This happened many years ago (1971) but
I remember it just like it occurred yesterday.
I was a freshman engineering student at a college
in Northwest Pennsylvania. The first semester was designed to weed
out those who could not survive the program. I had not done well
as the curriculum and the college life were too much for me – I was not
mature enough at the time for such a drastic change in my life. I
was probably as I appeared, like a scared 14 year old (not 18) at the time.
When the semester ended and we broke for Christmas
break, I was physically and mentally beaten. I remember moping around
trying to think about what had occurred
and what was going to happen. I had failed
and I was not going to make it.
When my sister who was an airline stewardess
came home for the holidays, she invited me to go on a trip with her to
Hawaii. In those days, airline employees enjoyed lots of perks like
free airfare and hotels.
We traveled in the snow and ice from western Pennsylvania
to New York where she lived and then on a nonstop flight to Honolulu, Hawaii.
This was a dream for me, I had never been to
the ocean before and my first time at the beach was at Waikiki. We
were scheduled for 2 weeks at a high end hotel on the beach, but my sister
needed to leave me alone in the middle of the time for her to fly a couple
of flights till she returned at the end of our stay.
Oh boy, did I enjoy myself, beach all day – every
day, swim in the ocean till I dropped. I gradually worked my way
further out into the bay with each time I went swimming. I was an excellent
swimmer at the time.
One day, while I was alone, I went too far and
found myself across the reef and into the ocean. When that happened,
I was in the current heading away from land and in high swells rather than
the protected bay.
I knew the drill, swim across current and find
your way back to the bay. However, the high waves and current rapidly
drained my energy. I began swimming on my back to conserve my energy
and try to find my way back into the bay and safety.
When my energy gave out, I slowly sank in the
water. I remember looking up at the surface of the ocean from under
maybe 3 ft under water and feeling so tranquil. Drowning (is) quite
pleasant as it is reported by all who experience it.
Then a voice “I have you” and a strong arm wrapped
around my neck and almost instantly I was in shallow water near the beach.
When I stood up to thank the person who saved me, I looked around and no
one was there.
My sister came back to pick up me and we returned
together to New York and then home. I was a changed person after
that encounter as many friends and family observed.
After the trip, went back to college more confident.
With no fear of failing, did better with my studies and coping with college
life. I did so well that eventually I made the dean’s list for most
of the rest of my college days.
I went on to finish college and a have along and
gratifying career as an engineer which has taken me all over the globe.
My uncle a priest and college professor
admitted to me many years later that he had initially doubted that I was
going to make it through college but had noticed that I was a changed person
after the Hawaii trip. He was surprised how the little scared boy grew
into the adult that I became.
For all of you, who read this story; never doubt
the existence of God, Jesus, heaven and angels. Never forget who
you are, where you came from and what you are here for.