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Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Coming of the Flood

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I originally posted this a year ago, in June 2006, but I have recieved my Mother's account of the story and have added it. She is less long-winded than I am. Those of you who remember this story can just page down and you will find her memory of the event in italics.

When I was a little girl (very little), we lived in a country neighborhood sprawled haphazardly around and on a hill near the banks of the Rock River in Illinois. It was a great place to be a kid in...we had the woods, we had hills for sledding in the winter, and overall, most of our neighbors were great people.

During the winter, we had options for sledding; the biggest hill was between about four different properties, and we had standing permission to use it as long as we didn't damage the buildings or the trees (with the exception of accidentally crashing into trees which can happen on a sled). The other hills were smaller, but treacherous; they were narrow and descended between the trees in the woods.

And we had Frank's Place. He had this grand yard that sported kind of a bowl which led down into the creek. It flooded every spring, and sometimes, if we'd had more rain than usual, it might flood before freezing and then we'd have a layer of ice to slicken up our sledding endeavors. I think my brother managed to get his sled all the way into the frozen creek (or "crick" in local parlance) once. That was quite a feat!

We loved going to Frank's place, and we were careful to ask his permission before doing so as we did not want to lose the privelige of using his awesome bowl for sledding. He always told us not to get hurt, and seemed very gruff, but he ALWAYS let us use the area.

Although I was very little Mom used to let me go without her direct observation because I was with my brother, who was two yrs older, and other children. And in that neighborhood, it was almost guaranteed that other adults were watching and they knew ALL of us. The world was different then, and so the "dangers" to us had less to do with predators and more to do with just being kids.

As spring neared, we were warned not to use Frank's place because it was getting too warm. The river flooded each spring, and when that happened, Frank's bowl became what it was and morphed from a frozen sledding hill into a spring pond fit for thousands of tadpoles and a couple of water moccasins. Ice-out was a dangerous time of year, for no one knew the day or the hour in which the ice would break.

We left home one day, having heard the warning, and our plan was initially to sled on the upper hills nearer to our house. But one of the other kids said that it was fine and we should go to Frank's for we had not much time left. My brother and I resisted (mostly him...I was very shy and prone to keeping my silence. Amazing, isn't it?), but we went because we wanted to experience the terrain one last time, too.

We had a BLAST flying down Frank's hill and across the bottom of the bowl. It was always a race to see who could go the furthest the fastest. As I was the littlest, I was NEVER the one to reach the point closest to the crick, but that didn't stop me from trying!

What happened next has been related to me but I hold only a vague memory of the event. For awhile I denied it but I could not deny the images that continue in my mind to this day or the nightmares that still come to me when they are triggered by similar real-life events.

It was a warm winter day, cloudy, and the snow on Frank's hill was packed from use. We were flying down the hill and across the bottom, when cracking sounds began to echo in the relative silence of the winter afternoon. We ignored the sound and continued sledding. My brother went down the hill, and one of our friends, I think. Our parents were coming, and we didn't want to stop. They had a note of warning, a note of desperation, but as we knew we were where we were not supposed to be, we rushed to get in our last it was, we were in trouble for our disobedience and we knew it. Might as well make it worth it. So even with parents descending upon us, we went down the hill in defiance of their commands. I do remember turning my head to see Mom coming towards us, on foot, yelling already, calling our names. I remember throwing myself into my orange toboggan so that I could make this last "slide" the best yet.

The problem was that we didn't know what that echoing crack was about. Our parents did. We thought we were in trouble. We were, but we did not understand the reason why and that we were in trouble only because of the presence real danger.

Spring had arrived.

I remember sliding across the bottom and seeing my brother (or maybe his friend?) leaping out of his sled and trying desperately to flee before the wall of water that was coming at us. I remember the boy yelling, telling me to STOP! STOP! TURN AROUND! GET UP! I remember my sled stopping as it met the water and it didn't float...the icy brown water began to come into my little orange toboggan, forcing it down. I was getting soaked.

I couldn't get up. I couldn't move. The water was coming and I just sat there because I couldn't get out of my sled.

I saw adults, parents rushing down the hill, and someone grabbed me and hauled me out of the sled as the water climbed higher. They helped me walk through the water and the snow, out of the bowl that was rapidly filling with the spring flood of the Rock River.

Someone else had reached the boy (my brother, I think) who was in front of me, who had been yelling.

I don't think there was much stopping for any of us once at the top of the hill; I remember somewhat clearly my hand in my Mom's, and she was upset and scolding me, but seemed more concerned than anything. She told me that she had to get me into the bathtub and cleaned off. I did not want to take a bath, but she explained that the water was very dirty, and so I meekly agreed, exclaiming, "Yuck!" from that point on.

I remember that my snowsuit was literally peeled off of me, and as this happened, I proclaimed, "Yucky, yucky! Yuck! Yucky!" and Mom agreed. I was thrust unceremoniously into the warm water of the tub and cleansed thoroughly and when I was dressed in warm clothing, I was still saying "Yucky" as my Mom related the tale to others.

My Mom recently reminded us of this harrowing event. She described how she had been at home and heard the ice crack. Somehow, instantly, she and all the other parents of the children involved *KNEW* that something was wrong. They *KNEW* that we were NOT where we were supposed to be, and NOT A ONE went to the other sledding hills; they ALL converged at Frank's Place just as the bowl began to fill with the spring flood.

The calvary of parents came of of nowhere to rescue their children, and each of them credits guardian angels for the alert. Not a single one of us was lost in the flood, all by the Grace of God.

