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The Few Minutes That Took Forever

by Shaina Tardif

Our perfect day outdoors was on the verge of ending tragically

 July 16 dawned sunny and hot, and I smiled. What better weather could I have wished for to go hiking and swimming? Little did I realize how the day was going to turn out.

My older sister, two of my younger brothers, Auntie Susie, Grandpa, and I were all ready to conquer Tumbledown Mountain. For the first stretch of the hike you walk on a wide path covered in crushed rock. Then the path narrows, and the rocks get bigger. About halfway up, you have to cross a stream that intersects the trail. Then the mountain gets steep, and you really have to climb up over boulders for the last stretch. 
Setting out at a brisk pace, we quickly reached the halfway mark and took a short break. After the break we started hiking again and reached the top in record time. As we looked around, the landscape made us catch our breath. The sky was sunny and blue, with only a couple of white fluffy clouds in sight. Being higher than 3,000 feet in the air gave us a great view. It seemed like we could see halfway around the world! 
There’s a pond on the mountaintop, and it looked very inviting. So we took off our shoes and waded in it. There were lots of rainbow trout flashing in the sunlight. Before long, they trusted us and swam over to nibble on our toes.
After we ate our lunch, Grandpa, my sister, and my younger brothers decided to hike up to the second peak. Auntie and I decided to rest and enjoy ourselves so that we’d have lots of energy for the hike down. We chatted while waiting for the others. When they came back, we all headed down. 
By the time we got to the bottom, we were all sweaty and a little tired. But that was no problem. Not far from Tumbledown Mountain is Dummers Beach. My grandparents camp there every year, so we were planning to go for a swim to cool off. Once we got there, we greeted  Grandmother and Uncle Steve, Auntie Susie’s brother, who had stayed behind. We briefly told them about our hike. Then came the race to see who could get into the water the fastest.
We changed into our swimsuits and lathered ourselves with sunscreen. My brothers and I were the first into the water, then Auntie. Grandmother and Uncle Steve soon joined us, and we went out far enough so that we could just touch the bottom. Even though it was sunny and clear, a slight wind had picked up, making the water a bit choppy and hard to swim in.
I (being the brave one) decided to swim to the buoys about 30 yards from where I was. The water is about 12 feet deep at the buoys, but I had earned the Swimming Honor in Pathfinders earlier in the summer and knew that I could make it out there and back. My aunt and uncle decided to swim out also. I easily reached the buoys and treaded water while I waited for them to catch up. After Auntie Susie made it to the buoys, we waited for Uncle Steve.
About 10 feet from the buoys he turned around. At the same time, he called out to my aunt, “Sue, I think you’re going to have to help me back!” 
Hearing those words is enough to strike terror into anyone, no matter how brave they are.
“Are you serious?” my aunt asked.
“Yup!” he gasped.
I knew at that moment that he really had to have help getting back, or he wouldn’t make it. His legs had just stopped working for him. They felt paralyzed, and he couldn’t move them no matter how much he tried. After shouting to my grandmother to run in and get an inner tube, Auntie swam quickly to Uncle Steve’s side. 
We had a dangerous situation on our hands! First, the water very gradually gets deeper. Since we were almost at the buoys when this happened, Grandmother was a long way from the shore and access to an inner tube. Second, there’s no lifeguard at this beach. Third, my uncle has never in his life been able to float—which I didn’t know at the time. Fourth, it was windy, so the water was very choppy. Put all these factors together, and you can see that the odds were against us. 
Grandmother sent one of my younger brothers to shore to get the tube. Then she had to stand there feeling helpless as she watched her son struggle in the water.
When my aunt reached Uncle Steve, she told him to turn over on his back in the floating position. She tried to get a grip on him in such a way that she could swim and drag him in at the same time. Not knowing what to do, I sort of started swimming in. But Auntie Susie said, “Shaina, I need you out here with me!”
My uncle also gasped, “Shaina, I need you!” 
I asked Auntie what to do, and she gave me a very important job. I had to swim, tread water, and hold Uncle Steve’s head out of water so that he could breath. I quickly swam over to get into position and do my job. Once I reached him and held his head up, he relaxed slightly.
It soon became clear that the way Auntie was trying to tow in my uncle wasn’t working. The water was coming right up in his face, and he panicked, seeming ready to climb on top of us. Auntie Susie quickly switched to a new position, which worked much better. Suddenly the wind started blowing really hard, pushing us slowly but surely toward the shore. What was only minutes seemed like hours. 
Finally my foot touched bottom, and I knew that we had reached safety—that God had saved us. Uncle Steve couldn’t really move much yet because he was still so terrified. Auntie and I got him to a shallow enough spot so that he could kneel in the water. By then my brother had returned with the inner tube. Uncle Steve used it to hold on to while the rest of us stood there catching our breath.
My sister and Grandpa came out of the camper and asked what was going on. They’d missed the whole thing. It wasn’t until I started telling my sister what had happened that I began crying.
My grandmother came over and said, “I feel the same way—shaken up and scared. God gave you and your aunt the strength to do what you needed to do.” 
As I started to think about the whole incident, I realized just how much God leads in my life. What if I hadn’t earned the Swimming Honor in Pathfinders? What if Auntie Susie and I had climbed the second peak and hadn’t had enough strength to help bring Uncle Steve in? What if I hadn’t been out there by the buoys yet? What if the wind hadn’t increased when it did, helping to blow us to shore? What if none of that had happened? I was amazed and awed when I thought about all the ways God had helped us in this situation. He is always so good to us.
Returning home that night, I got out my Bible and a concordance. I looked up all the verses that had to do with strength, and some really seemed to apply to me.
Here’s the verse that touched me the most. I can’t read it anymore without getting a very real picture in my mind of how God’s hands held us up in the water and gave us strength that day as we rescued Uncle Steve. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV).*
*Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright  1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Shaina Tardif, 15, homeschools in Maine. In addition to spending time with her family, she likes to paint, write letters, garden, swim, hike, and earn Pathfinder Honors. 

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