SEPTEMBER 16, 1972 is a day that I will relive for the rest of my life. It happened at the Withlacoochee River in Florida, about two miles from my house. It was around 2:30 in the afternoon and I was 14 years old. I had snuck away from the house on my bicycle when I was told I could not to go swimming that day. I met two of my friends on the way to the river as planned, where we had swam many times before. If only I had known what was going to happen that day, I would never have gone! When we got there there was a man, his wife, and their two daughters swimming. We put our bicycles down, took our shirts and jeans off that we wore over our swimming trunks, and headed down to the and dove in. The water was cool and the current was flowing as usual. We swam back to the river bank and got out of the water. We decided to climb a tree which leaned over the water. We had dove out of that tree many times in the past.
I was the first to climb the tree and dive into the water, followed by my friends. We all swam back to the bank and got out. We climbed the tree again but this time we did a canon ball, swam back, got out again. Then one of my friends asked the other if he wanted to dive off his shoulders. He said yes, so he squatted to let him get on his shoulders and then stood up so he could dive into the river. After he dove in he swam back and as he was getting out he slipped back into water because the bank was getting very slippery. I ran and did a cannon ball again off the bank and as I was getting out, I too noticed that it was not so easy. I slipped a few times before I was finally able to climb back up on the bank. The wet clay was sticking to my feet so I rubbed my feet on the ground and removed most of it. My friend asked if I wanted to dive off of his shoulders and I said, "Sure, why not". So as he squatted down I climbed onto his shoulders and then he stood up so I could dive into the water. Just as I was ready to dive, it HAPPENED!!
My right foot slipped off his shoulder and I fell straight down on top of my head and rolled off into the water. I knew immediately that something was wrong. First of all, there was a tingling sensation all over my body, as though a thousand needles were sticking me! Secondly, I could not move anything. I tried so hard, but nothing would move. I KNEW I WAS IN TROUBLE. My body was not responding no matter what I tried. I was in the fetal position where your arms and knees are drawn up to your chest, floating face down in the water, drifting with the current. "I could not see anything but the as the river towed me further and further away! You cannot imagine everything that was running through my mind all at the same time! But the main thing that I was thinking was, "I NEED TO BREATHE!" All of my thoughts changed from what was wrong with me to, "I am going to drown if I do not breathe NOW!!!" I could not hold my breath any longer your body will take a breath whether you want to or not, IN or out of water. I knew that if took a breath my lungs would fill up with water, but I HAD TO BREATH!! I was so terrified by now because I just knew I was going to DIE!!
Just as my body forced me to take a breath, which would have been nothing but water, my friend grabbed me and turned me over. I was finally able to take a breath of air, which felt like I had waited an eternity for! My friend swam back, with me in tow, to where my other friend was waiting to help pull me out of river that had almost taken my life!!! The family that was there swimming took me to the nearest hospital where they said I was now a quadriplegic you are paralyzed from the neck down and cannot feel nothing and would never walk AGAIN!! That was 37 years ago and I have lived longer than the doctors told me I would.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
God Bless. Henry
A Gift for Henry
Henry awakened with a start, his heart pounding and looked around. For a few seconds all he could do was to stare at the vista which greeted his eyes and then it hit him like a ton a bricks…he was sitting up for the first time by himself since the accident. He opened and shut his eyes slowly several times, the amazing view never changing and then slowly, as if he were afraid he would shatter and break like glass, he bent his neck down and looked at his lower half. Instead of thin, atrophied legs that ignored all of his mind’s commands, there were two tanned and muscular limbs. Holding his breath…he did something he hadn’t been able to do in decades…he wiggled his toes.
A shout of pure joy issued from his mouth, so loud it even scared himself. “YAHOOOOOO!” Then he did something else he hadn’t done in years…he pinched himself… as hard as he could, right above the hips in the “tickle spot” and practically doubled over with mixed joy and disbelief.
