Just thinking about the word “drifting” makes me feel relaxed…at first.
One of the many new experiences I’ve had since moving to Florida is going to nearby springs. My favorite so far is Blue Springs, a place Benny and I have visited on several occasions. We blow up our little yellow inflatable boat, just big enough for two, and take the short, pretty walk to the spring entrance. Because the water is in the low 70’s year round, I quickly jump into the boat while Benny chivalrously braves chest-deep water to guide us to the beginning of the springs. He then climbs aboard and we lazily float in crystal clear water, surrounded by natural Florida beauty, to a dock — then get out to take the path up to start all over.
There’s another kind of drift, though, that’s really dangerous.
I still get a chill down my spine when I think of the summer of 1997. Our Janelle, then age eleven, was playing in the ocean with a friend in front of our family’s favorite vacation getaway. Adults were nearby watching, playing, sunning and glancing to make sure Janelle and Peter weren’t going out too far. Suddenly, Janelle started yelling for help. Because she wasn’t very far from the shore, Benny ran into the waves to grab her and her young friend to get them moving back toward the shore. What he didn’t know was they were caught in a rip current.
Within seconds, the current took he and Janelle further into the ocean. The waves and undertow were strong and Benny was losing strength as Janelle clung to his back. Onlookers headed out as far as they could safely get, and several called 911.
“Daddy,” she asked as wave after wave pulled him under, “are you ok? Are we gonna die?”
Fighting for strength and breath, Benny told his little girl to just hold on. “Honey, no matter what happens, don’t let go of my shoulders. Just keep pushing yourself up with your hands and hold your head up.”
“No, Daddy! I don’t want you to die!”
Benny was certain that when he went down under the next wave, it would be his last. But God had mercy. Rather than pull him helplessly under, the wave must have thrust he and Janelle toward the shore. He suddenly felt hands grabbing his arms and pulling him forward.
I arrived on the beach as Benny was being laid face up onto the sand. His limp body, gray skin and blue lips frightened me. Paramedics were arriving to care of him, and one opened a metal case with the paddles used to get stopped hearts beating again. Gratefully, they weren’t needed and Benny began to shake, cough and choke up water. They loaded him into the ambulance to transport him to an emergency clinic nearby.
It was there we learned that even though he seemed to be improving, there was a serious chance of “secondary drowning.” As the name implies, when fluid gets into the lungs the patient can actually improve at first but get worse later. If left unchecked, fluid damage can cause a hardening in the lungs which further reduces the ability to exchange air and patients can die of asphyxiation or heart attack, even hours or days later.
By God’s grace and in answer to many prayers, Benny improved quickly. In fact, he’s sitting nearby as I type watching a basketball game. 🙂 His heroics also protected our daughter from ingesting much water and she was able to visit Daddy at the clinic soon after we arrived there on that July day.
All this happened because two kids didn’t realize they were drifting.
Drift can be a really dangerous thing. And at my retreat two weeks ago my Father rescued me from three areas of drift in my life. Unlike my young daughter, I wasn’t yelling for help because I wasn’t aware that I had drifted. How kind of Him to notice and help me anyway.
I look forward to telling you about it.
Oh, and by the way: you might be wondering what happened to Janelle’s friend, Peter, who was in the ocean with her back in 1997. That morning, he noticed a framed explanation of rip currents on the wall of our beach house and read it. He learned that rather than fight the waves onto the shore, he should turn onto his back and float until the current ended, then swim in. Lots of lessons for us there, huh?
P.S. I know this post is long. I’m trying to heed the advice of my kids and shorten them. Even considered breaking this up into two posts. Should I have done that? Would love to hear your thoughts on post length!