Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What If?

Every once in a while something happens in life that has great impact. I suspect these things happen to teach valuable lessons. I certainly hope that I've learned mine.

Today, as part of our vacation in Northern California, we decided to visit Patrick's Point. Patrick's Point is a part of beach that is known for having agate rocks. An agate rock is a rock that, when held up to the light, you can see right through. People from all over the world come to Patrick's Point to collect these rocks. Upon reading this history, my daughter had her heart set on finding some of these rocks.

After spending several hours hiking in the Trees of Mystery and going on a gondola ride, we made our last destination Patrick's Point. What we didn't know is that Patrick's Point is, in fact, a cliff that overlooks the Pacific, and that to get to the beach a person has to climb down the steep embankment for quite a ways. It's not that the trail is terribly treacherous, at least not until the end, but it is long and I knew in my tired brain that meant it would be a much harder climb back to the top. At the beginning of our descent, we watched the angry waves come crashing in for a while. It was a rainy, windy day, and the ocean did not appear forgiving. A fact that should been a warning to us.

The roar was loud as we descended. We took our time, fully intent upon walking on the beach, trying to find Hannah's precious rocks and a seashell or two. At the bottom of the climb, we came across a California Coast Guard. She warned us that the ocean was at high tide and that, if we decided to continue, there was a chance we would be caught unaware by a "sneaker" wave. She said that if we came back in an hour, the tide would be going back out and we shouldn't have to worry about them at that point. Dave and I stood in indecision. We watched the waves for a while, noticing that we had a good amount of sand where the last waves came and the rocks of the cliff where we could look for agate. I watched what I thought were "sneaker" waves coming in, thinking "what's the worst that could happen? So a wave comes a little further and I get my shoes real harm done". And the thought of climbing back UP, only to return in an hour and again have to climb back UP.....well, for this out-of-shape, fat body who already spent hours hiking - it was just too much. So, Dave and I made the decision (which in all fairness he probably made because of ME) to chance a little ol' sneaker wave and stay.

We spent a delightful 45 minutes collecting what we only think are agate rocks, along with the odd seashell. Then we headed back to the section where we were to begin our climb. We wandered quite a distance down the beach, enjoying the sound of the waves crashing, feeling completely safe. We reached a section that, right in the middle of the sand, had a little stream flowing. I had Seth with me, Hannah and Dave were following. I jumped over this "little" stream and grabbed Seth's hand to help him jump. We both weren't successful and ended up getting a little wet. While my back was turned away from the ocean, a little "sneaker" wave caught us unawares. This "little" wave wasn't as little as I thought it would be, however. It soaked us past my ankles, and totally upset my son. I turned back to look to see Dave and Hannah holding onto a log, cheering us on.

I took my crying son around the last cliff before the ascent, when we were hit yet again with another "sneaker" wave. This time it soaked Seth to his knees and me mid-calf. My son was hysterical. I rushed him to the stairs as I tried to comfort him.

I waited a ways up for Dave and Hannah to catch up. That's when I saw that they were totally soaked. That's when my heart stopped. I did not realize that as I was calming my hysterical son, trying to get him up the stairs, Dave and Hannah got hit with a wave. Dave was in water up to his WAIST and Hannah was in water up to her ARMPITS. Hannah lost her balance and Dave managed to catch her and hold on to the log. My daughter was crying. My son was crying. I was in shock. Dave was quiet. My son cried for 15 solid minutes.

We drove about 15 minutes back to our hotel room. We cleaned up sand in four pair of shoes - none of which we could throw in the washer at the hotel because it was against the rules. We cleaned sand in pants and skirts and socks. We had baths. We comforted our children. We talked and talked and talked about it. After once saying that we needed to stop talking about it, I realized the unfairness of that because my daughter NEEDED to talk about it.

We hadn't eaten since breakfast, so we finally found a restaurant and sat down to eat. And talk more about THE INCIDENT. Dave and I had been avoiding the "what ifs", but really, I think it's impossible to totally avoid them. Sometimes I think they're even necessary because they make you more thankful.

"What if I wasn't right beside Hannah?" Dave asked. Or, "what if I would have seen this and screamed when I saw my daughter in deep water? Would I have screamed and intensified the situation?" I asked. "What if I didn't suddenly feel a rock holding me up?" Hannah asked us, instantly sobering Dave and I.

"What if I would have crossed the little log first, as I was intending to, and then reached for Hannah to help her, only to have the wave come when I was on the other side?" was Dave's last question. And then I watched as his eyes filled with tears.....and he tried to hide it.

The fact is, we should have NEVER gone out on that beach in high tide. We will both always regret it. It was a stupid, stupid mistake that we will never repeat. We will have to take the kids both to the ocean in the days ahead at LOW tide, just so they don't develop an unreasonable fear of the ocean.

The fact also is, that God was merciful. When Hannah asked where the "rock" suddenly came from, well, I think we all knew Who the Rock was.

And I ask, "what if" we didn't really KNOW Him?


Laura said...

what if.....can't even go there. so thankful everyone is safe. just hurry up home....k?

! V r e n said...

Alright, not gonna lie. Sitting at work feeling a frog in my throat. What a sobering thought.

What if He wasn't my Rock? I can't imagine.

Glad you all are safe.

Anonymous said...

Must say feeling kinda like Vren. What a sobering feeling knowing how in life we can make what we think is a safe decision and that when its too late and we realize that it wasnt, we have THE ROCK to stand on!! Glad your family is safe!! Hope u can still enjoy the rest of your vacation!
Lisa S

Darla said...

You know ladies, it really was more serious than we initially thought. I really thought the *worst* that could have happened was that Hannah would be submerged, only to come up coughing and throwing up - BAD enough on its own. However, the last couple of days we have read about and talked to native West coasters and have discovered that the one that hit us was much, much more serious, and are the kind that could sweep a person out to sea.

I honestly cannot dwell on this too long or I will literally have an anxiety attack. I cannot say how truly thankful I am. We have spent these two days since visiting the beach at SAFE times, helping the kids learn how to respect the ocean, for it truly needs to be RESPECTED.

Thank God for His help, especially when we were just stupid. Thank God. Thank God. THANK GOD.

GT said...

Oy! So glad you are well, praise the Lod!