I did eventually get to the beach several times as a young adult and my wife and I honeymooned at the Jersey shore when I was 21. The next beach vacation was in 1988 when I was 35. Chincoteague, Virginia connected to Assateague Island has beautiful beaches and we spent the week there with our two young children. I loved the quaint town and the uncrowded, unsupervised beach. After playing with the family near the shore, I headed out into the waters just like fourteen years before, but with a little less stamina than I had when I was twenty one. I was playfully alternating between swimming and treading water, until I knew it was time to swim back to the beach. Tired, but with enough reserve energy to swim to shore, I started back. I failed to make progress on my first attempt and now I was getting very tired. Stopping to tread water, I had to try once more. I knew I didn't have enough endurance to swim the distance parallel to the shore. I noticed that I was no closer than before, and now I knew, I was in trouble!
With little energy left, continuing to tread water, I yelled for help. With the waves and the wind, and being a good distance from shore, I could see that it was futile. I remember looking at the swells and thinking, "I will drown here and no one will even know what happened. I can't see any way out. I can't even say good-bye to my family or explain what happened." Never before had I experienced being so completely tired and spent! I was done. This was it; the end! It was then I heard my Dad's voice echoing in my head with that question, "Did you float on your back?" He asked. "To survive in the ocean, you must be able to float on your back!" Powered by the memory of his words, I gasped and managed to regain one last surge of energy. I threw back my head, spread out my arms and allowed my legs to droop into the sea like dead limbs, my lifeless toes pointing down. My lips were the only thing visible above the water. I had absolutely no energy to add motion for buoyancy, but at least my body could finally rest. Every cell of my being sighed with exquisite relief as my body floated along like a piece of driftwood into a state of heavenly rest. With eyes closed, in a hypnotic-like state, I floated for an unknown amount of time. With my ears below the water, there were no sounds and no sights to process, just blissful rest. Time was immeasurable as I floated aimlessly with legs and toes dangling downward. After some time, I felt the sandy bottom under my feet followed by a joyous sensation of relief throughout my body. Unable to immediately regain enough of physical and emotional strength to walk out of the water and up the beach, I serenely waited as I regained my strength. Finally, being able to stand firmly on my two feet, I walked up the beach and collapsed on the sand exhausted. After a while, as if nothing had happened, I rejoined my wife and kids on the blanket. I was shaken and unsettled, but extremely glad to be alive and back with my family.
For many years, I could not tell the story of my near-death experience. Eventually, I was able to relate the story to my wife, and much later, to the rest of my family. I never got to tell my dad how his advice saved my life. I waited for the right time and place, but it seemingly never came. Our Dad died on November 12, 1995. None of my five siblings recall ever being asked "that question." Miraculously, Dad knew the specific question I would need to answer in order to save my own life. I thought there was no way out; no help, no rescue, no "do over" or no second chance. A simple question and an unsophisticated bit of advice from a father to his beloved child provided the way out like a telegram sent twenty three years before, arriving in the nick of time. That question persistently spoken, loud and clear. 'Did you float on your back? To survive in the ocean you must be able to float on your back!" The repeated response, "...But Dad, we don't live near the ocean. We don't go to the ocean. Why do you keep saying that?" "I don't care." He would emphatically state. "To survive in the ocean you must be able to float on your back!"
PROLOGUE: This life is much like a vast ocean with its many dangers: battering waves and swells, powerful under currents & rip tides, not to mention, man eating fish. And, our Heavenly Father speaks to His beloved children in much the same way. He persistently speaks and we often repeatedly ask why. "If you're going to survive in the ocean, (i.e., life's trials and tribulations) you have to be able to float on your back!" LAY BACK, RELAX, REST AND TRUST IN GOD TO GET YOU BACK ON SOLID GROUND." Stop struggling and kicking against opposing currents of which we have no control. No one has enough human strength to swim against the tide. Instead, relax in the arms of our loving Heavenly Father. Take a deep breath, be patient and go with the flow. Eventually your feet will touch down and rest on the sand again. God can keep your head above water. Have faith, trust and rest in Him. (Isaiah 40: 29-31) He will renew your strength and get you through every situation.