I Was Watching My Son Die

About four years ago, I rented a spacious cabin in Washington State and took my wife and seven children on a river rafting adventure. Little did I know that a tragedy, along with a life lesson I would never forget, was soon to unfold.

As we floated down the swiftly moving river, one of my sons drifted slightly behind us, entering some moderate rapids. I will never forget what happened next.

“Dad! Dad! Dad!” My heart sank as I turned around and saw my son’s kayak had capsized, and he had caught his foot between a rock or a stump, with the current pushing his head underwater.

Everyone in the raft panicked, beginning to scream in a chaotic storm of shock and confusion. We were so far in the middle of the river, and the current was so strong, we couldn’t paddle back or reach the shore in time to save him.

I watched my son’s head bob up and down in the water and remembered holding him in one arm as a baby. I had to do something. My voice boomed out to those in the raft, “QUIET!”

I shouted to my son, “FOCUS! Hold your breath, go underwater, and with all your might, pull your foot free.” I repeated the instruction as I saw him fighting for his life. Then, I saw my son’s head disappear. My heart sank again.

Ten seconds later, which felt like an hour to me, his head burst out of the water, and he began to swim toward our raft. Fearing he would be exhausted and drown trying to reach us, I ordered everyone on the boat, “PUT YOUR PADDLES IN THE WATER AND DIG AS DEEP AS YOU CAN AND PADDLE BACKWARDS!”

Long story short, he made it back onto the raft. When he did, it was as if my soul returned to my body. This is the whole point of the story.

In moments like these, fear is a waste of time, and panicking is not an option. You can process all the information and emotions afterward, not in the moment.

I give thanks to God for showing me how to handle that situation at that moment. I also credit the training I received in the military. Training in Close Quarters Combat (CQC) taught me the value of teamwork, being valuable to your team, and trusting the men you’re with.

Many men are drowning in their lives and must reach deep for the desire to change and save themselves. Change is possible, but you are going to have to hold your breath, go underwater, and pull your foot free.




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