Late October evenings in Colorado can get very cold very quickly when the sun goes away.
On this particular day the fading afternoon light was rapidly giving way to darkness and the wind off the water was seeping through my jeans and jacket.
I was cold! And probably a little impatient as I stood watching my sweet husband and his friend run their radio control power boats around the large pond located just a few blocks from our home.
This was the “maiden voyage” of the model hydroplane my husband had just finished building. The little boat had a very special paint job, done by his youngest son, who would turn seventeen in a few months. During the previous weekend he had laboriously covered it with intricate paintings of Darth Vader, Star Fighters and Ty Fighters, in keeping with the “Star Wars” craze going around. Constructing the “Evader” had been a labor of love and a time for some father and son bonding, something they hadn’t had much of in recent years.
Even though I was ready to go home, the “captain” of the ship decided to get in just one more run before dark.
Out across the pond the little black boat flew, farther and farther away from us, until it was only a tiny speck on the far shore. My guesstimate of the distance—the length of a couple of city blocks or a football field away. Then suddenly it sputtered, coughed a couple of times, and died in the water!
Now any avid hobbyist will tell you that you don’t go home and leave a brand new, extra special, toy boat dead in the water to float to shore… maybe to be picked up in the morning. Oh no!
So… around the pond to the south end, a couple of blocks from where his friend and I are watching, goes the captain of the boat.
We watched as he waded into the icy water after his boat… jeans, jacket, tennis shoes and all. We watched as he waded out until the water was lapping around his knees, and with every step the boat appeared to be moving farther and farther away from him. Then, without warning, we watched him disappear under the water.
He had stepped off into a channel made by the stream that fed the pond. He was in over his head in a heartbeat! And all we could do was watch! We stood helplessly on the opposite bank and I screamed at his friend to help him.
There was nothing he could do. He couldn’t swim!
Neither of us could swim!
O God, help!!
We watched as my love struggled to the surface of the water a second time! He was drowning out there! Neither of us on the shore could do anything about it!
O GOD, HELP!!
I mentioned it was October, cold and rapidly approaching dark. Also, the pond was surrounded with an exceptionally nasty variety of burrs we Westerners affectionately call bull heads or Texas tacks. This charming weed produces a burr with one hard, very sharp thorn that is capable of flattening a bicycle tire with a single poke. Thick soled tennis shoes are barely adequate protection from their misery.
Suddenly, in the midst of our panic, we watched a young man, maybe 16 to 18 at a guess, barefooted, dressed in cutoff blue jeans, run into the water at the east end of the pond and swim at least fifty yards to where Dick was struggling to the surface for the third and perhaps final time.
It takes longer to write about it than it took to happen.
Swimming lifeguard style, the boy brought my darling husband to the shore were we were waiting.
Tears streaming down my face, I begged Dick to be all right.
“Are you OK? Are you SURE you’re OK?”
“Yes, yes! I’m fine!” He assured me.
Then we all turned at once to thank the boy and ask if he was OK, too. I remember thinking there was a warm blanket in the trunk of the car. I remember thinking he must be freezing, dressed. or undressed. as he was. I turned to ask if we could take him somewhere on our way home. But he was gone!
There was no one running away across the park area. There was no one riding away on a bicycle and there were no cars in sight.
HE WAS GONE!!!
In the years since that day we have often looked back and thought… any one of us, given the ability to swim, would save a life if we could. And I suppose there are those who would count what we experienced as a coincidence. When asked to recall the event later, Dick’s friend said he didn’t remember it the way we do.
Perhaps we would question the circumstances too, except for one small detail.
In the crisis, we’d forgotten all about the boat. It had been easily 20 or 30 feet in front of Dick when he stepped into deep water and went under.
But as we turned and started for the car – there at Dick’s feet was his boat!
Think about it. No human swimmer, no matter how strong or agile could bring another man to shore, swimming life-guard style; one arm around the victim, one arm treading water and carry a toy boat with him. And we know for a fact Dick did not have the boat in his arms when he was rescued. He was too busy fighting to stay alive!
As I said – any one of us would probably save a life if we could, but only GOD would give you back your life and your toy!
God’s Word tells me:
Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
the Most High your habitation,
no evil shall befall you,
no scourge come near your tent.
For he will give his angels charge of you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone…. Psalm 91:9-12 RSV
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:1-2 RSV
But to what angel has he ever said, ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet’? Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?Hebrews 1:13-14 RSV
Yes, we had quite a day indeed!