“Vicki!” he shouted, wiggling and wiggling his toes more violently. “Will you look at this? Just look!”
There was no answer. It wasn’t until he found himself standing and then jumping up and down with glee that he really noticed and took stock of his surroundings. The sky was the deepest blue he had ever seen but there was no sun. Instead an incredibly pure and blazing glow of light originated from everywhere. In every direction he looked he saw the loveliest terrain he had ever laid eyes on. Majestic mountains with craggy peaks (but no snow); fields of wildflowers broken only by gurgling brooks which fed into crystal clear lakes; wide open undulating plains of the greenest grass he had ever seen. No buildings, no bugs (except butterflies), the most delicious smell of orange blossoms permeating the air and a hint of lilting music that seemed to come from everywhere.
“VICKI!” he shouted again, frustrated that his wife was not there to share the experience with him and validate that it was all real.
“She’ll join you later,” responded a deep and profoundly gentle voice. Henry whirled around and instantly fell onto his face upon recognizing who had spoken to him. “Henry, please rise,” said the man, lifting him gently onto his feet. “I want you to enjoy this time I have given you have on your feet, not your face.”
At His touch, a surge of strength flowed through Henry’s entire body that was electrifying. He felt like he could run all the way to China and back again and not even get winded. Jesus smiled a crinkly smile at him and pointed off into the distance. Henry followed with his eyes and saw the most gorgeous tree he had ever laid eyes on. It was indescribable but even from this distance he could tell it was laden with flowers and fruit; somehow he knew that this is where the lovely perfume was emanating from.
Henry looked back into the face of His blessed Redeemer, his eyes filling with tears and his heart welling with emotion so strong he felt it would burst with joy. Jesus laid his nail-pierced hand upon his shoulder and Henry felt a thrill pass through him.
“Run, Henry!” Jesus smiled broadly. “Run!”
Despite his desire to not leave his Savior’s side for even a moment, it had been as though the words were more of a command than a suggestion. The next thing Henry knew his legs were pumping, his arms were flailing and he was racing like a cheetah through the fragrant grass towards what he knew was the Tree of Life, closing the distance faster than he dreamed could be possible. As he ran, tears of joy flew back in the wind – and a howl of laughter and sheer joy erupted from his throat. He was running. HE WAS RUNNING!!
He exulted in the sheer joy of feeling his once dead limbs alive and thriving again. Oh… if only the dream would never end…if only he would never have to wake up…but wait…he had pinched himself…and it had hurt. What was going on? He came to a stop just before the tree, amazed that he wasn’t even breathing hard. Maybe he wasn’t dreaming…maybe he was…
“You’re not dead, Henry” whispered the voice of Jesus quietly in his ear as if The Master were standing just behind him. “And you’re not asleep either. This is my gift to you for now…unwrap it and take it out whenever you feel the need and know that one day soon, it will be yours to enjoy for eternity with all your loved ones who have trusted in Me.”
Henry hung his head and wept, his shoulders heaving with gratitude. The Lord’s voice interrupted his thoughts again. “I have one more gift for you before you leave…if you’ll accept it…”
“Lord,” sobbed Henry. “It is enough that you suffered, died and rose for me and have allowed me to live a life, though broken physically, that has been abundant for you. I will accept whatever gift you want to give me but what can I do in return for you?”
“You have been giving me the best gift for many years, Henry…You.” Replied Jesus, and suddenly Henry turned around to find Jesus standing before him again only he wasn’t dressed in his “typical” biblical clothes but hip-waders and carrying two fishing rods. “I once told Peter, Andrew, James and John that I would make them fishers of men,” he continued with a broad smile that lit up everything about Him. “But today I think that you and I will just go fish for trout in that stream over there. I can guarantee a good catch but as for you …well today you’ll have to clean and fry them up. Deal?”
Henry’s mouth just hung open and then he bellowed with laughter. “Deal!” he exclaimed.
Henry five months before his accident.