Last summer, my husband saved a man and his five year-old boy from drowning in Lake Pend Oreille. The little boy was scared to swim, so his father Tony coaxed him out into the water by carrying him on his shoulders. When Tony reached the buoys that marked the end of the swimming area, he kept going, unaware that the lake bottom drops out sharply at that point. At first, he was able to stay afloat, so he continued carrying his son into deeper and deeper water, oblivious to the danger. Soon, however, the boy’s weight grew too much for him and he started to go under.
Our first clue that Tony was drowning came when the boy started to scream. Steve, my husband, quickly handed me his shoes and dove into the water. By the time he reached them, Tony had slipped beneath the water three times, struggling more each time to hold his son’s flailing body above him.
Steve grabbed the boy, almost drowning himself when his swimming trunks came loose and tangled around his ankles. But he managed to kick them off and haul the boy to the closest buoy, where Tony’s wife was waiting frantically. As soon as the boy was safe, Steve swam back for Tony, who had gone under yet again. When Steve got Tony back to the buoy, they both clung to it for a long time, panting for breath.
Paramedics from the closest town were called in once Tony finally made it to shore, where they gave him oxygen and expelled water from his lungs. The little boy was unhurt–a little bit terrified, of course, but completely unaware of how close he and his father had come to dying.
Truthfully, even Tony never knew what a close call it was. Steve and I weren’t supposed to be at Oden Bay that afternoon. We wanted to go to another campground with better facilities, but decided to change our plans at the last minute for no discernible reason. You could call it luck, I suppose, but I have come to believe that we went to Oden Bay because we were meant to go there. There was no voice from God or vague inner sense that directed us to the right place at the right time, and yet we ended up there anyway.
If we had gone to Trestle Creek like we planned, there is no question that Tony and his son would have died. All of the other people at the beach were too far away to reach them in time, and several of them didn’t even notice what was going on until it was almost over. By the time Tony’s wife swam out to the buoy, her family would have been gone, swallowed beneath the cold water.
I’ve thought about that a lot in the past year, as I’ve struggled with where life has taken me recently. Last December, my back pain was so crazy that I lay on the couch for almost three weeks, unable to even read or watch TV because that strained my neck too much.
And then there was the trauma of losing my last job, which started out so promising but plummeted me back toward suicide for the first time in four years. So even as I have fought to win back my physical strength, it has been tempting to believe that my life has stagnated. Even now, eight months since I started my new physical therapy, my body is capable of far less than it was at the beginning of the year; and after almost ten years of blogging, I felt compelled to shut down my original site to protect myself from an online stalker.
But I think of the day Steve saved Tony at the lake, and how easily it could have gone the other way. How we were meant to be there, meant to save that man and his son, and how this is the way God works. And so I know that even though I can’t see it right now, this is exactly where I am meant to be.