What To Do When You’ve Drowned
Exhausted from lack of sleep and an afternoon in the Texas summer sun, I pushed my now-sleeping newborn around the edge of the pool in his stroller. My kids splashed and giggled in the water as they helped clean up all their toys. One by one, they chucked things out of the water—a water gun here, a noodle there—until the ground was littered with our things. While they cleaned, I grabbed a stack of four towels—one for each of my kids—and then bent down to fish a child-sized flip flop from under a table.
“Oh, my God!”
I snapped my head in the direction of my husband’s panicked voice and followed his gaze into the water. There, still as a diving stick at the bottom of the pool, was our two-year-old.
In an instant, I understood how empty my life would be without my daughter. I felt in my bones the immense tragedy of not having her in the world. Of being separated from her. Cut off. Forever.
My heart plummeted.
Oh, my God.
With wide eyes, my husband crashed into the water and scooped up her tiny body while I stood, mouth agape, rooted to the blazing hot cement, my heart sprinting in a way my feet would envy.
All I could do was stare, numb, as my husband pulled our daughter from the pool.
The moment she surfaced, she wept. Shrieked, really. In a chain of unending, inconsolable sobs. That was a good sign, right? Perhaps water hadn’t gotten into her lungs? Then again, maybe those deep, painful howls were indicators of a terrible injury. One that could claim her life.
It was one or the other. I couldn’t tell which.
Had anyone seen her get in? How long had she been under? Had she been trying to pick up toys from the pool like everyone else? Was she scared under the water? Did she breathe any of it in?! How many times have we told her to stay out of the water when she wasn’t wearing floaties? WHERE ON EARTH WERE HER FLOATIES??
I tried to ask these things out loud, but my words evaporated somewhere between my brain and my mouth. So instead, the questions, like the ache for oxygen, burned wildly in my chest.
My husband cradled the little girl in his arms on the edge of the pool, cooing reassuring words in her ear.
“You’re okay. I’ve got you now. Everything’s okay.”
His words repeated endlessly, but as he rocked her, all I noticed was the deep furrow in his brow and quiver in his voice.
My heart begged for our daughter to calm down. To talk endlessly, as she’s known to do. I ached to hear her little voice say she was okay, to tell us what happened. To explain any of this. But all she could do was sob. Finally—finally—words bubbled up from inside her.
I bent an ear to hear her first words.
“I’m sorry, Daddy,” she cried through hiccups and lung-shivering sighs. “I disobeyed.”
My husband choked back tears and pulled her closer. It didn’t matter what she’d done or how she got there. All that mattered now was that she was safely tucked in his arms.
“I love you,” he whispered into her wild, wet hair. “Do you know that? I love you so, so much…”
No one had seen her fall under the water. No one knew how long she’d been there. And yet, the tiny girl with no idea how to hold her breath or paddle to the surface had survived who-knows-how-long at the bottom of a pool. And, even more miraculously, it seemed as though she hadn’t ingested any water.
It didn’t seem possible.
And yet, there she was. Alive. By the grace of God alone, she was here. There was no other way to explain it.
It was truly a miracle.
But the rest of that night, I was a total mess.
Putting my daughter to bed was the hardest thing I’d ever done. What if water had gotten into her lungs? What if, when she closed her eyes, she never opened them again? There was little I could do to monitor her breathing every moment throughout the night. How could I possibly know, as I fed and changed my newborn, if my toddler had suffocated?
Could this really be her story? Not getting to live longer than two years? Questions whirled in my head until I was dizzy with grief, mourning the loss of a child who slept soundly in her bed. What if today was the last time I saw her smile? What if I never again heard her voice? Or felt her arms around my neck?
Each question hollowed me out, one painful scoop at a time, making it impossible to sleep, to eat, to do…well, anything, really. All I wanted to do was lie next to my daughter and watch the rise and fall of her chest. Thoughts of her consumed me. Tears spilled uncontrollably down my cheeks, dripping off my chin and soaking my shirt.
Sure, I have other children to spend the rest of my life loving, and I most certainly will. But this one—my sweet, innocent daughter—this girl is my whole heart. My whole world. My love for her is special.
Words cannot describe the depths of grief I endured because words also cannot express the extent of my love for her.
Her eyes. Her ears. The way her nose scrunches when she smiles. The floppiness of her hair. The squeal of her laugh. The sweetness of her voice. Everything. I cherish every single bit of that kid.
To lose her—to even consider the possibility of losing her—was more than I could bear.
In that moment, as I stood, doubled-over, my face slick with tears, my insides completely hollowed out, I realized that’s exactly how God feels about me.
About each and every one of us, actually.
On the daily, we fall into sin and separate ourselves from God. He knows what will happen if we stay down there at the bottom.
In an instant, he understands how empty life would be without his children. He feels in his very being the immense tragedy of not having us in the world. We’d be cut off from him. Apart. Forever.
The thoughts hollow him out, one painful scoop at a time. Thoughts of us consume him. Tears spill uncontrollably down his cheeks, dripping off his chin.
Sure, he has lots of children to spend the rest of eternity loving, and he most certainly will. But you—his sweet, innocent child—you are his whole heart. His whole world. His love for you is special.
Words cannot describe the depths of grief he endures because words also cannot express the extent of his love for you.
Your eyes and ears. The shape of your nose and the way you smile. The color and contour of your hair. The sound of your laugh. The sweetness of your voice. Everything. He cherishes every single bit of you.
To lose you—to even consider the possibility of losing you—is more than he can bear.
So with wide eyes, he crashes into the water and scoops us into his arms, dragging us to safety and cooing reassuring words in our ears.
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.
The words repeat endlessly. He speaks them over and over to us as we wail in his arms. He aches to hear our voice. He longs for us to tell him what happened, to tell him how we fell under those waters in the first place. To explain everything. To confess.
Finally—finally—words bubble up from within me.
“I’m sorry, Father,” I cry through guilt-ridden hiccups. “I disobeyed.”
He chokes back tears and pulls me closer. It doesn’t matter what I’ve done or how I got there. All that matters now is that I’m safely tucked in his arms.
“I love you,” he whispers. “Do you know that? I love you so, so much…”
I don’t know when I’ll fall in next or how long I’ll be under. All I know is that we have a God who not only rescues us from the waters, but invites us to walk on the surface with him.
It doesn’t seem possible.
And yet, here I am. Alive. Walking hand-in-hand with my God. I’m here by his grace alone. There’s no other way to explain it.
It is truly a miracle.