Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Excerpt #15 from Adrift on an Ice Pan by Sir Wilfred Grenfell

Excerpt #15 from Adrift on an Ice Pan by Wilfred Thomasen Grenfell

(N.B. It was in 1908 that Grenfell, a medical missionary in northern Newfoundland was traveling by dog team to treat a patient, became stranded on an ice pan and came close to perishing. The following excerpt is from Grenfell's account of this adventure.)


Only the previous night (Easter Sunday) at prayers in the cottage, we
had been discussing the fact that the soul was entirely separate from
the body, that Christ's idea of the body as the temple in which the
soul dwells is so amply borne out by modern science. We had talked of
thoughts from that admirable book, "Brain and Personality," by Dr.
Thompson of New York, and also of the same subject in the light of a
recent operation performed at the Johns Hopkins Hospital by Dr. Harvey
Cushing. The doctor had removed from a man's brain two large cystic
tumors without giving the man an anæsthetic, and the patient had kept
up a running conversation with him all the while the doctor's fingers
were working in his brain. It had seemed such a striking proof that
ourselves and our bodies are two absolutely different things.

Our eternal life has always been with me a matter of faith. It seems
to me one of those problems that must always be a mystery to
knowledge. But my own faith in this matter had been so untroubled that
it seemed now almost natural to be leaving through this portal of
death from an ice pan. In many ways, also, I could see how a death of
this kind might be of value to the particular work that I am engaged
in. Except for my friends, I had nothing I could think of to regret
whatever. Certainly, I should like to have told them the story. But
then one does not carry folios of paper in running shorts which have
no pockets, and all my writing gear had gone by the board with the

I could still see a testimonial to myself some distance away in my
khaki overalls, which I had left on another pan in the struggle of the
night before. They seemed a kind of company, and would possibly be
picked up and suggest the true story. Running through my head all the
time, quite unbidden, were the words of the old hymn:--

"My God, my Father, while I stray
Far from my home on life's dark way,
Oh, teach me from my heart to say,
Thy will be done!"

It is a hymn we hardly ever sing out here, and it was an unconscious
memory of my boyhood days.

To be continued.


The above excerpt is from Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell. A true account of Grenfell's near death experience, the story was first published in 1909 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

The unabridged audio edition, narrated by Chris Brookes, Jay Roberts and Janis Spence, is available from Rattling Books.