An Incredible Calm

An Incredible Calm

From Chicken Soup for the Latter-day Saint Soul

An Incredible Calm

In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.

Isa. 63:9

I was born and reared in Manitoba, Canada, where I spent many summers as a child in the summer beach town of Gimli. A few years after I joined the Church in Winnipeg, there was a young single adult campout near there. When I heard where the campout was, I was excited: I hadn’t visited there in many years. I had some fond and some not-so-fond memories of Lake Winnipeg from my childhood. I loved getting away from the city and having two summer weeks there with my single mom and brother. I also loved the water, and both my brother and I were good swimmers. However, the kindest way to describe what lay under that water is “ten miles of rocks and then a sandbar.” Oh, I remember the bashed shins and turned ankles every year!

The campout was on a Saturday; the sun was warm, but the wind was strong and chilled us when we weren’t in the water. As much as I loved being with my old friends and making new ones, I wanted to spend some time alone, so I did something I should not have done: I swam out into the deep water by myself, away from the crowd. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing, nor did I ask anyone to look out for me.

As I mentioned, the wind was strong that day, and the waves were high. At that point in my life my asthma was sometimes severe, and I always had my inhaler with me. That day, though, I had left it on the beach. I was floating in fairly deep water, facing the beach, feeling good and watching some of my friends. They were about fifty feet away on my left, playing volleyball in the water and having a great time. I enjoyed watching them and listening to their laughter. One man named Cliff was about thirty feet behind me and to my left, standing on one of the few sandbars and watching the volleyball game.

After a bit, I decided I wanted to play volleyball, and thought I should get Cliff to join us as well. As I turned around to yell an invitation to him, a huge wave slapped me right in the face. I lost my breath, which triggered an asthma attack. I was immediately in trouble, and I knew it. I tried to stay calm and conserve energy, but it was getting more and more difficult to breathe. That’s not all: I had to tread water to stay afloat, and that was using energy. I couldn’t waste any breath to call out for help, nor could I waste the energy needed to raise my hand out of the water to signal for help. All I could do was try to keep myself afloat.

I looked around. No one was paying any attention to me at all. I started to realize the gravity of my situation. I couldn’t keep going much longer, and I realized there was a very real possibility that I could drown.

When I first joined the Church, I had an intense fear of death. Learning about the plan of salvation had helped me overcome that fear. Now, as I looked death in the face, a feeling of incredible calm washed over me. I knew it was the Holy Ghost. I tried to remember everything I had learned, and I knew I needed to trust implicitly in my Heavenly Father. I closed my eyes and said, “Father, Thy will be done.” Then there was nothing.

I have no recollection of what happened after that, but when I opened my eyes, I was on the sandbar. Cliff was looking off into the distance, still watching the volleyball game. He didn’t even see me behind him until I spoke his name. I didn’t detail what had happened. I simply told him I had had a bad experience, and he helped me to shore.

To this day, I know that there is no earthly force that could have taken me to that sandbar, against the current and through the choppy waves, without anyone seeing. I know that I was carried. I know that I have individual worth to my Heavenly Father, that His angels take care of me, and that I have more to do in mortality before I meet Him again.

Cheryl Panisiak

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