In Memoriam of Captain Dennis R. Sherwood (1955 - 2019)

by Bianca Reineke, lutheran Pastor, Germany - published on 3 January 2020

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photo: Sherwood family / official obituary (link at the end)

Ladders are the bridges for crossing the rough seas of our lives

Metaphorically speaking and sadly in real life too... when you are a Marine Pilot at work, hoping and praying that the ladders which let you embark the vessel are stable, safe and not dangerous

In Memoriam of the late Captain Dennis Sherwood who passed away on Monday the 30th of December



When do we use ladders? Wooden ones or rope ladders.... Are there lots of occasions? I don’t think so.... maybe while picking cherries or apples during the summer...
But: take the road back to memory lane. Remember your childhood. If you were lucky you had a tree house. And if you didn’t have one you dreamt about one at least, didn’t you?
A massive wooden house high up in an old tree.
And how did you reach it? In your dreams. In real life? With a ladder. Made from ropes, dangling in the air, the climbing itself was an adventure. But you finally got to the tree house. Safe and sound.
And then you are at your tree house overlooking the yard. Feeling proud and on top of the world.
And, if you live on a farm, there are still ladders in the stables and barns. To reach the higher compartments containing hay and other stuff.

Ladders used to be important and they still are, we tend to forget that or don’t even know about it.

But there is one place where ladders are more than important, where they are the gateway to trading.
As most of our daily supplies, goods, foods and cars come to us via sea, someone has to guide the giant vessels carrying them through and into the harbours. Who are likely to be quite narrow...

The vessels need a Marine Pilot, someone who guides them through these eyes of a needle.

The pilots have to embark the big ships from their significant smaller Pilot boats. And guess how?
Right, with the help of a ladder....
Which can be unsteady, loose and difficult to climb on, especially during high tides, storms or in turbulent waters...

Jacob’s ladder
These ladders are called „jacob’s ladder“ - and this makes perfect sense. As it was Jacob himself who dreamt this ladder, leading him to God.
Jacob, the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham, who’s the ancestor of three major world religions. Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The story of Jacob
The story of Jacob can be found in the Thora and therefore in the old Testament.
And he's a real scoundrel this man, who stole the birthrigth from his brother Esau. And took his blessing from their father Isaac.

Jacob fled the scene of his crime in deep fear of his stronger brother.

And yes...He committed a crime. Against his family and against God as well....

And while he is sleeping, exhausted, tired and full of shame, he is dreaming of God and his angels.

And guess what? Right. He dreams of a ladder leading up to God where the Angels are climbing.

And when he wakes up, he feels related, free and forgiven. Jacob decides to rename the place of his dream: he calls it Beth-El, which is hebrew for „the house of God“

So it’s a ladder which leads us people back to God. Gets us back to him when we were lost, in sins. Or when we simply forgot that God is there. Wants to be there - in our lives.

Jacob's ladder leads us into safety and peace. After rough times full of fear and chaos it’s the Jacob's ladder that can bring us back.


The Marine Pilot and the jacob's ladder
It somehow makes sense that the ladder the marine pilots use to embark the vessels is called Jacob´s ladder...

It leads them from the stormy waters to the safety of the giant ships. And their purpose on the vessel will be leading it safely through the harbour.

So the ladder has to be strong and of high quality, that’s for sure, as it carries the weight of the pilot and its responsibility.

I cannot even begin to imagine how dangerous these climbings must feel. Especially during the night and in stormy waters, but I can relate to the fear of embarking something new or the reembarking of something I have lost.

Whether it’s the faith in God or in people I have loved and who have disappointed me deeply. But: whenever I feel that the ladder leading me back to the things I love and need is strong and safe, I’ll grab it in a heartbeat. Fully trusting that it will carry me. Safely.

Onto the vessel. Onto the ship which represents my life, carries my goods, my trust, my loved ones. I can return to the safety and the love with a jacob’s ladder.
Return to my faith or my safe haven. Like the pilots do...to get us the things we need in life.
Let their ladders be strong and stable!

Our thoughts and prayers are with the late Captain Dennis Sherwood who sadly died doing what he loved: being a Marine Pilot.
May his soul Rest In Peace. And may his family and friends find solace in all the loving memories they shared with him.

Bianca Reineke, lutheran Pastor, Germany
Official Obituary of Captain Dennis R. Sherwood

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