Ever since I’ve known Walter he has been restricted to a wheelchair. That would be over the past twelve years. It wasn’t always like that. Walter used to be the captain of ships navigating across the oceans for many years. Salt is in his blood and tenacity is a hallmark of this courageous man. I have sometimes written obituaries for people but Walter thankfully is still with us. He is currently in hospital recovering from a variety of ailments that inevitably accompany the ravages of MD.

The thing is, Walter seldom complains. Until a few years ago he rode lawnmowers in the summer months cutting as many lawns as his strength would allow. He navigated his lawnmower like a captain plying a green ocean, taking great pride and delight in his accomplishment, especially the opportunity to ‘be useful’. He has a deep sonorous bass voice and he loves to sing and be part of worship, playing a guitar resting in his lap, often with tears welling up as the music moves him. He’s a deeply sensitive man who now and then would sail into my office on his wheels to clarify something rather than wallow in misunderstanding (a rare quality).

I wasn’t expecting to write a tribute to Walter today, but as I prayed for his healing this morning I had a sense that the Lord wanted me to boast about one of his favorite sons (of course we’re all his favorites, and sometimes it’s good to hear the affirmations spoken out loud, in a public forum). God sees the hidden people, the ones who seldom are in the limelight, the quiet ones who hate to draw attention to themselves. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” are not words to be sparingly spoken, only uttered after death to celebrities. They are words to be well used, formed rough at the edges, eroded with countless repetition as they are lavished on the unsuspected recipient who never saw them coming and who are blessed in the receiving.

As Walter’s body groans under the weight of his disease his spirit has grown (pun intended) and it knows no bounds or restrictions. I’m sure Walter won’t mind me sharing a note he sent me this week. Listen to these sentiments from his hospitable bed: “I feel like a ship that wrapped her wheel in the mooring lines, no big deal, ambulance tug got me to dry dock, 6 days here now, many more for sure, they will not give me a new paint job though, oh well, lol, good yard right here in Port and awesome crews especially the white hard hat doc’s, they are working hard on effecting good repairs, been in the water for 74 years now….. look forward with therapist to strengthening lower limb mobility and exercising lungs on special unit, now working hard on self maintenance, it will all be good, very encouraged, cheers.

And later: “l know the Lord knows what I need already, but to imagine that little old me am now in communication with God’s Son, who came in human form to suffer far greater pain that I could ever imagine, for me, and just to be in His presence is so wonderfully sweet and really quite amazing, what a privilege!”

What I admire about Walter is that he affirms God’s love and goodness in the midst of his suffering. Why hasn’t he been healed? We don’t know; God knows we have prayed and asked, anointed, and cried out! But Walter embraces the mystery, and while he, and we, have struggled over these matters I have witnessed his faith blossoming – despite the struggles and setbacks. I think (I know) he has unwittingly encouraged and challenged me far more than I have given to him. And of course, beside him, his wife Lorie (an amazing artist) has supported, served and encouraged, while also putting up with his grumpy side :-). And I include that comment because a hallmark of Walter’s journey has been integrity, full disclosure, and sometimes a self-awareness that is too hard on himself.

Today I want to sing the praises of this humble man (and Lorie) while he is still alive (and may there be many years still to come). I want to pull the curtain aside and lift him high as a hero, which is what I heard God whisper this morning. “Tell Walter that I see him as a much loved hero. Not in a wheelchair but at the helm of a chariot of fire.”

Thank you Walter for being you. May God bless you and keep you and make his face shine upon you. Heal well, and keep on sailing. You have a greater impact than you’ll ever know my friend. As I’ve been writing this little tribute Walter sent me a message: “Home now, real glad, hospital very full, much stronger now, normal vital signs, now just strengthening lower limbs due to lack of use in hospital, all good 👍, God is good...

Walter, this is for you, it is what the Lord sees in you right now:

Note: The line from the poem “Bring me my Chariot of fire!” draws on the story of 2 Kings 2:11, where the Old Testament prophet Elijah is taken directly to heaven: “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” The phrase has become a byword for divine energy, and inspired the title of the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, in which the hymn Jerusalem is sung during the final scenes. The plural phrase “chariots of fire” refers to 2 Kings 6:17.

John Cox

Christian Author

One comment

  • Thank you for this tribute to Walter. I missed him in church the last while and have always admired him and Lorie.

Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s