Last weekend the kids and I joined another family at our neighborhood pool for a little while. After we settled in and I glanced around, I was surprised to see one of my doctors from the cancer treatment center there. She saw me, too, and came by to say hello. We exchanged pleasantries before she went back to her table and I turned back to the people I was with.
The day went on, and although the kids were having fun in the pool, I was getting hot. I wasn’t quite brave enough to get into the water to cool off. It’s one thing for Justin to see me, but the thought of wearing even a mildly revealing bathing suit top in public makes me long for the high-neck sweaters of winter. Breast cancer is really awesome at killing your poolside confidence.
I thought about how to break it to the kids we needed to go home. I knew “I’m hot” wouldn’t be a good enough excuse. I could tell them we had chores around the house we needed to do or that we had to get ready for what promised to be a very busy last week of school.
Every time I thought about leaving something else would come up in conversation and I just let myself be carried along instead of leaving like I wanted to. I wasn’t forcing myself to be there. It just didn’t seem crucial to leave yet.
The neighborhood maintains several pools of varying sizes, and I noticed a little girl descend the stairs into one of the deeper pools near me. She moved as confidently as any three or four year old I’ve ever seen as she went down the steps into the water, so I assumed she could swim. She sure wasn’t scared of the water.
But as she left the bottom step she must have gone under.
She’d just come back up when I looked over to see her doggy paddling frantically. She was facing me and away from the lifeguard, so I could see her face. My heart skipped a beat when I saw how much she was struggling. Her eyes were wide and terrified, and she was trying very hard to get back to the stairs, but the poor baby kept dipping below the surface.
I remember wondering if the lifeguard was going to help her, and only later did I realize that the lifeguard probably thought the little girl was playing because of her proximity to the steps and the fact that she wasn’t facing the lifeguard station so the lifeguard couldn’t see how badly she was struggling.
I got out of my chair and quickly went to the side of the pool. The other mom I was with saw what I was doing and followed me. I stepped into the water, shoes and all, and grabbed one arm while my friend grabbed her other arm. We hauled the little girl up out of the pool and set her down on the cement.
I asked her, “Are you okay?”
She couldn’t answer. She was trembling and terrified and immediately started crying.
“Where’s your mommy?”
She pointed to the far side of the pool, but I didn’t know who she was pointing at.
That’s when the lifeguard made it over to us and asked her not unkindly, “Oh, sweetie, can’t you swim?” The lifeguard walked the little girl over to her mother. As I watched the pair cross the cement to the other side of the pool area I felt a stone drop in my gut.
The little girl’s mother was my doctor.
Several things hit me all at once:
And the biggest revelation of them all:
I walked over to my doctor’s table to check on the little girl and let her mom know what had happened. The little girl was curled up in a towel on her mother’s lap. The family looked stunned and shaken.
Later that night, my doctor sent me message:
“I can’t thank you enough for seeing [my daughter] in the pool today. As vigilant as I thought I was she still got out of my sight. It is so scary to think of the alternative if she wasn’t near your table. I get to sing her to sleep tonight. Thank you.”
“I get to kiss mine good night, in part, because of you. Consider it my sincerest form of gratitude.”
Now, this story is not meant to criticize anyone in it for making a mistake. The lifeguard got there as soon as she realized there was a problem, and God knows as a mother, I’ve made mistakes with my own kids’ safety.
We all do the best we can, and if you haven’t made a mistake with your kids then you don’t have any yet. So any negative comments regarding anyone in the story will be handled with all the scorn my Delete button can muster.
I wrote this post because this story reminded me, in a very blunt and visceral way, how connected everything is. And it reminded me how a lot of times God has a way of giving you the exact people you need at the time you need them. So I thought I’d share the lesson.
Watch out for one another out there.