Death by Drowning

Dan had a call from a new customer named Saleem yesterday. It made me start thinking about a young man named Shurea that we met on a white water excursion a few years ago. I relived the occasion until I went to sleep, and perhaps in my dreams I saw his face.

Sad Face

Something about his frightened, unhappy face has bothered me.

This morning I had a bit of an epiphany. Something about Shurea’s frightened, unhappy demeanor has bothered me since the incident. Now I think I know the depths of it.

In the fall of 2010, Dan and I had only been married a few months. He suggested a trip to Colorado and I was all in. When he talked about seeing the Royal Gorge, I asked if there was river rafting. I’ve often canoed the Illinois River near Tahlequah, Oklahoma, but I always wanted to try white water.

And so it went that we were out on the Arkansas River in a rubber raft with a group of strangers. One of them was Shurea, a young college student from India. He and his roommate, Saied, were seated in the boat with Dan and me. Our captain, Joe, stood at the helm.

It was all very exciting. We were talking and laughing and learning to take orders from Joe to best maneuver the unwieldy rubber raft through swift currents.

Until we arrived at Sunshine Falls. Approaching this class-four rapid, all the guides banked their boats to give last minute instructions and to allow the rafts to proceed through the narrow chasm one at a time. Because he knew I couldn’t swim, Joe checked and snugged my life vest half a dozen times while we waited. As it turned out, his attentions were well founded.

As we rounded a steep curve in the river, our raft was swept up on a huge protruding rock. At the time, I didn’t know what happened, only that some “irresistible force” caused me to hit the water.

I went down, securely harnessed into the best life jacket man has invented, thinking I was going to bob right back up. I didn’t. The force had planted my right foot firmly into the riverbed. I was stuck in the rocks, a mere three feet below the surface.

I thought I was surely going to drown. I asked God, not to save me, necessarily, but simply to SEE me. “God?” I asked, “Is this the end?”

Instantly I had the thought, “Let go of your shoe.” Only then did I remember that my new water shoes were too big and I kept them on by scrunching my toes. I relaxed my foot, slipped out of the shoe, and shot to the surface.

It wasn’t easy getting rescued from that icy, roiling water, but the next boat around the bend was full of brave, strong souls who grabbed my life jacket belt and hauled me into their over-loaded raft.

Shurea Rescue

Shurea’s Rescue. I’m already in the boat.

When I was able to catch my breath and begin to get my wits about me, I learned that Shurea was rescued by the same folks. I turned to see.

He looked absolutely terrified. “Are you okay?” I asked.

“No, I don’t think so.” He replied. He wasn’t hurt; wasn’t sick; but he didn’t look well.

When we got our crew back together and shared experiences, we were exclaiming and laughing about our dangerous adventure. Except solemn-faced Shurea, who finally told us, “I didn’t know this was going to be dangerous.” Apparently Saied had portrayed something like a leisurely float down a peaceful river, when he talked him into going.

Looking at photos later, we saw that Shurea knocked me out of the boat when he fell. How similar our experiences yet how different our reactions!

I was prepared to die and excited to live. Only today did I realize the depths of fear on that young man’s face. He was not ready to meet God.

Your comments are always welcome here. How would you feel if you almost died? Have you had a close brush with death? Are you ready to meet God? Does he even exist?

P.S. They sang “Something Good” at church this morning. Check out the beginning lyrics!


About janets123

Children's writer, newspaper columnist, essayist, poet, storyteller
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