“A sign in the office of Dr. Stephen Strum, a prostate cancer specialist in Los Angeles, reads: ‘Old Russian Sailing Proverb: Pray to God but don’t stop rowing.’”
Interesting that I should run across this quote today from a book I picked up in my favorite bookstore – Goodwill – four years ago.
“Prostate and Cancer” by Sheldon Marks, M.D. was just lying there on the table, all alone, all by itself, separate from all the other books stacked on the shelf as if shouting ‘Buy me! Buy me!’ I did. I was being tested for prostate cancer, the second leading killer of men in America.
The doctor’s assistant opened the door and made the call: ‘The doctor will see you now.’
The first words the Urologist uttered as he entered the room where my wife and I sat very close together, upon seeing the book I’d been pouring through:
“You won’t be needing that. You don’t have cancer.”
I can keep rowing.
Today, this same day as the doctor made that call, another call has gone out announcing a race of 70 miles from Tacoma to Port Townsend.
“No motors, no sails, no support boats are allowed.”
Competitors will be on their own. It’s a test of will against the water; of courage through potential white caps; of praying to God while continuing to row, to quote the Russians.
No, I won’t be in it.
Maybe two years from now when I’m 70 I’ll have the wherewithal to row those 70 miles.
I’d have to make that call soon though because training for nearly three-times the distance I’ve ever rowed at one sitting would take more time than I’ve got.
More time than I’ve got because today I make another call. A phone call. About another battle. Not against wind and waves. But like the 70-mile contest that stretches through the night with no one to cheer you on, this call today will likewise have no raucous roar of fans, no crowd of spectators watching.
It’s a call I’ve chosen to make.
Far more important though than ringing the bell at the finish is this call today. Because it’s about family. And about justice. About what’s right.
Ever made a call like that?
We all have. There are battles – cancers, competitions, companionships – that – and who – are worth our considerable time, our anguish, our through-the-night, alone-under-the-stars struggle to stay the course.
To finish those battles, and to finish well, pray to God but don’t stop rowing.