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Story Time: "If I Didn't Make It"

The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. 
Psalm 121:7-8

SOS, Titanic, 1:40 a.m., April 15 (1912): We are sinking fast passengers being put into boats. One hundred years since the sinking of the unsinkable. No telling how many lives were touched.

Closer to home, during the wee hours of April 21, 1941, the SS Nerissa slipped away from the harbor in Halifax, Nova Scotia, carrying my father-in-law, Russell, to war. Aboard were 140 Canadian troops, a number of British, 11 U.S. ferry pilots, and a couple of stowaways anxious to see some action. Nothing Titanic-like; just men on a mission uncertain of what lay ahead.

The story is written by Russ, so you will know right off the bat that he survived. All I can do is headline some of the poignant moments of that crossing. (Go to to read it all.) 

·         After four days out we were advised to sleep in our clothes, carry our lifebelts.

·         Night of 29 April the Admiralty ordered a change of course. The captain was perturbed.

·         30 April we had a plane escort all day. 1030pm an explosion, not stunning but lights out.

A German sub had sent one torpedo into their little (5000 ton) ship. Lifeboats were accessed and lowered as the ship started to list. A second torpedo hit and things began to fall apart. The ship straightened, tipped up, and went down by the stern.

·         Whether it was the lurch of the ship, or a wave set up by the second torpedo I don’t know. In any event, our lifeboat quickly turned over.

·         I grabbed my nose, seemed to be under water a long time, came up right beside the overturned boat and climbed aboard—all out of puff.

Initially there were 25 men on the overturned keel of that lifeboat. By the time of rescue in the cold seas off the coast of Ireland, maybe eight hours later, they had dwindled to 5. As Russ recounted, the seas would roughen, he’d be washed off, and it was quite a job to climb back on, again and again: I must have considered the possibility of letting go myself, but I can remember thinking how disappointed in me my wife would be if I didn’t make it.     

Key words here: if I didn’t make it. If Russ had not made it, what would my life have been like? My husband was due and born May 21, 1941, three weeks after the sinking. His mother took the baby to Vancouver to spend the war years with her parents. If Russ had not returned, they would most certainly have stayed, we would never have met, our kids would not exist. Ever wonder?    

All I know Lord is that you are watching over our lives, our comings and goings, including even that random torpedoing. You knew all along the joy I would have in this my family.

Nancy P

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