It was a warm Saturday morning on November 20, 2021 when I decided to water the flowers I’d planted a few days prior. Little did I know on that bright sunny day, I was about to face death!
Our townhouse in Walden on Lake Conroe, Montgomery, Texas is only ten feet or so away from the water’s edge. As a retired Baptist minister, my wife Joyce and I are blessed to have lived 17 years in a place with such beautiful scenery. We have a 180° view of the marina with dozens of docked sailboats. Further away in clear sight is the yacht club’s stately building, and across the water are several large three-story condos.
I was walking backward pulling on a waterhose, not realizing how close I was to the lake’s edge. As I tugged at the hose, I suddenly plunged backward, headfirst into the cold lake waters—clothes, shoes and all!
How long I was under the water, I can only imagine. In the splash, I lost my glasses and partial dentures. In fact, the dentures got caught up in my open mouth, and with the water pouring in I managed to grab and throw them toward the bulkhead area.
When I surfaced, regaining my feet, I heard a lady’s voice coming from the condo area on the opposite side of our home. I didn’t realize this was the voice of a “guardian angel.”
“Are you alright?” She hollered. I immediately yelled back, “Sure, I’m okay!” I waved in her direction, but I wasn’t okay. At that point, I didn’t know it was impossible for me to get out of the lake on my own strength. I was trapped!
The chilly water was up to my chest and the bulkhead wall was over a foot higher, with nothing for me to grab. My fingers could not penetrate the wood top. I know how to swim, and I often swam in that same area when we first moved to our home. This was before the final bulkheads were built, walling off the easy path in and out of the lake. Trying to swim to a more accessible place in full clothing was not an option. It was more than 200 yards to the condo area and the sailboat docks were higher than the bulkhead wall.
My younger prowess as a Brooklyn Dodgers baseball player was gone. Even my continued workouts that gave me an athletic look was no match as to what I was up against. Frantically, I bashed my knees against the concrete wall to help lift my body, but to no avail. I knew then I didn’t have a chance to get out by myself.
My continued calling to Joyce was so weak I just stopped trying. No way Joyce could hear me! I began moving step by step toward our patio area where our wall-to-wall large windows were located. Perhaps, I thought, Joyce might be able to clearly see me.
Suddenly, without warning, I began to see a group of happy people going to a party. The men were well dressed in slack pants and the women wearing high-heeled shoes with their attractive dresses. I thought, “I’ll join them, but what’s all this water doing at a party?” That’s when I regained my consciousness and stood up, getting back to reality.
I continued to move more slowly toward my goal. Out ahead I could see our boat dock, which is connected to the bulkhead boards. It now seemed even more difficult to move forward.
Just as I was in full view of the windows, I experienced the same happy partygoers. This time I was even more determined to join them. But again, the rushing water invaded the party group. Up I came! This time with the fear of drowning. I felt that another episode would be my last.
As I continued to inch forward, I slowly reached the corner of the bulk board and our boat dock. At this moment, I felt totally exhausted and could barely stand up, so I clung even closer to the bulk board. I was still in chest-high cold water, and hoped if I held on long enough, Joyce could see me. I felt overwhelming anxiety knowing I was stuck. Energy and time were running out.
As I hung on, I looked up and to my grateful surprise, a lady was standing in front of me. Weakly I begged, “That’s my house, go get my wife!” I assumed she was the lady from the condos across the lake.
She immediately left and in a quick minute, Joyce was at the lakeside back door.
“Honey, get the stepladder in the utility room!” I weakly called out to her.
As Joyce retrieved the ladder, the unknown lady grabbed it out of her hands and rushed to me. She quickly lowered the ladder into the water.
I hardly had enough strength to take step one, then two, and as the ladder sank into the mud—I made one big wobbly step on the white handle of the ladder. With a push from my foot I crawled onto the deck on my stomach and laid there so exhausted I couldn’t move.
When I looked up, there were six blue uniformed 911 men. Two of them picked me up and dragged me to our patio where Joyce was waiting. As I sat dazed on the patio edge, I said “Just let me rest here awhile and then I’ll go into the house and lay down.”
“You’re not going anywhere,” came a terse remark. “What hospital do you want us to take you to?” With that, they lifted me onto a gurney. As they put me into the waiting ambulance, I saw a fire truck and two police squad cars. The force was present!
My “guardian angel” had disappeared after the first responders came. Who was she? My wife only caught her name, “Debbie.” She may live across the lake in one of the three-story condos, perhaps? Yet no further contact.
Without a doubt, God allowed this “guardian angel” to see me fall into the lake and led her to follow through to my rescue, in person and by calling 911. She was God’s messenger for me. It was a “God thing”!
I spent a week in hospital care with a heart catheterization by my cardiologist, revealing no heart attack. My knees were so battered and bruised from trying to get out that it took three days before I could walk.
Our family physician, Dr. Matthew Simpson exclaimed, “According to the hospital report, your strength was almost gone.” Then he added, “If you had not been rescued soon, you would have drowned.”
Today, reflecting on my near death experience causes me to feel closer to God. Certainly, God has yet a plan for my life. Perhaps only in a small way, but that’s good enough! I continue to thank Him for His “Guardian Angel.”
We found her! Debbie is a librarian. Yes, she lives in one of the three story condos across the lake. She said, “I was on the phone when I saw a big splash and then saw you. I know the lake, knew you were in trouble and couldn’t get out. So I rushed out and drove my car to your place, while calling 911.” God bless her!
Knowing that at least six people drowned in Lake Conroe in 2021, I am grateful I was not number seven! I claim God’s promise in Psalms 91:11, “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” God kept His word.
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