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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Hope (05/04/06)

TITLE: It Is Well
By Jessica Schmit


Horatio locked his vacant eyes on the sea. The wind groaned. The swell of the waves rocked the boat violently.

Terror filled his soul.

Was this what it was like for my little girls? Horatio wondered.

Two sailors watched Horatio leaning over the side of their boat.

“Cap’m we best be gettn’ him inside, before this wind gets worse.”

“Let him be.”

Horatio glanced at the two sailors whispering in his direction.

Let them talk. I have to see the place. Oh Lord, has it already been three years?

Horatio’s thoughts drifted away as he looked heavenward. The black clouds, dotted with shades of grey swirled across the charcoal sky.

Did You do this for my girls? Did You summon death to dine with the clouds? Did You call on evil to make its’ bed in the sea? Answer me!

Horatio's thoughts became words.

“Stop hiding Your face from me! I WANT AN ANSWER! You killed…them.”

His knees buckled. Strength vanished. Tears of grief flowed.

Why didn’t you warn me? I was their father. I should’ve been there… To stroke their hair and whisper that everything was going to be alright…

I was there. I told them everything was going to be alright. They knew me. I knew what made Bessie laugh and which tooth caused Annie pain. I knew Maggie’s dreams and Tanetta's deepest desires… I brought peace to their tiny souls.

Horatio brushed his sleeve against his tear stricken cheeks.

He rested his arms against the guardrail and stared at the watery grave of his four daughters. He closed his eyes, shutting out the world around him.

Maggie, his sweet little girl, danced in a beautiful pink dress. She looked up. Her brown eyes locked with his.

“Daddy! Can you twirl me?”

Maggie ran towards her father. He spun her over his head. Her joyful giggles rang throughout the air.

“Mr. Spafford! This is the spot sir.”

Horatio turned and saw the first mate standing nervously in front of him.

“Thank you.” Horatio muttered.

The young navigator scurried away.

Horatio took out a shaggy brown teddy bear from his suitcase.

“Bessie, you loved this bear. I remember the night you had to sleep without it because you lost it. You cried for over two hours. I cradled you in my arms, telling you I could be your teddy…I…”

Unable to speak another word, Horatio tossed the bear into the sea. The waves entombed it.

Horatio pulled out a necklace.

“Maggie, you loved this necklace. You would beg mom to let you wear it. You claimed it made you a princess when you wore it. The necklace never did that. You did that… You were and always will be, my princess.”

Horatio flung the jewels into the dark abyss.

Emotion overtook him as he bent down to pick up a piece of paper protected in the front pouch of his suitcase.

“Tanetta, do you remember that beautiful drawing you made of our family? Everyone was smiling… I miss that sweet, innocent smile. I miss…” Horatio’s voice trailed off.

The paper twisted and turned in the dark waters as it was sent to its grave.

Tears flowed.

Horatio sank his hand once more into the suitcase.

“Annie, you made this hat for me. I remember the day well. You were so proud. You said the whole family would wear hats when we visited Jesus. You said we would all celebrate. Sweetie, I know you’re celebrating and one day, daddy and mommy will join you…”

Horatio let go of the hat and turned away before he could see the colors disappear into the waters. Grief tore sadistically at his soul.

Oh God, I want to die. Please…

I’m here with you. Always remember that I bring hope amongst the deepest pain.

Horatio looked up, contemplating the words spoken so deeply to his spirit. A wave of peace settled in his heart. A peace that the waves couldn’t steal.

I will see them again.

Get your pen and a piece of paper.

Horatio recognized the prodding. He looked in his suitcase and spotted his quill. He took out his ink and grabbed a piece of paper.

He readied himself and began to pen the words that pierced his spirit.

*When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billow roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

*Words by Horatio G. Spafford.

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This article has been read 1619 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Helen Paynter05/11/06
I read this with tears in my eyes. Botched?! Hardly! Only one question - isn't the teddy anachronistic? Great writing.
Purity Snowe05/12/06
What a sad story! It seems real, so I think it must be. Sad!
Lynda Schultz 05/12/06
Knowing the story behind the hymn has always made it especially moving when I have the opportunity to sing it. Great job at retelling the tale.
Maxx .05/12/06
This is absolutely one of my favorite hymns of all time and I'm quite familiar with the story. This made it very real to me and you were able to add so much depth the the character. Well done and nicely crafted!
Melanie Kerr 05/13/06
Was that the event that sparked off the song? I love the format with lots of short sentences and white space and the changes in the text style. It made it easy to read. It reminded me of Job - when all those bad events happened, he worshipped God.
Chrissi Dunn05/13/06
I hadn't realized the story behind this hymn. Your recount made it very moving and real. Well done.
Pat Guy 05/14/06
This is what very well could have happened beyond the story.

