I keep seeing her there under the water, just near the surface. Her arms flailed and her mouth was agape, but her eyes were the most striking. Their usually mischievous twinkle was replaced by sheer terror and panic. My sweet girl was fighting for just that moment.
Over and over I told them not to run on the dock. My son, 7, and daughter, age 2, would run back to shore, grab a handful of rocks and then run back to the dock to toss the rocks in. Ignoring my protests, again and again they ran back and forth while I sat and tried to untangle Ben’s fishing wire. And then I heard the splash.
I immediately knew exactly what had happened.
In a second I was on my feet and there she was, under the surface. My nine years of lifeguarding experience kicked in to gear. Quickly assessing the situation, I realized that I couldn’t just reach her, I would have to jump. In a flash, I gently jumped in behind her and scooped her up under her arms, my feet sinking in the goopy mud and rocks making it hard to keep both her and my own head above the water. I spun her around and plopped her sitting on the edge of the dock. Then I finally took a breath.
Oh, sweet girl. It could have been so much worse. I am so thankful to God that it wasn’t.
We stripped her down out of her wet clothes; Dada offered her his shirt, long sleeved and blue. But she refused to put the sleeves on, instead baring her shoulders to the spring-warm sun. Her curls dripped still from the mud brown water, and she sucked her thumb, intensely trying to self-soothe.
By the time we started our picnic, she was over it. She laughed and chowed-down with her usual gusto. But I’ll never forget that moment. Her face, so close to tragedy, will always remind me of how precious life is.