My whole body was underwater hanging upside down from an inner tube. A handful of other vacationers who were also enjoying the warm Guadalupe River had innocently floated their tubes on top of mine making it impossible for me to flip back into an upright position. I could hear their laughter and knew they were unaware of my entrapment. My legs were locked in a crisscross pattern and I was unable to get them out-- I could not move. I was trying to fight the panic that was welling up within me, but I was quickly running out of breath.
My husband and kids were floating on the river ahead of me and were unaware of my predicament. In what seemed like an eternity, thoughts crowded in and out of my head in rapid succession. The dayís events flooded my mind. It had been a lovely day. Thoughts of how we had literally saved pennies to spend this day together at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark were followed by how much fun and laughter we had shared. "Would it end in tragedy?" I wondered. Budget constraints kept us from being extravagant very often. "Lord, I do not want to die on a family fun day."
My thoughts continued to race in different directions. The water had felt good in the hot Texas sun. We played on the beach and in the pool; we rode waves from the wave machine. "Focus," I tell myself as I move my hands and arms trying to reach the inner tube above me. I was jammed against a rock. Inner tubes above me were jammed together against the same rock. "Why donít they move?" I want to scream. I want to knock the inner tubes off of me. I want to breathe!
"Donít panic, stay calm." I remembered how we watched the human torpedoes shoot down the high slide into the water at a speed that caused my heart to race. ďCome on mom, you can do it,Ē my kids shouted as we watched body after body blast down the chute at an alarming speed until they hit with a SPLASH, spraying water high into the air and over anyone close to the point of entrance.
I thought of the happy faces of my children laughing at me as I made my way up the steps of the slide. "Wow! Itís a long way down." Seconds later it was over and I was safely in the pool, to chants of ďDo it again, again mom.Ē
ďNo thanks,Ē I reply. ďIíll stay and watch yíall come down. Momís privilege.Ē My children were having a good time. "Will they drag me out of the river?" I wonder. I want them to remember the good times. "Lord, please take care of my children."
Why did we move to these inner tubes after our picnic? Why didnít we just go back to the pool and play? The river was crowded. Even though it was designed to keep the tubes moving in one direction, bunches of tubes would float into a crevice and everyone would be stuck until someone could break loose and start the tubes going again.
I remembered flipping upside down a couple of times earlier but a shift of my weight to one side would quickly flip me right side up. No problem. However, this time I was helplessly trapped. "Help me Lord" was the last thing I remember thinking underwater.
Iím coughing, there is a weight on my chest, I canít see. "Where am I?"
I canít focus on the voices I hear. They seem so far away. What are they saying? "Drown, someone almost drowned?" I open my eyes and a crowd of people have surrounded me. A stranger is telling me to lie still. I close my eyes again trying to collect my thoughtsÖto remember why Iím here. Itís then that I hear my husband call my name and I feel his hand holding mine. I open my eyes as he lifts my head up to him and I see the fear intermingled with relief in his eyes.
I later learned that once the tubes above me broke loose, my inner tube popped on top the water and an off-duty lifeguard immediately recognized the situation.
"Thank you Lord! Thank you for reminding me that we are all just a breath away from death. Thank you that while today I floated to the brink of eternity, I will go home with my family."
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