Second in a series of “family tales.” The following took place nearly 7 years ago:
The path wound familiar, through the forest and along the rushing river. We hiked, children and friends in tow, and gazed with wonder at the pounding falls, rushing water and refreshing spray…
It was a lovely day. Hot and humid, to be sure…but the woods were cool and the
sandy beach along the river offered the perfect place for sandcastle building and wading, a delicious respite for sweaty hikers.
Dads accompanied a host of little ones to the water’s edge, while the two moms sat in the shade, upon a fallen log to nurse and calm two fussy sling-riders. Two teenage sisters sat and chatted, neither interested in wading.
The water lapped the shore, little toes danced upon the sand. Farther out, and around the bend, the water roared by, churning furiously as rivers do, carrying branches, leaves and debris in a mad swirl. The recent rains were the culprit, but we were safe, in a little cove a good bit away from the rapids…still, we warned the children, particularly the olders…accidents can happen so quickly.
One little fellow remained aloof from the fun. He kept his shoes on, tousled blond hair lying sweatily across his brow. No amount of coaxing would convince him to wade…four years old and so terribly afraid of the water. So he walked along the edge, watching the others play, occasionally stooping to pick up a rock or stick. Watching my cautious one, I felt a certain relief. He was so very small for his age…it was just as well. One less little one to worry over. Until…
He ventured towards a rocky/sandy overhang…he only wanted to look at the water. Before I could yell “Max!” the ground crumbled beneath his feet and he fell…down, down…into the rushing water.
Such horror! A mad rush from all directions towards this little guy who was being swept away by the current. Before any of us were able to move in his direction, we heard another splash…for a brief moment I was certain it was my 17 year old daughter, a Red Cross certified life guard, trained in CPR, now entering the perilous water to save her brother.
No! It was her younger sister…not nearly so good a swimmer and certainly not trained in rescue. But she had seen her brother first…love and fear for his life combined to override any concern she had for herself, she simply dove in…and I watched another of my children, caught in the rapids, and swept down river.
There are no words…if you are a parent, search your own heart…reach into that place where fear dwells…amongst the cries and pleas, prayer wells up without conscious effort…angels and saints, help us!
Swimming, struggling to keep her head above the water, she miraculously reached him within seconds. She grabbed him, the current tossing them both, and with super-human effort she managed to snag a passing branch, just before the riverbend and the mad rush of white water…She pulled herself and her brother ashore…my sweet heroine…the most unlikely rescuer!
Tears of joy and relief! We had nearly lost them both…and now embraced them, all praising God for her quick thinking, and yet also realizing that the ending could have been devastating. Her big sister praised her, saying “I never even heard or saw a thing!” She would have entered that water just as quickly, prepared after weeks of training and employment at the local YMCA…it was rather ironic that help came from the least expected place…divinely ironic!
It is a testimony to the power of love…no training or special skills are needed. Just a heart and the will to override fear and live the Gospel:
Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
We praise God that their lives were spared oh, so long ago…her name is Meredith and she will celebrate her 21st birthday in just a few days. Her brother, Maximilian, still remembers that day, only vaguely. He’s 10 years old, not the least bit afraid of water and swims like a fish. Time marches on, but these memories are precious. Remembering the past, these images fill my head as though it were only yesterday, and I’m once again grateful for the gift of life, indeed for the lives of all my children…