Twenty years ago yesterday my life changed forever. It's the anniversary of a day that could've either derailed me for years or set my course in God stronger than ever before. I thank HIM that it did the latter.
I was honoured to have the story published in the book, Chicken Soup for the Expectant Mother's Soul, and with the exception of updating the ending, this is that story…
What was the best day of your life, and what was the worst?" I remember playing that little game with some friends on the way to a ladies conference a few years ago. The "best" was easy as we all recalled events such as the day we gave our lives to God, our wedding day, and the birth of our first child. Memories ran long as every detail was recounted. Laughing to the point of tears, we took turns reliving our labour and delivery stories, filling in details only appreciated by other women. Those were good memories. However, the excitement soon faded. Smiles disappeared and gazes held as silence asked the next question.
"What was the worst day of your life?" I have to be honest; I had trouble with that second half to our game. I pondered a long time on that one. My life had been fairly steady, no lows ever outweighing the highs. However, I wouldn't have trouble if I were asked today. You see, just six months after that little trip, I was shaken to my very core.
It was a cool Spring day, and along with that little nip in the air were balloons, streamers and the giggly voices of fifteen precious children. We were all together, the whole Mainse family, as we frequently were for birthday parties. This time it was for the youngest of the grandchildren, just turning one year old. This was not going to be a pool party, as was the custom, for the crispness in the air demanded jackets, not bathing suits. Besides that, the pool was a chilly 65 degrees, as it had just been filled the week before, and the gate was in a mandatory closed position. But that didn't seem to dampen the mood as the swing set was full and balls and balloons glided carefree through the air.
The party hadn't yet officially started, for the children were quite happy just being together. It seemed the adults were too as we sipped coffee in the family room, laughing and talking. We loved being together as a family.
Sitting together on a couch, my husband Ron and I were comfortable just enjoying the conversation. I casually asked him if he wanted a cup of coffee. This was unusual because he was not a big coffee drinker; one cup in the morning was more than enough. To be honest, I surprised myself by asking. But what surprised me even more was Ron's answer. Almost without hesitation he said yes.
Walking to the kitchen, the laughing and squealing from outside grew louder. I smiled as I gazed out the kitchen window at the happy faces. As I took a mug out of the cupboard, my gaze again fell on the backyard. This time it stopped on the gate to the pool area. The open gate. Quickly, I scanned the pool and deck around it and saw no one. Relieved, I called to my husband to go out and close the gate. Even though the solar blanket was covering the water, the thought of children playing a few feet away was unsettling to me.
Reluctantly, Ron got up, tearing himself away from the comfort of the couch. I watched from the kitchen window as he sauntered outside, petting the dogs and tickling the children as he went. Finally, he reached the gate. As I poured the coffee, he pulled the gate toward himself. He stopped. And so did I. I watched as Ron walked slowly, almost hesitantly over to the edge of the pool. Puzzled, I stood, still holding the coffee cup in my hands.
The next few seconds of my life felt like they were in slow motion. I watched from the kitchen window as Ron slowly pulled back the solar blanket. Suddenly, fully clothed, he jumped into the pool. My whole body went numb. I watched in horror as my husband lifted the limp body of our two-and-a-half-year-old son from the water.
Now I was on fast-forward. I screamed like I never had before, dropped the mug of coffee, and yelled, "Eric's in the pool!" My legs had a mind of their own. I had to be out there. I ran through the kitchen to the nearest door and fought with it for what seemed like forever until I realized it was locked. Finally, I flung it open as hard as my strength would allow and ran across the yard. I was vaguely aware of adults screaming and running behind me.
By the time I reached the pool, Ron and Eric were at the edge of the shallow end. Eric was ashen white with bloody water coming from his mouth and nose. But that's not all that was coming from his mouth. Crying. Beautiful crying. With that sound it felt like all the energy drained from me, and I slumped against the fence, sobbing uncontrollably. He was alive.
After Eric had thrown up an incredible amount of water, we stripped him, wrapped him in blankets and rushed him to the hospital. Nurses and doctors converged on us both, an ocean of hands and stethoscopes prodding at the pale form in my arms. We were soon the talk of the ward, and more than one nurse overheard me thanking God for sparing Eric's life. After several hours of tests, waiting, and more tests, Eric was presented with a Popsicle and pronounced well.
Today, at 22 years old and 6'8" tall, Eric barely resembles the chubby-cheeked cherub from that day. With a heart for God and passion for young people, he is now living his dream with his bride, Kara, as a youth pastor.
Thinking back, I can't help wondering what if? What if I hadn't suggested coffee to Ron? What if he hadn't accepted? What if I didn't notice the open gate or Ron hesitated in going out to close it? What if Ron didn't notice what looked to be a "bird" or "raccoon" under the pool blanket and hadn't gone over to investigate?
That day, so long ago, God not only saved our little boy's life, He did something just as important. He left His mark on it. Almighty God obviously and deliberately intervened in the life of our little family, leaving no doubt that He is in control.
Yes, today playing that game would be easy. There would be no hesitation. You see, in just a few short minutes, the worst day of my life also became the best.