An Ocean of Love

The boundless love of a Father for his daughters
by Nicholas Sheehy, LC | Source:
It was hard not to notice the Martin family at Mass on Saturday morning. A happy couple with six beautiful daughters ranging from 3 to 17, they were a common sight at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ellicott City, Maryland. They were looking forward to taking some time off, but faith still came first. So this Saturday, like any other, they were at Mass before heading off to the beach.

Doug Martin worked for the National Security Agency, was a full-time dad to six daughters, and a dedicated husband to his wife Jeanne. He took his work and his faith seriously. He also loved swimming and encouraged his daughters to share his passion for the sea. But this time he could not have expected what the sea held in store.

This September day, the Martins were on their way to a late vacation in Ocean City, Maryland. As a home-schooling family, the Martins were used to vacationing in the off-season, with less crowded beaches but still warm water.

A few days into their vacation on September 14, the feast of the Triumph of the Cross, the Martins received a dramatic share in Christ’s redemptive suffering.

Making the most of their proximity to the beach, Doug invited his girls to share an evening swim. The older girls accepted, and soon Doug was pulling through the water with strong strokes, accompanied by Emily, Amy and Mary, while his wife Jeanne and the three other girls stayed in the townhouse.

Before long they had reached the sand bar, but the rip current was much stronger in these waters. They were soon very tired, and the situation was becoming dangerous.

Thanks to their training, the four swimmers headed back to shore parallel to the current. Emily, the oldest daughter, made it back fine. Doug was also moving along well. Then he noticed that the other two girls were having trouble. Turning back, he disregarded his own safety in an attempt to save his daughters.

In the end, Emily was towed back by an off-duty lifeguard. But Amy didn’t share the same fate. Doug was barely able to pull her to the relative safety of a Coast Guard boat, although sadly this respite arrived too late for them both. The physical effort was beyond them, and extreme exhaustion had set in. Doug collapsed and died almost immediately. Amy was able to fight forty-five minutes before she passed away. They died together, in an embrace of a father’s love for his daughter.

Their death lead those whom the left behind to ponder the meaning of life. Doug’s daughters hold their heads high, proud of the man they still call “Dad.” For he died heroically, attempting to save their sister, Amy. He gave them one last lesson: family and God above all else. Living this total dedication to his family to the death, Doug Martin left an everlasting testimony of life and love.

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