A Heart of Thanksgiving
In this season, all over our
United States, people are taking
time to reflect on their lives and to give thanks. This morning, as I poured my cup of coffee,
tears began to flow and not a word came from my mouth, but instead, my heart
began to speak. I was overtaken with the
spirit of thanksgiving, the realization of just how good God has been to
The second day into our trip, we gathered the buckets, goggles, sunscreen, and towels, and headed to
. Flager is a small beach that turns into
Daytona a few miles down the road. We said goodbye to my parents, and my dad
gave his ritual lecture to the girls saying, “Don’t go in past your waste, those
riptides are strong.” As we unloaded the car, I stopped on the pier
and took a moment to just stand and watch my family. My oldest daughter, Chanis, so beautiful,
like an angel, in a yellow sundress, standing at the edge of the water letting
the waves roll across her feet; Chelsea,
my precious middle daughter, nine months pregnant with my first grandchild, as
big as a house and smiling more than I have ever seen before; Courtne, my
youngest daughter, so grown up now, looking like she had walked off the pages
of Vogue as she collected sea shells with her Grandmother, Connie; and Judah,
our sweet boy, building a sand castle with my son in law, Shikir. All was well, and my soul rejoiced. Flagler Beach
My husband, Justin, and I made our way down to the shore and out of the corner of my eye; an older gentleman caught my attention. He must have been in his late sixties, and he was alone. I watched curiously as he began a very rigorous workout. He was doing push ups, and sit ups, and lunges, and I wondered if he was preparing for a triathlon of some sorts. I collected shells with
Chelsea, we love looking for odd
ones, and explained to Judah
that the water was his friend. I watched
as Courtne and Chanis, hand in hand, headed out to jump the waves. I was truly enjoying being together and
realized just how much I missed my kids.
Time was getting short, and the sun was showing no mercy, so I began to search for the girls and let them know it we were about to head back for supper.
was sitting in the sand with her Grandma,
was playing with a new friend, but I couldn’t find Courtne and Chanis. I walked into the water with Justin and my son
in law, and we began to scan the crowds of people in the water. I used the zoom on my camera and began to
take pictures to see if I could find them.
Finally, my eyes made contact with the girls, they were out further than
I was comfortable with and I waved for them to come inshore. I saw Courtne wave back and quickly realized
it wasn’t a wave; it was a call for help.
The riptide had my kids and it was pulling them past the beach, and into
the open ocean. Justin began to swim
towards them, and within a few seconds he stopped and looked at me and I knew
what his eyes were saying; he couldn’t get to them. I did the only thing I knew to do, I began to
push my way through the water, and my hands raised to the sky, praying as loud
as I possibly could. With in seconds, I
saw a man jump into the water and begin to swim towards my girls. As I turned to motion for their Grandmother,
I saw the four wheelers arriving with the lifeguards and watched as they swam
past me. One lifeguard stopped when she
got to me, and said, “Maam, there is a strong riptide right here, you can’t go
any further.” My reply was, “Thank you,
but those are my kids, and unless God calls me home, I am not stopping.” With that, she continued past me to join in
the efforts to save the girls. I have
never felt so helpless in my life, and I thought that I was going to have to
witness my children’s death right before my eyes.
From the distance, I saw a huge tide go down and there arose from the water, a man’s head, the elderly gentleman that had been working out. Under each arm, he held my children, and this man was swimming through a riptide with two people in tow. He did this with ease. The lifeguards meant him and each took a child to finish the journey back to shore. I remember seeing Courtne first; her eyes closed, and as I called to her, she didn’t reply. I searched for Chains, and saw that she was walking up to the shore now, visibly shaken, but ok. I ran to Cort and repeatedly said her name, looking with deep concern at the lifeguard. He took her pulse and she began to cough. He assured me she would be ok, but she needed to throw up the salt water she had ingested. Chanis and the other lifeguard came and knelt beside us and Chanis began to sob uncontrollably. It wasn’t until that second that I realized there was more to this story.
The girls were alive, and well. We somberly walked toward the pier, and I felt Chanis tug my arm as she said, “Mom, there is the man that saved us.” I turned and yelled, “Sir, Sir,” but he never turned around. I yelled out, “Sir, Thank You,” and without missing a step, his back towards me, he lifted his hand to the air and pointed up. Justin looked at the kids, and said, “You know that was an angel.” And we did. God had placed that man at that beach, at that moment, preparing for what was about to come and no one will ever convince us otherwise. What a Mighty God we serve!
After arriving at my daughter’s house, the story began to unfold. As the girls were jumping waves, Courtne got pulled into the riptide. Chanis began to tell her to swim out of it and tried to keep her calm, but the waves were so strong that every time they hit Courtne, she would take in large amounts of water and was beginning to loose the battle. Chanis yelled for help to the closest people she saw, but they were afraid to swim out any further, so Chanis made a choice. Chanis said these words to me, “Mom, I wasn’t going to let her die alone, so I swam into the riptide and held her hand, she’s my sister.” Immediately I heard the voice of God say these words, “There is no greater love than to lay your life down for your brother.” I thanked Chanis knowing the debt I owed her could never be repaid.
One month to the date, we returned to
Florida for the birth of my granddaughter,
Noelle. As I sat in my mother’s living
room watching the news, a tragic story appeared across the television screen,
one that was too close to home. What
follows is an insert from the Palmcoastobserver.com on August 28th:
Orlando man disappeared while
swimming Friday morning at and was washed
ashore the following morning, Tom Gillin hopes people swimming on area beaches
will remember the dangers of rip currents. Flagler
Gillin, parks and recreation director and lifeguard-in-chief for the city of
said 21-year-old Dominic Mone and his older brother were swimming in shallow
water on the sand bar about 30 yards off shore when they were caught in a rip
current that carried them into deeper water.
The brothers entered the water around 9:30 a.m., which is half an hour before lifeguards go on duty. When a lifeguard reported for duty that morning, he noticed a man struggling in the water, so he rushed to assist.
The guard didn’t see another victim during the rescue, and didn’t learn that Mone was still in the water until he was back on shore. This discovery prompted a search that lasted until dark and resumed again the next morning, until Mone’s body was found on shore north of the
pier. Flagler Beach
My heart cried out this morning remembering what God had done for me and my daughters, but it also cried out for the mother who buried her son as a result of the same angry waters, a painful reminder that our story could have ended differently. So today, give thanks to the greatest love of my life, My Father. I thank Him for His new mercies and graces that have followed me all the days of my life, I thank Him for His mighty arms that cared so much about a lowly woman like me, that He stretched His hands out from Heaven to save my children, and I thank Him for sending His only begotten Son to save me, when I didn’t even know I was lost.