It started one bright December morning. A young man came to Stroudwater, a small section in the city of Portland Maine, in search of a Christmas tree for his school classroom in nearby Westbrook. He begged the assistance of two brothers and asked for their help in finding a tree suitable for his classroom.
The woods in the rear of the boys home were carefully foraged with no tree found that was satisfactory. The Visitor suggested that there might be better trees along the riverbank. So the boys and their visitor headed down to the river in search of the perfect tree.
The air temperature was a mild, balmy twenty degrees, the sun high in the sky. It was warm for a December afternoon. The water, in comparison to the air, was unusually cold, and parts of the river were frozen over, some with only a thin layer of ice.
“Don’t you boys go down by the river,” The boys’ mother warned. “The ice is not safe.”
You know the old saying, boys will be boys,’ and that day the boys, along with a friend, disobeyed their mother and went down to the river. That day will never be forgotten in the minds of those two young men.
The youngest boy, whose family mongrel dog had ventured out onto the thin ice, was in a panic over the thought of his dog drowning as he watched the small tan colored dog break through the ice. He ran hurriedly across the frozen river to the spot where his dog had broken through the thin ice and, was struggling furiously to save it’s own life.
The dog was in trouble, there was no time to weigh the consequences, without fear of the results, he ran toward the struggling canine. The young boy heard the ominous sound of cracking ice. A sound that to this day brings frightening memories warned him the floor of frozen water beneath his feet was breaking up, and suddenly he plunged into the frigid waters of the Stroudwater River.
Unable to swim, never having learned, acting on sheer instinct, making his small feet tread water, but the weight of the woolen clothes and heavy rubber boots that quickly filled with the freezing liquid pulled him down into the murky water. He struggled, unable to breathe.
Looking up, from beneath the ice, he saw a white halo of light, the hole into which he had fallen. He sought to push himself toward the light. Instead, he hit his head on ice, ice that would not break under pressure and thrust of his small body. After what seemed like an eternity he made one more push toward the ring of light. This time he came up through the hole he had broken through only minutes earlier. He could only gasp for air as he slipped again under the thin ice. On the third try, he saw his older brother, who had just turned twelve the month before, come running across the ice and fall into the hole. Going down under the young man’s feet, he pushed him upward to where he could grab a branch. He pulled himself up onto shore, his breath coming in short gasps, fear and hope mixed as he watched his brother pull himself from the icy water. They were both on land and safe.
“C’mon. Run,” his brother commanded.
Being tired and cold, weighed down by the wet wool clothing and water filled boots he was wearing, begged, “can’t I rest. I’m tired and cold.”
“No. Keep running or you will get pneumonia and die. You must keep running.”
“But I’m tired. I need to rest,” the lad pleaded. His brother grabbed his hand and pulled him along as they ran for what seemed like hours without stopping until they reached the home of a friend on the opposite side of the river from their home, and about a mile from their residence.
After the older brother was sure his little brother was safe, he headed home on foot to tell their mother they were all right. All is well that ends well they say. All seemed well at least. However the father, while running down to the river, had his first heart attack. He was later diagnosed with Angina Pectoris and would remain on nitro pills for the remainder of his life.
It is said, when you are drowning, your life appears before you. This lad had not had that much life, it would have been a short viewing, he was only ten years old. But what life he did have was not played out for him that cold, frosty afternoon. What did happen to him was a miracle, a divine intervention of God that gave this young man a will to survive. That young lad, who fell into the icy waters of the Stroudwater River did survive that ordeal, but the near tragic results of that day will forever be in his memory. The circle of light where his body had plunged into the icy water. The sensation of trying to go back through that hole only to hit his head on solid ice are feelings he will never forget.
I almost died that day in December of 1948, but by the Grace of God I survived. I pray to God I never forget who it was that saved my life that day. The true hero of this story is Jesus Christ.
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