Two men lifted the wooden cross and placed it into a hole in the ice. I glanced to the left at the river – it was strange to see such a large area of open water in January. Normally frozen over by now, this year the Yukon was split down the middle by a strong swift current that contrasted with the frozen ice all around it. A forceful downriver wind blew. “Lord, please help the wind to calm so my words can be heard,” I prayed.
The man had disappeared several weeks earlier, a victim of losing the trail at night and driving into the open water. The search had been thorough at the site. We did all we could do to find him. His snow machine was found quickly, but the body was never recovered. The search was ended, and I was asked to do the memorial for him.
Water was poured into the hole where the cross was placed, then three huge blocks of ice were set at the base to secure it. Perhaps seventy-five people in heavy parkas and snow gear carefully tread across fifty yards of glare ice to where we stood. Just beyond them more than forty snow machines were parked. Many had sleds behind them filled with tents, ice augers, probing poles, hooks and other ice fishing gear that had seen heavy use over the past two weeks.
Around us the snow-covered hills laden with spruce, and the willows lining the river glowed in the early afternoon sun, providing a conspicuous reminder of the reality of the One who created such beauty.
A semi-circle formed around the cross. Flowers were handed out to all the people present. “Let’s come in closer so we can all hear,” I called above the wind. It was blowing too hard to use notes. Again I prayed silently, “Lord, help me to remember and give me the words to say.”
The service was short due to the wind and cold. I shared the story of the greatest search and rescue mission that has ever happened in the history of the world. The cross was a great visual in sharing how Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection provided the way for people to have a restored relationship with God.