Fred W. Nagel
There are some among us who claim to hear the voice of God. For most it is a
singular occurrence. For the Reverend Pat Robertson, it would seem as common-
place as listening to the complaints of a dyspeptic old neighbor. I do not lay claim
to any such communication. I can, however, bear witness to a “visitation” by one
of His earthbound emissaries.
It was six or more on a Sunday evening, at an earlier time in my life. It was a
troubled time; a marriage gone sour, the emotional amputations of divorce. My
future seemed bleak. I had been at work all day on the house we had bought several
years before, a weekend cottage near the beaches we so loved. The work, which had
had been a labor of love, was now solitary drudgery; its only purpose, to insure its-
market value. It was the final thing, beside our memories, that we would share.
It was a hot day in August. The heat and the work were debilitating. At six, I packed
up my tools and drove to East Hampton’s Wiborg Beach, behind Hook Pond, for a swim.
The beach was deserted. The weekenders were likely on the road, locals home for drinks
and dinner. I walked down to the shore. The ocean was calm and summer blue, the sun
still brilliant in its waning hours. I gazed out upon the water, entranced, as always, by its
singular beauty. I dropped my towel on the sand, took off my shirt and put my
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inside a shoe.-
Down the beach, far to the west, something caught my eye. Something was moving
toward me, rapidly. I made it out to be a dog, an exceptionally large one. Its size was
intimidating, as was the speed at which it bore down on me. I felt, for a moment, some
apprehension. Then, I assured myself that it was friendly and relaxed. As it drew close, I
saw it was an Irish Wolfhound. He was huge and he was beautiful. He raced up to me and
stopped, abruptly, at my feet. His tail began to wag. I took his huge head in my two hands
and stared into his eyes, which were brimming with excitement, if not bliss. His jaws were
parted in what could be construed only as a smile.
I patted him and walked into the gentle surf. He followed, by my side, and when I dove
into a shallow breaker, he did as well. We swam together, out into the swells, just beyond
the breaking surf, and spent some few, ecstatic moments in their embrace. Then, he left
and swam back to the shore. As I watched him go, saw him amble back from whence he
came, I felt my spirits soar. I knew, suddenly, and with certitude, that all was well; that
for me, personally, in the fullness of time, all would too be well. My latent, undelivered
prayers were answered.
* * *
Some twenty-five years later, on another Sunday, I stood, again, at virtually that
very spot. It was my birthday, but it was not going well. After coffee and croissants,
after Stephanopoulos and the late Tim Russert, my wife Nancy and I drove to Wiborg
Beach. It had become our practice, through the years, to visit there at times of celebration
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or of sorrow, joy or grief, to reflect or meditate on whatever circumstances were at hand.
In Nancy’s terminology, it was “going to the Big Water”.
The news, that Sunday morning, was grim. The deadly quagmire of Iraq was
unchanged; nationally , a too familiar number of grisly murders and tragic accidents.
Stephanopoulos’ closing segment, “In Memoriam” , revealed the weekly list of American
servicemen and women killed in action, released by the Pentagon. We saw their names,