Sunday, July 04, 2010

Thoughts From Sue Simons

Sue and her husband, Tom, were dear friends of my parents. After my dad's stroke, Sue was invaluable in helping us manage the situation while we were hundreds of miles away. Here are some of Sue's thoughts on the Titanic.

We recently took a short vacation to Gatlinburg with some family. While a great deal of the time was with Tom’s cousin showing her ability to “shop ‘till you drop” the most impressive part of the time was a 3 hour time slot spent at the Titanic Museum. We were all assigned a person who was actually on the fated ship and would find out at the end if we survived or not. Tom was assigned the role of Thomas Andrews – the designer of the Titanic. We knew immediately that he had not survived; not just because he was male but because we had known the Mr. Andrews felt so guilty about the flaw in the design that he refused to be saved. The person I was assigned however peaked my interest so that even after we returned home I dug deeper to find out more about her.

Juliette Laroche was married to the only black person aboard the Titanic. Joseph Laroche was from Haiti; at the age of 15 he had convinced his wealthy family to allow him to go to France to attend school to become an engineer. His tutor that went with him went to visit a friend in Paris – where Laroche met his future bride. Although Laroche felt sure his engineering degree would bring him an income worth supporting his family, he hadn’t counted on the racism that he had never experienced in Haiti. Finally, he convinced his wife to go to Haiti with him where they would be assured a good life. Upon hearing that her son was coming home, Joseph’s mother purchased 1st class tickets on the French liner La France as a homecoming gift to her son and his family. Upon finding that his children would not be allowed to dine with him and his wife, and concerned that his wife, expecting a baby, might not travel well if they waited for the La France to sail might make it harder for his wife, he exchanged their tickets at the last minute to 2nd class – suspected to be the last tickets purchased for the maiden voyage. On board, the Laroches were subjected to racism at it’s worst; even the employees of the ship line made horrible comments to them. When the ship hit the iceberg, Joseph had been in the men's lounge while his family slept in their comfortable room. He swiftly went to the room and got his entire family on the lifeboat – believed to be number 14; as he placed his family in the boat, he took off his own coat in which he had loaded the family jewels and money and wrapped it around his wife saying “you’ll need this.” Joseph was never found – dead or alive.
I thought as I read all the information about this family how often as Christians we are humiliated and called names. How do we respond? Even if we don’t comment, do we build a resentment for being treated badly? Do we allow it to change how open we are about our Christianity?

The ending of this story is unique to that of all the other passengers aboard the fated ship. Not only did Juliette receive a letter of apology for the actions of the crew, but she also received the only known settlement from the cruise line for the loss of her husband – the equivalent of $22,119.00! Her two daughters that had been on the ship never married, possibly due to the fact that Juliette had held them so close they were not able to establish a relationship with anyone. The baby she was expecting prior to the trip was born after she had returned home to France born – a boy whom she named after his dad. He married and had two children.

I wonder, how many times did Juliette thought if only they had stayed home that she would still have her husband; or maybe if they had taken the original ship they would have been living a very comfortable life in Haiti. How many times do we all make decisions that change the direction of our life; do we consider the options and make decisions that will lead us away from Christ or ones that will lead us closer to Him? May we always keep our eye focused on Christ so that we may receive our reward in Heaven!

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