The Heart of the Matter
February 22, 2014
Calling For As Much Help As Possible


When it became clear to me, at 21, that I was caught in a rip tide and losing strength rapidly, I shot a quick glance at my girlfriend who was swimming just ten feet away. Her eyes were full of fear. She could not speak... so I made my way over to her and did the only thing I could think of which was to cup my hand beneath her chin, tell her to relax, and, with my other hand, try to paddle to shore, which was about as insane an effort as I could have made, her being the same weight as me, me having no clue how to rescue a drowning person, and barely able to keep my own head above water.

It was clear, at that moment, that unless I went for help we were both going to die, and we were too young to die, so I abandoned my heroics, closed my eyes, and started swimming to the shore.

I have no clue where the energy came from. Just seconds before I had zero strength. None. I was gulping water. I couldn't lift my arm. But something had definitely gotten a hold of me. It was fifth gear time.

When I opened my eyes, who knows how long after, I found myself swimming in water only two feet deep. Amazed there was ground beneath my feet, I did my best to stand and stumbled to shore. But no one was there. No one. Not a single soul. The beach was completely deserted.


Here, in this stark naked moment of life and death, when I needed SOMEONE, I was all alone. Totally alone. And then, from the depths of my being something -- a sound, I think, coursed volcanic through my veins and my bones and my cells and made its way to the surface of what remained of my life. One word. That was it. One solitary word. One naked, all alone-in-the-universe word. That's all I could muster. Me, a man of many words, even at that tender young age, had only one word in my vocabulary -- and it was HELP!!!!!

I screamed it from the bottom of my soul to the void. "HELLLLLLPPP!!!"

To my right, about 30 feet away, I saw a young woman walking oh so slowly towards me, not breaking stride, staring at me as if I was completely insane. Getting as close to her as I could, maybe 10 inches from her face, I screamed again at the top of my lungs -- a scream I had never screamed before, a sound I had never heard before.


I turned and pointed to the horizon to show my rescuer where my girlfriend was, but there was no one out there. No one. Nobody. Nothing. All we could see were waves... and sky... and clouds. Nothing else. There was no one out there. No one.

At that moment, a moment I will never forget no matter how many lifetimes I live, I died a thousand deaths. Yes, I was alive, but Connie was gone... gone... she was... gone... and then... unbelieving.... we saw... a head... hers... barely bobbing... above the waves... both eyes open, looking at us.

The woman standing next to me finally understood what I'd been trying to say and shouted to her boyfriend. Together, the two of them ran headlong into the water, swam out to Connie, and dragged her in. It was easy for them, and then, like a dream, they were gone...

The first thing Connie and I did was kiss the ground. Then we started singing children's songs, anything we could think of -- Happy Birthday to You... Jingle Bells... Row, Row, Row Your Boat. It didn't matter what the song was, as long as both of us could sing it together.

That's all we did for the next two hours... lay on the white sand beneath the hot summer sun and sing children's songs. Many children's songs.

Every Minute Counts

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at February 22, 2014 10:07 PM


what a sweet ending
glad you're here to tell it
i too almost drowned several years ago
in lake ontario with a friend
big waves i got caught in the riptide
couldn't get back in
lucky my male friend was a strong swimmer
got me in and himself
exhausted , grateful , breathing
laying on the shore , time stood still

Posted by: janice [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 22, 2014 08:40 PM

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