    I’m glad you were able to share some time with a fellow minister.

    PS If you see this, it will mean the identity thing worked – it usually does, for me, on other sites.

  2. So glad you liked the blog post, Rebecka. I have such fond memories of the fishing trips with Mr. Charles.

    Alicia,as you said it is hard when kids are scattered. Mr. Charles kids lived in other parts of the country, but they did visit often and did take him fishing when they were in town. Glad you were able to leave a comment. I have heard from some folks that they were not able to, so I don’t know what that issue is.

  3. Hi Maryann,

    My name is Ally Mahadhy, a PhD student at Lund University, Sweden, my research is about development of DNA-based biosensors for detection of pathogenic microorganisms.

    I seek a permission to have a copy of the image shown in this post (someone is fishing, as I would like to use this phot on the front page of my thesis. The photo does not directly relate to what I am working on, however it is a poetic photo…it represents what I am really doing, i.e., fishing out a specific ‘bad bug’ from a complex biological sample, which contains different microorganisms.

    No charge is made for access to my thesis which will be deposited on the university’s ePrint repository, hence this use is non-commercial.
    In reporudicing this photo in my thesis, I will acknowledge Maryann Miller as the copyright owner.

    Than you for giving this request your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Kindly feel free to contact me if you require further clarification.

    My email address is Ally.Mahadhy@biotek.lu.se

  4. Pingback: Inspiration and Fishing – Maryann Writes

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