39: The Lifeguard

39: The Lifeguard

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

The Lifeguard

One thing you can say for guardian angels: they guard. They give warning when danger approaches.

~Emily Hahn

The warm, soothing sun was turning my skin a golden brown. I lay stretched out on a lawn chair by a swimming pool, relaxing, my family playing happily nearby, thinking how blessed I was. My chair was by the pool’s shallow end so I could keep a close eye on my daughter — the youngest of my bunch. From this vantage point, I could see the length of the pool to the other end where my two older children played with their cousins.

Splash! My middle child, eight-year-old Robert, hit the water again in another backflip. He was having fun. He swam to the edge and hurried up to do yet another backflip. The condo pool where we were vacationing didn’t have a diving board so Robert’s backflips were from the edge of the pool on the deep end. He had done this many times. But I could tell as his feet left the ground that this was different. This time he was not close enough to the edge.

What happened next is forever etched in my memory. I can see it again now, as if it were yesterday. It plays in my mind in slow motion. Robert jumped up and flipped his body in midair. But as he came down into the water, the back of his head hit the side of the concrete pool.

Smack! The sound was awful! His head jerked forward and he sank into the pool.

I stood up and screamed, “No!”

My brother-in-law Teddy saw and heard it too. Before I could even begin to run in Robert’s direction, he was out of his chair making his way there. Teddy was closer to the deep end anyway, and I was frozen in fear.

Just as Teddy got to the edge of the pool, Robert’s right hand and arm surfaced. He seemed to be floating up in a sitting position with his right arm extended upward, his hand held in a tight fist. Teddy didn’t even have to reach down in the water because by the time Teddy made contact, Robert’s hand was above the water. Teddy grabbed that extended arm and pulled Robert safely out of the water.

Blood poured from Robert’s head. I suddenly came to life and sprang into action. Grabbing a towel, I wrapped his head and yelled for someone to get my husband as quickly as possible. In a few seconds, John arrived. He picked up Robert in his arms and loaded him in the back seat of our car. I rode in the back seat too, cradling Robert’s head in my arms. Robert was awake, alert and talking, for which I was thankful.

At the Emergency Center, X-rays were taken, his head wound cleaned and stitched. We were told his skull had not cracked, so to take him home and watch him carefully for the next forty-eight hours. That’s how it all happened. I remember it clearly!

However, Robert told me an entirely different story a few days later.

According to Robert, he felt his head hit against the side of the pool and he was in immediate and severe pain. He sank to the bottom. He can vividly remember sitting on the bottom of the pool, opening his eyes under water and looking up.

That’s when he saw the hand. It extended down in the water to get him. He was glad to see it and assumed it was an adult member of his family reaching in to rescue him. Robert reached up and grabbed hold of the hand and then felt his body being pulled up to the surface. Since it was his Uncle Teddy who pulled him out of the water, he assumed it was Teddy’s hand he had been holding on to all along.

Teddy and I know differently. Teddy never reached his arm down to the bottom of the pool. How could he? A human arm is not long enough to stretch to the bottom of the deep end of a swimming pool. But that’s what Robert is certain he experienced. He remembers sitting on the bottom of the pool and feeling the concrete below him. And he clearly remembers grabbing hold of an outstretched hand extended to him. Just as he also remembers being pulled up — his body lifted upward without any effort on his part. I, and others, certainly saw him come to the top of water with his right arm extended and right hand fisted as if he were holding onto something or someone.

I have only one explanation — his guardian angel reached a holy hand down into the water and rescued my child.

That was nearly twenty years ago. My son is grown now. Today when summertime rolls around and I’m enjoying vacations with my now-grown family, when I relax on lawn chairs and with my family enjoying themselves nearby, I can’t help but remember that incident. And I know that yes, I am very blessed indeed!

~Harriet Michael

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