'Did You do this for my girls? Did You summon death to dine with the clouds? Did You call on evil to make its’ bed in the sea? Answer me!' (I would have felt the same way)

You captured the moments and feelings behind the story. I was there - really good structure and writing!
Virginia Gorg05/15/06
Excellently written, but I didn't think it had been three years, but rather almost immediately. I will go and reread the original story. My local radio station had a great retelling of this just a few weeks ago. To think that such a moving song can come from great tragedy. Thanks for sharing this, J!
Sandra Petersen 05/15/06
Thank you for doing this story! My eldest daughter and I have done 'It Is Well' as a duet, and it has special meaning to me because of my own losses.

To your readers, Spafford lost his four daughters after losing his business possessions in the Great Chicago Fire. He had stayed behind to tie up the insurance ends while sending his wife and family ahead to Europe. So, yes, he is much like Job in that respect. He lost almost everything but his faith. Thinking on the Teddy Roosevelt-teddy bear connection and whether a teddy bear would have been anachronistic-I'm not sure; I'd have to look up the corresponding dates.

Once you have written the story, go over it for any punctuation errors; I found a couple. Good use of italics and boldface to separate and emphasize some places. I liked the way you showed us a special place each girl would have in their father's heart.
Jessica Schmit05/15/06
ok, I need all your help. I can't find the phrase "eyes locked" twice in my story. I know I make careless errors, but can someone tell me where i put that phrase? LOL
T. F. Chezum05/16/06
Very well written. Thank you for sharing the story. Definitely a good read.
Cassie Memmer05/16/06
Heart wrenching and beautiful. He gives us beauty for ashes. Excellent writing!
Val Clark05/16/06
One of my absolute favourite hymns, too, You have done the story justice! (Line starts: Maggie, his sweet little girl, danced in a beautiful pink dress. She looked up. Her brown eyes locked with his.)yeggy
April Bailey05/16/06
Wonderful, powerful story! I believe Christine's "eyes locked" comment refers to your first line "Horatio locked his vacant eyes on the sea." and the point where you describe Maggie ... "Her brown eyes locked with his."

I was captivated by your descriptive style and drawn into the story as if viewing a movie. I felt the dampness of the sea, the rocking of the ship. Well done.

April Bailey05/16/06
By the way ... I do believe that even with vacant eyes, Horatio's gaze could be locked on the sea. Semantics that do not detract from the power of this piece.
Linda Watson Owen05/16/06
What a beautiful job you've done in bringing this heartwrenching, factually based story into being! You have used such effective poetic images in showing your story! Wonnderful!
Joy Mounce05/17/06
Awesome job! Yes, I also read it with tears in my eyes. Wonderful story and knowing it is true makes it much more effective...have always loved the song.
Venice Kichura05/17/06
Excellent entry packed with emotions and great descriptions!
Crista Darr05/17/06
This is powerful storytelling! Written with excellence. You may have a winner here. Amazing work.
Anita Neuman05/18/06
Congratulations! This is beautifully written, and I'm sure Spafford would be honoured.
Rachel Rudd 05/18/06
Congratulations, Jessica. This is excellent writing! It brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing this.
Kenny Blade05/18/06
I apologize for not remarking on this story sooner. It has been quite awhile since I gave out the coveted KRAP! award... the KRAP award is bestowed on anything that I read and then my first reaction is "KRAP!, that was awesome!
You deserve all the attention you are getting.
Keep it up!
James Clem 05/18/06
Wow, you're on a roll Jess! Your first Masters entry is on the board! The painful "dialogue" you used when he remembers each girl one by one is what makes this piece a winner.
Virginia Gorg05/18/06
Jess, I knew this was yours! Congrats for a well deserved placement. :)
George Parler 05/18/06
Knowing the story behind the song, wraps a blanket of comfort around the reader knowing that a heart full of pain would sing again. Nice, very nice.
Kaylee Blake 05/18/06
I love this hymn and was quite familiar with the story. But I'd never heard it told like this before!
Excuse me...*sniff*!
Karen Treharne05/20/06
Let me add my congratulations, Jess. Well done. I also knew the story behind the hymn, and you did an excellent job of bringing it to life, with all its heartfelt grief and ultimate recognition of faith. I will look forward to reading more of your work.
Beth Muehlhausen05/22/06
Excellent character development, drama, and imagery. Perfect storytelling packed with emotion. :-)