Imagine receiving an email message from your thirteen-year-old grandson entitled, “I Almost Died.” That’s not a subject line any nana wants to read. As you can imagine, it initiates immediate heart flutters and sweaty palms.
Our son, Brian, and his family live on some property with a babbling creek running behind it. Normally, this creek, which isn’t visible from the house, is no more than a foot deep at the deepest point. My three grandsons, Luke, 13, Ethan, 10, and Jacob, 8, enjoy wading there and discovering all manner of water creatures to entertain them for hours.
A few weeks ago, the boys came home from school, changed clothes, donned their rubber boots, and headed for the creek as they often do. With the threat of Hurricane Michael past, they were anxious to play outside again. Immediately, they spotted a large, shallow pool of water in the field behind the creek and began wading and stomping. Luke decided to venture into the creek, noticing it was deeper than usual, but unaware of the powerful current created by a flash flood. Immediately, he lost his footing and found he couldn’t fight against the current to return to solid ground.
Panicked, he called to his brothers, “Go get Mom!” Clawing at hanging tree limbs, he finally held fast to one as the rushing water threatened to pull him under. When our daughter-in-law, Alisha, arrived at the scene, she jumped into the water to rescue her son, confident because she is a strong swimmer who once worked as a lifeguard, and she even completed a triathlon. Now she, too, was pulled under, unable to swim or grasp the overhanging branches.
Jacob stood on the bank crying and screaming, “Mommy’s dying! Do something!”
“Ethan, call 911!” Luke yelled from the opposite side where he had managed to pull himself up enough to grab a sapling. Ethan ran to the house, found his mother’s cell phone, and with amazing presence of mind for a ten-year-old, unlocked it, dialed 911, and engaged a dispatcher.
“What’s your emergency?” the dispatcher asked.
“My mommy and brother are drowning in the creek! Hurry!”
“Where do you live?”
“Appomattox,” he answered.
“Okay, but what’s your address?”
He gave his address, and with phone-in-hand, ran back to the creek to find a wide-eyed and white-knuckled Luke hugging a tree while Alisha tried desperately to hold on to a small branch. “They’re coming!” Ethan yelled to be heard above the rushing water and hysterical cries of his younger brother.
“Run to the road, Ethan, and direct them here!” Alisha cried.
As Ethan ran to meet the emergency responders, his mom’s phone rang. It was Brian, who happened to be calling Alisha on his way home from work. He had been delayed by a fallen tree that was being cleared from the road. With sirens blaring in the background, Ethan said, “Mommy and Luke are drowning,” before he hung up. You can imagine the mental picture that flashed through Brian’s mind. I’m pretty sure it was like the panic that seized me when I received Luke’s email message.
I wouldn’t be able to write about this event if it had turned out differently. By the grace of God, a clear-headed ten-year-old, and a whole fleet of well-trained emergency responders, everyone ended up safe and dry, and the Freemans are one tremendously grateful family.
Life can take sudden, unexpected turns. Without trust in a loving God, we can easily sink under the weight of our circumstances, mistakes, and challenges. In my novel, I Want to Go Home, Abby finally learns how to place her trust in God who, she recognizes, has been trying to get her attention throughout the challenges of homelessness. She simply needed to grab that branch and hold on.
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from amazon.com or hightidepublications.com