Near Misses

My guess is that we’ve all had them — those “near misses” of events that, except for the grace of God, could have ended so differently. Allow me to share with you one of those that keeps coming back to my mind even now, some 25 years later.

Summer, 1988. Our family of 5 had headed to Douglas Lake (in East Tennessee) to spend the day with a church group boating, swimming, picnicking, and just plain having a good day of fellowship with Christian friends. God blessed us with a Saturday that could not have been more beautiful.

After making the 30-minute drive from our home to the lake, I immediately did what any mother of a 2-year-old being potty-trained did — headed straight to the bathroom before doing anything else. Meanwhile, my husband and sons headed to the dock to join several others getting ready to go out on the boat for the first of many trips around the lake that day.

A few minutes later, as I was holding my daughter, Stasie, at the water’s edge watching (and hearing) the fun taking place several yards away, she asked me a most unusual question: “Mommy, why is there an arm in the water?” Thinking I hadn’t heard her correctly, I asked her to repeat what she said. Again, clear as day: “Mommy, why is there an arm in the water?”

Glancing down to the area she was pointing to, I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. But, since there were trees in the area, I told her it wasn’t an arm — probably just a tree branch that was floating in the water and had now drifted away. Nothing more was said and the conversation quickly left my mind as more friends arrived and the activity-filled day continued.

Then, that night as my husband, Gary, and I were watching the late news, a report came on that suddenly brought the conversation between my daughter and I back to the forefront of my mind. It also explained something else as well. The report said that after another day of diving on Douglas Lake, divers had been unable to locate the body of a man who had fallen off a boat a few days earlier and was presumed to have drowned.

My heart began to race as I remembered the conversation Stasie and I had had several hours earlier. Had she really seen an arm in the water after all? We had seen the diving taking place a good distance to the right of where we had spent the day, but assumed it was some sort of a training exercise. The thought had not crossed our minds that it was anything serious. After this news clip, Gary and I didn’t quite know what to do. Should I try calling someone? If so, who? And would they take seriously the question of a 2-year-old?

Since it was late and diving wasn’t going to resume until the next day anyway, we decided that I would make a phone call the next morning. Well, that phone call turned into three as various attempts were made to connect with the proper agency. I mean, after all, who do you call in a situation like this? Once on the phone with the proper authority, I began my awkward explanation of the day before and relaying to them the unusual question my 2-year-old had asked me. After determining our exact location, the kind lady told me that where we had been was a bit farther south than where they had been looking and she doubted the body could have floated that far. But, she told me she would alert the dive team and they would send some divers closer to where we had spent the day, just in case.

The evening news report? Divers had located the body of a man who had fallen off his boat and drowned after hitting his head.

To this day, a couple of questions remain unanswered. Did Stasie really see the arm of a drowning victim in the water? Was my phone call instrumental in helping divers locate the body, thereby giving closure to a family? I can’t say for certain, but, given how quickly he was found after days of searching, I strongly suspect the answer to both questions is, “Yes.”

So, what was our “near miss” I spoke of earlier? Well, just think how differently our day would have gone had I seen what Stasie apparently saw. And how differently would our day have gone had this body floated just a few feet further into the roped off swim area? Can you imagine the shock? The nightmares? Just the thought alone is enough to bring shudders. While a 2-year-old would most likely not remember such a traumatic event, her mother would — as would many others who had been swimming in that area that day at that time.

So, although questions remain, thank you, God, for this particular “near miss.” Thank you for being our Protector and for sparing us from a potentially traumatic event that day.


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