Beachcombers regularly turn up some impressive discoveries, from rare coins and valuable seashells to unusual animals.
But few beaches have been blessed like the one by the Ocean Manor Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Last Saturday, a huge wooden cross coated with barnacles drifted onto the beach, leaving locals at a loss to explain where the 20-foot object of devotion came from.
CNN reported that guesses included Puerto Rico or the Keys. More fantastic theories mentioned pirate ships and buried treasure. But since the cross was the only clue, there was really no way to say for sure.
Ocean Manor’s owner, Frank Telerico, took the cross as a sign that his property was protected. He also mentioned that his sister had been praying at the beach over a bad dream on the day it was discovered.
Telerico dragged the cross away from the waterline (with help from a small gang of workers and two ATVs) so tourists could marvel at it and take photos.
Finally, the truth came out on Thursday as a local woman revealed the tragic backstory behind the cross.
Robin Stowe told The Miami Herald that she had put up the cross in memory of her brother, Captain Richard Baran. Captain Aaron Aaron, who built Baran’s cross, said he could tell by its design that the one outside Ocean Manor was the same.
Baran had been on a hunting trip near North Carolina’s Hatteras Inlet when he disappeared in 2016.
A Coast Guard search never turned up any sign of Hatteras, so Stowe had the enormous cross set into Dredge Island, near where her brother’s boat was found.
She guesses that strong winds from Hurricane Nate may have knocked the cross down in 2017, and it spent two years in the ocean before resurfacing in Florida.
She told the Herald the cross "was a labor of love and means a lot to us," and said she hoped it would be returned. Stowe and Aaron are waiting to hear back from Telerico so they can arrange to sail the cross back where it belongs.
It seems as if the mystery of the cross is solved, for now, and if Stowe is right this story is still pretty miraculous.
While the sea didn’t return her brother, it brought his cross back to land through hurricanes and tides that could have carried it anywhere else to be lost forever. Maybe the Lord works in mysterious ways after all.