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Aug 10, 2021 325 Rosanne Pappas,
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A Day at the Beach

Shocked by his words, I stared at him…

It was a perfectly beautiful beach day, not a cloud in the sky. I settled back into my beach chair and sunk my feet deep into the sand, wiggling my toes, hoping to feel a tinge of cool sand between them. It was a sizzling hot July day on the west coast of Florida.

My friend and I were enjoying the day together, watching as my three year old son, rode on the back of his twelve year old cousin while he crawled through the shallow, green water. The tide was low next to the causeway where a little inlet gave the boys hundreds of feet to play in the cool waters off the beach. The perfect spot!

I took a deep breath, opened the water cooler, grabbed my ice-cold water bottle and drank a huge gulp. I needed to stay cool and hydrated because I was almost nine months pregnant with my third son. I shut the cooler and focused back in on my son in the water. He and his cousin had separated and he ran, laughing and splashing through the water. Then it looked like he sat down, but he seemed to be sitting too low in the water. It didn’t make sense.

“What is he doing? Why isn’t he standing up,” I cried, pushing myself up out of the chair. “I don’t understand…”

“That’s weird,” my friend said.

I felt a panic rip through my body, “Hail Mary Full of Grace, the Lord is with you, “I prayed as I bolted into the water, eyes locked on his little head, “Blessed are you among women, and Blessed is the Fruit of your womb, Holy Mary Mother of God…Hail Mary Full of Grace, the Lord is with you…” Treading through the water I wondered, ‘Why isn’t he standing up, please don’t let his head go down under, please Jesus.’

Out of breath and full of fear, I arrived at the spot to discover that he had walked into a hole in the sandy bottom that wasn’t visible from the beach. He was frantically treading water, trying to keep his head above the surface. Terror struck through me like a lightning rod. I grabbed him and pulled him close as I clambered out of the hole. “Hail Mary Full of Grace the Lord is with you, Please Mary, Please, Save Him, Please Mary, Jesus will listen to you. Blessed are you among women…”

His breath was labored.

“Call 911,” a man called out.

I turned and looked at him in astonishment.

“What? His head never went under water,” I replied,

wondering where he had appeared from.

“Call 911. If he inhaled water, he could drown in the parking lot! Call 911,” he stated boldly.

I turned and shouted at my friend to call 911. At the same time, I distraughtly wondered what he was talking about.

My son threw up over my shoulder.

I screamed again, “Call my husband.”

“Hail Mary full of Grace…”

The man moved a little closer.

“I was on the other side of the causeway and God spoke in my heart. He told me to pray intensely and immediately run to the other side of the causeway. I saw you in a panic and knew this was where I had to go and he was the one I had to pray for.”

I stared at him, shocked by his words and the gravity of the situation.

I held my son close, “You’re okay buddy.” Silently, I continued, “Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with you…”

My husband arrived, took our son and put him over his shoulder.

He threw up again.

I wiped his mouth, leaned in close to his face and said, “You will be okay buddy. It’s going to be alright,” trying desperately to mask my mounting fear and anguish.

“Hail Mary…” I continued as I tried to soothe him.

The ambulance arrived. The paramedics took over.

“We are calling the chopper to Bay Flight him to All Children’s Hospital,” they said.

“What? Why? His head never went under,” I said.

“It doesn’t matter, we need to be sure he is okay,” they said.

I stared at them in shock. This could not be happening, I thought.

“Blessed are you among women…”

My husband and I stared at each other.

The man next to me broke the silence.

“I won’t stop praying.”

The chopper landed.

The paramedic got out of the chopper and approached us, opening his arms to take our son.

“I’m going with him,” I said.

“I’m sorry but you can’t come in the helicopter with us.

We can’t take care of him and you too. You might go into labor with the stress. We will take good care of him.”

“I’ll go,” my husband declared.

“No, we can’t take you either, sir, only him. We have to focus on him,” they affirmed.

My husband and I watched helplessly as they carried our son into the helicopter.

“Hail Mary full of grace, Please Jesus, Mary, Please…” “Let’s go,” my husband said.

We jumped into the car and sped down the causeway to All Children’s Hospital.

“You can’t go into labor,” he said.

“I’m fine,” I said, “Just get us there fast,” as I continued silently, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

We pulled into the Emergency Room lot and ran into the hospital. They directed us through the tunnel to the children’s wing.

My husband ran and I followed, out of breath, shoeless and clothed in a wet bathing suit.

“Hail Mary full of grace…”

We were ushered into his room. I climbed into his bed and held him close.

The doctor came in.

“He is stable and in good condition, but we will keep him in overnight as a precaution,” he said.

I sighed in relief, then silently continued praying while my thoughts scattered in bewilderment as I wondered how this had all happened.

My son fell asleep in my arms and I felt thankful, but guilty. I was a bad mother who almost let her son drown. Washed in shame, I let the tears flow in the dark, quiet hospital room.

Sobbing with distress, I picked up my phone and called my spiritual father, a holy priest. It was 9:30 at night, so I had little hope that he would answer… His voice broke into my troubled thoughts.

He answered!

I poured out the whole dreadful tale of what had happened that day.

“Pray for him Father, please,” I begged.

He prayed with me, but I still felt upset.

“My son almost drowned because of me,” I confessed.

“No! You saved your son’s life,” he said reassuringly.

Sobs of relief mixed with the tears of fear and worry.

“God is with you. It’s going to be alright,” he said.

“Thank you Father,” I said. My gaze fell on my little boy, peacefully sleeping away the trauma of the day. I nestled in close while my lips continued to beseech Our Lady’s intercession until I joined him in slumber. “Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with you…”

The next morning we gratefully left the hospital with our happy, healthy son. No sooner had we arrived home when my husband turned to him saying, “It’s time to go swimming buddy.”

Fearfully, I stared at my husband. He whispered, “Let me do this.”

With my heart in my mouth, I watched as my husband coaxed him into the water and they swam happily around together.

At his next swimming lesson, his teacher confided that only last week she taught him how to tread water.

I wept.

Thank you Jesus, thank you Mary.

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Rosanne Pappas

Rosanne Pappas is an artist, author, and speaker. Pappas inspires others as she shares personal stories of God’s grace in her life. Married for over 35 years, she and her husband live in Florida, and they have four children.

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