Her small hand slipped out of mine. Waves crashed overhead pushing me further underneath the water. I gasped trying to reach the surface, trying to reach for her. She needed me, she wouldn't make it on her own.
My eyes swerved in every direction. I couldn't see anything but murky water and waves. Panic ensued, where was she?
"Help," I gasped. "I need to find her." Blackness. Overwhelming blackness. My mind was......
My head was throbbing as if I'd just finished a boxing match. I tried to sit up only to be gently pushed back down.
"You're supposed to be resting, miss," a loud voice interrupted. I glanced over to see an older man dressed in a paramedic's outfit.
"What happened?" I asked. The paramedic's eyes narrowed at me,"We rescued you from some torrential waves. You're lucky to be alive."
My eyes wandered."The girl. What happened? Where is she? Is she safe?"
Before the paramedic could reply I saw my answer. A gurney with a white sheet covering the outline of a small figure was being rolled into a waiting ambulance.
"No," I screamed. I tried thrashing around to get the paramedic's resting hand off of my shoulder.
He sighed., "Let her go. She's gone. Nothing you can do about it now."
"She was the one I was supposed to save," my voice cracked. "She can't be gone. It's all my fault."
"Nothing else you could have done," the paramedic whispered. "The waves were too strong, you couldn't even save yourself."
I'd been trained for years in how to save lives. I was certified in CPR, first aid and even swimming instruction. And I couldn't even save myself.
The next few days passed in moments of blurs and blackness. I didn't want to remember anything, all I wanted to do was hide from the world. Unfortunately my mother wouldn't let me do that.
"Jen you have company," my mother said.
"Tell them to go away," I mumbled from underneath the bed sheets. "I'm not seeing anyone right now."
"Tell them yourself. Downstairs. Five minutes," my mother replied. "You can't hide forever, you really need to talk to someone."
I made my way downstairs looking like an unmade bed. I noticed a couple standing in the entryway. The man motioned for me to step outside. He kindly offered me his hand, " I am Dave and this is my wife Ann. Our daughter's name was Emma."
I nodded I recognized this man from the other day at the beach. The day I was trying to forget. "You're her parents. I saw you the other day."
Days of tears flooded my eyes, the tears I was trying not to cry. "I am so sorry I didn't save her. It's my fault she's dead."
"No, we don't blame you," a quiet woman's voice interjected. "We just wanted to thank you for trying to save her. We know you did all you could."
I shook my head. This wasn't what I was expecting to hear. Why weren't they blaming me? Ann smiled, "My husband and I are Christians and so was Emma. We know she's with Jesus now."
"So am I," I smiled. "Became a Christian about a year ago. Thought my calling was in saving lives. That's why I became a lifeguard. Guess I was wrong."
"Don't say that or let anyone ever tell you different," Dave replied. "God doesn't blame you and neither do we. It was just Emma's time to go home."
Ann wrapped me in a tight hug. "We also came by to invite to celebrate her life with us. We know Emma would've wanted you there. Please at least consider coming, it would mean the world to us."
She nodded and they waved goodbye leaving me standing in silence. I turned around stepped inside my house and yelled to my mom I would be back shortly.
As I stood on the soft ocean sand, a gentle breeze rustled around me. Even in the midst of tragedy the ocean still had such a calming effect. I glanced around me sensing that God was standing nearby too.
I took one last look at the gently rolling waves. They seemed to reach upward as if waving goodbye. I smiled and waved back. I needed to get going, I thought as I glanced at the paper in my hand. I had a life to celebrate.
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