The voice came from behind him, from the walkway joining land to sand. “Where’s your girlfriend? Not here today? Was kind of looking forward to another chat with her.”
Gaff turned to see Wally trudging through the sand toward him. He shook his head. “You mean Priscilla?”
“Yep.” Wally plopped down on the cooler and almost slid off. He wiggled it to dig it further in, level it. “Hmmm, not bad. Pretty comfortable, in fact.”
Gaff looked at the tip of his rod to see the rhythmic back and forth movement of the tide… no fish. Not yet. “No complaints so far. What brings you to the beach?”
Wally looked to the ocean. “Attended my uncle’s funeral in Wilmington yesterday.” He shook his head. “Terribly emotional. I couldn’t tell whether people were sad or joyful that he wasn’t around any more.”
Gaff turned to look at his visitor. “Not well liked?”
He shook his head violently. “Wasn’t nice to people from what I know about him. I said some things as part of the service. Took a lot of control to keep from preaching fire and brimstone and the wrath of God at the time of judgment.”
Gaff smiled slightly and concentrated on holding his own tongue. “You don’t say.”
Wally looked like he intended to say everything he hadn’t at the funeral. He nodded. “When my uncle hits the Pearly Gates, he’s going to meet an angry God who’ll reject him from the place of the good. There’ll be hell to pay, if you catch my drift.” He chuckled without humor. “Man hurt a lot of people. Have to give ‘em credit for keeping quiet yesterday, but I could see it in their eyes.”
Gaff grinned, couldn’t help it. “You think your uncle’ll end up in hell, do you?”
Wally pushed the hair out of his eyes. “Without a doubt. Figure that’s why he held onto life for so long… knew what he was in for.”
Gaff dug into the sand and let it run through his fingers. “Sick a long time?”
Wally nodded. “Stuck around for meanness.”
“Bet he was surprised when he finally got there.”
Wally’s head jerked around toward Gaff. “What do you mean, surprised?”
Gaff grabbed an empty coffee cup from the sand and stood. Wally followed him to the surf. When the next wave rolled onto the sand at their feet, the old fisherman reached down to fill the cup with water. He looked into the cup with such rapt attention that Wally moved closer to see, too.
Finally overcome with curiosity, Wally broke into the sound of the waves. “What are you looking at?”
Gaff smiled into the cup. “The ocean.”
Wally’s face scrunched into a tight frown. “You are some crazy old man. That’s just a cup of water, not the ocean.”
Gaff looked at his new friend. “Is it? You just saw me take it from the ocean and it contains all the minerals that the ocean does. It’s just like the ocean from which it came.” He waited for that to sink in.
Wally looked from the cup of water to Gaff’s face. Did he feel Gaff pulling his leg? Then he stared into the cup for a long moment. “It is the same in that way.”
Gaff smiled. “You might say the ocean is the mother and this cup of water is a miniature version of the mother… a child.”
Wally jerked to negate the statement, but paused. “OK, I’ll go along with you.”
Gaff crossed the fingers of his other hand behind his back. “You could think of God like the ocean, large and encompassing everything, a sea of endless potential. You could see each of us as a part of that everything, only separated in our physical bodies.” He tapped on the cup to make his point. “We all hold endless potential within us.”
The minister took time to try on this idea. He jiggled his head to indicate the possibility and looked at Gaff to see where this was going.
Gaff jabbed a finger at the cup. “What you do with that potential is up to you.” He shook his head. “I believe I do a better job with my life with Christ guidance, but each person has free will.”
“Following the commandments is good.” Wally nodded as he looked from cup to ocean and then to Gaff.
The corners of Gaff’s mouth twitched upward. “Are you talking about Jesus’ two commandments?”
Wally stood taller and looked at Gaff. “There’re ten of them.”
Gaff shook his head. “But in the New Testament, Jesus boiled them down to two.”
Wally shrugged his resignation. “You’ve mentioned His Way of Love.”
Water sloshed in the cup to draw their attention. “To me, believing in separation from God is the true hell.”
“Then all of life is hell.”
Gaff smiled. “Not if you follow His guidance. It’s only hell if you think you know better and fight to get your way. Then you’re in a hell of your own creation.” He waved to encompass the world around them. “We’re in a physical paradise with the ability to create an emotional paradise.”
Wally cocked his head, confused.
Gaff grinned as he looked around. “If we send out love and work the miracles we’re guided to by the Christ, we create heaven right here on earth.”
Wally looked into the cup again. “And then what happens when we die?”
Gaff threw the water into the wave at their feet. “We rejoin the rest.”
Wally frowned. “You’re saying there’s no judgment, no fire and brimstone, no devil?”
Gaff walked toward his chair. “Oh there’s judgment, but we judge ourselves and probably more harshly than a thousand gods would. From our place in the ocean we can see the whole and that includes the pain we caused. Because we’re part of the whole, we FEEL that pain—and the joy. Feeling that pain is the worst punishment possible.”
Wally did some of his sputtering act, but to his credit, he seemed to be thinking about this new way of looking at life and death.
“And why do you fish, old man?”
Gaff pointed to the ocean. “I find peace in being close to Mother Water. I bless her and she blesses me. I find joy in giving to her and to all her creations, for all creatures came from her. We are filled with the water that is life. Here I can pay tribute to that life and pass on the blessings that I’ve been given. I create miracles when He brings people to ask about the flag. Maybe it’s easier for some to ask an old fisherman about the skull and crossed leg bones than to ask a minister about a man on a cross.”
“I see things very simply and use simple words and examples to get to the point. Maybe they even see how much I love them and that’s important to people who are floundering.” Gaff looked at the tip of his rod and it was almost jumping. A fish on the line?
*Lorena Peter, Ph.D., writes entertaining mysteries, romances and wisdom books. All have strong spiritual underpinnings and paranormal elements. She blends a medical intuition and healing practice (and travel) with her writing. For more information go to WWW.LORENAPETER.COM. You may contact her on Facebook. For her understanding of the Course, she thanks Carmen Cameron and the class in Louisville, KY.