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Nearer, My God to Thee
Based on true lives and events on board the RMS Titanic
“Come now, Lilli,” said Selma Asplund, as she leaned over her sweetly sleeping child. Her husband drew near and laid a heavy hand on her shoulder.
“Let her sleep Love. I can carry her for now. There is no point in alarming the little ones. Third class is not yet being allowed up stairs.”
“My dear, does it look as though there is truly something wrong?” Her beautiful eyes held a look of worry and fear.
“I cannot tell for sure, but hurry, get Edvin and go to the boys. I’ll get Lillian and meet you there in a moment.”
Selma hastily scooped up her little lad. His cheeks were rosy and his eyes closed peacefully in a serene sleep. As she looked at him, her mind filled with worry and fear for her little ones. The steward had said there was nothing to fear, but a mother’s heart is always cautious for her lambs. What if the ship were sinking? Would they all be able to escape?
“Lord,” she whispered earnestly. “Protect my little ones. Let no harm befall them.”
She sighed, stroking the sleeping brow, “I leave them in your hands. Let Your will be done.” As she lifted the toddler into her arms, peace flooded her like a huge wave. She closed her eyes and for a moment she was once again standing with her father, a young bride preparing to leave the land she had known her whole life.
“Remember, Selma my dotter, da verds that God spoke to Joshua before they vent into da promised land,” her father had told her. “‘As I vas with Moses, so I vill be with thee: I vill not fail dee, nor forsake dee.’”
She had been afraid of the unknown on that day, just as she was afraid of it now, but remembering that beloved verse gave her a new strength. God would be with her and her family this night.
She hastened into the adjoining room where her three oldest sons were waiting. Filip, Clarence and Carl were standing near the door, looking quite languid. Spotting his mother, Clarence rushed to her side.
“Momma,” he asked. “Can I please go back to sleep like Lilli? I am so tired and Filip said I have to stay awake.”
“No dear,” She replied. “Momma and Poppa’s hands are full. You must be a big strong man for Momma and stay awake.”
“I’m so tired. Why can’t we go back to Grandmoder and Grandfoder’s house? I liked my bed by the fire.”
“Clarence,” she said. “Please be Momma’s strong man and stay awake.”
“Yes, Momma. I will stay awake and be a strong man for you. Besides, someone has to keep little Carl awake. He looks even more tired than me,” he said with a smile.
Mr. Asplund entered the room carrying little Lillian.
“Come with me,” he said leading the way. The family filed out the door. The room they entered was quite crowded with anxious and fatigued passengers. The family huddled down together in a small corner of the room. By this time the noise had awaken Lillian and she was sitting contentedly on her father’s lap. Clarence looked over at his father and said, “Poppa, may we practice the Bible verses we were learning yesterday?”
“Why yes, Clarence, I think that would be an excellent idea.” Then nodding to his wife, they began.
“John chapter fifteen, verses twelve and thirteen. ‘This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’”
Clarence sighed, “I like that verse Poppa. I hope I can be a man like Jesus who isn’t afraid to die for others.” Mr. Asplund turned his head as a tear came to his eye. He wondered if it would be just moments before his son would have to see this verse played out before his own eyes. He had been told that the lifeboats were being filled on deck with only the women and children.
Turning to his family he said, “I pray that all of my children will be willing to give of their lives for others.” At that moment, crowds of third class passengers rushed out of the large room.
“They must be letting third class up now,” observed Mr. Asplund. Suddenly a gruff looking man tapped Mr. Asplund’s shoulder.
“Quickly, come with me if you want to make it to the top in time. There’s a steward leading people up.” The man lowered his voice to a whisper, “They say the ships sinking fast. You had better hurry with the youngins.”
Mr. Asplund quickly picked up Lillian. “Come Selma. Come boys. We must go with this man.” They quickly obeyed and followed. He led them through the mass of people and down a hall, where they were met by a steward.
“Why Poppa, the steward’s our friend Mr. Cox!” cried Filip.
“Yes son,” said Mr. Asplund. “Follow him. Don’t let him out of your sight.” Quickly the small group rushed through the maze of halls and stairs. The further up they got the louder the sound of screams and wailing became.
“Here!” yelled Mr. Cox, as he opened a side door. A blast of icy air hit Clarence’s face as he pushed through the door.
“Filip!” yelled their father. “Hold on to Carl. Clarence! Here, take Lillian’s hand. I must find room on a boat for you all.” The ship was tilting quite far by this time and nearly all of the lifeboats had been launched. Selma looked around frantically trying to keep track of all the children through the mobs. She caught sight of her husband rushing towards her through the crowd.
“You must come quickly!” he called. “The boats are nearly full.” The family struggled through the crowd towards a boat.
“Only two seats left!” called one of the sailors.
“Please,” called out Mr. Asplund. “My wife and young ones!”
“No,” cried Selma. “There must be enough room for my boys! I won’t leave without them; without you.”
“No, my love,” said Mr. Asplund, taking her in his arms. “You, Edvin and Lillian must go. I love you my beloved bride.”
“No!” she wailed. “I won’t go. Not without you! Please let me stay!”
“Please love,” he said, as he pulled her towards the boat. She shook violently as she clung to the babe in her arms. Mr. Asplund took the baby and handed him down to a woman already in the boat. He turned back and embraced his wife for the last time. In that moment, Selma’s heart was torn in pieces. It felt as though she was being ripped apart.
“God go with you my love,” he whispered in her ear. She gazed into his eyes and turned to the boat.
As his father and mother embraced for the last time, Clarence looked at Lillian. She had always been his best friend. He didn’t want to leave her, but he stood tall and brave as he hugged her tightly. Even though he was scared, he must be momma’s strong man.
“Good bye Lilli. I love you.”
“I wuv you too,” she tearfully called as her father scooped her up and placed her into the boat. The three boys moved back with their father, away from the crowds. They watched, hearts pounding, as the last boats were launched and the faces of the ones they loved disappeared. The ship was leaning farther and farther every moment as Father and sons sought to push their way through the crowds. Suddenly, as if it were a soft breeze, a gentle tune floated past their ears. Mr. Asplund turned his head towards the band members who were standing only a few yards away, playing their last song. Recognizing the song, he lifted up his voice and began to sing the tender hymn. The boys, hearing their father’s voice turned and came to him. Little Clarence’s lower lip trembled as he looked up at his father. With a deep breath he too joined in the song, followed by Filip and Carl. The ship leaned farther. A piercing sound of crunching metal filled the air followed by a terrific explosion. Clarence closed his eyes and with his last breaths sang out:
“Still all my song shall be,
Nearer, my God, to Thee.
Nearer to Thee!”
Nearer to Thee!”