What follows is my Mom's account of the event:

It must have been a beautiful winter day as most of the neighborhood children were sliding on the neighbor guy's hill. We called it "The Bowl" because the area was a natural depression shaped like a bowl. At the bottom of the hill was a tree. Beyond that is a flat area which leads to the creek that drains into the Rock River under a highway bridge. It is a natural flood plain.

It was getting to be late afternoon as I was beginning ot prepare supper. I think it was mid-February 1979. I felt a vibration with my bare feet about the same time I heard a "CRACK". I knew the ice was going out of the river. I jumped into my boots. I may or may not have reached for a jacket as I ran out the door. Our street was plowed in on both ends that winter so I had to run on top of snow and snow piles. (A neighbor later told me I had run like a deer - not even touching the ground. - That may be because I believe I was "Sent".)

As I approached The Bowl, I saw several children on the hill, some sliding down, some coming up, and three little ones preparing to slide down (ages 3, 4, and 7). I tried to stop them but couldn't. A 4th or 5th grader tried to help the children off the hill as we saw white water blow over and under the bridge into the creek and bowl. As the children slid down the hill I ran after them. The water, the three kids, and myself all met at the tree at the bottom of the hill. As the neighbor boy floated over to me, I reached for him with my left arm, picking him up by the straps of his two-piece snow suit. My daughter jumped onto my back with her arms around my neck. My son grabbed hold of my right arm and held on for dear life.

When I turned to go back up the hill, I couldn't move. The toe of my right boot was under a sled (which by this point was completely under ice cold freezing water and ice.) I asked God for HELP.

Just then, my dad's gentle voice said, "Take your foot out of the boot. Go behind the tree." Just as we got behind the tree the first wave hit, and then receeded. We were under water. Then a few more big waves and the current slowed. The voice said to o"Go left and stay in the lighted path...and go forward with the water and hold when it receeds." At one point I couldn't get footing. The voice told me to move my foot to the left to get footing past the ice. And with forward, hold, forward, hold, we walked up thehill and out of the flooded bowl.

Some weeks later, after we had recovered from our colds, and the water had receeded, the neighbor came and told me there was something he wanted me to see. We walked to the hill and there by the tree was my missing boot, still full of water, under my son's sled. My daughter's red toboggan and the neighbor boys' blue saucer were by the creek near the bridge.

The neighbor told me they hadn't realized that we had gone all the way down the hill. He asked how we got out. I told him, "Only by the grace of God," were we able to walk up the hill and out of the water.

(As a couple notes to my Mom's story: Mom has only one hand. Her left hand never formed so she has no fingers and only a partially-formed palm. That is the arm she used to save one of our friends. Secondly, the "voice" of her Dad came from eternity, for I would have been about five years old and he had died that winter. )

I realized upon reflecton that this story is a parable all it's own, and perhaps the Lord will allow me to use it as such, for there is a moral to the story.

We children sinned through disobedience to our parents who were aware of the danger and told us what the danger was, but we ignored the warning and followed our own will. Of COURSE we had a BLAST in our disobedience; disobedience is usually a lot of fun...that is, until there are consequences.

The Consequence came to us in the form of the flooding river when the ice went out. Our forbidden playground flooded, and had things gone differently, we would not have been the only children on the face of the planet to go to our judgment as a result of a flood.

But our parents heard the river cracking, and by the Grace of God, they understood that the fruit of their love was in mortal danger. Each and every one dropped what they were doing, and converged, lead by the Guardian Angels of chidren to the very location of their charges.

Each and every responding adult cast aside their own terror and ran INTO the FLOOD and pulled someone to safety. Each and every one died to themselves so that another soul might live, and in most cases, that was the soul of their own child. (Although not a single child in danger was surpassed).

Each and every one of us children was hauled home firmly and cast into the warm, clean water to be purified. We all received some sort of punishment, although it was mostly a tongue-lashing as the parents considered the flood to have been terrifying enough.

And each and every one of us lived to sled another day; we lived to tell the tale and that, my friends, is Redemption.

I did not realized until recently that this event has affected me. For many years, I did not remember it, and when Mom brought it up, I denied it. But something in the back of my mind kicked me and harangued me and reminded me of the vague, foggy visions of being pulled from the toboggan and the warm bath punctuated by "Yuck!" My own memory of the incident is vague, foggy images, and so I cannot clearly tell you that I remember every piece of what I have told here. But I remember enough, and the nightmares I still suffer on occasion validate the experience.

I still remember a particular nightmare from when I was a child; in this dream, I was in the middle of a field, and all had been wiped out by a huge wave. And while I walked, seeking safety, more waves of mud were coming, although they were small. I knew a larger one was coming and I was afraid. But Mom found me and lead me to a safe place. I still woke up screaming, terrified of the wave to come.

I did not have any such dream like that for a long time, but then when I spent a semester in Mexico and swam in the ocean on the Gulf and the Pacific coasts, for months I had dreams of monster waves coming unnanounced and sweeping us all out to sea. And in those dreams, I was always able to escape the wave,and the certain death if not the terror of the event.

I realize now that the nightmares result from the flood wave which overtook us on that day of sledding.

And THAT, everyone, is what the Catholic church refers to as "temporal punishment", that is; the consequences of sin which we must live out while we are on this earth. We can be forgiven the sin through the grace of God (and sacrament of confession), but God will not erase the debt we owe; and to this day, it seems I am still paying for my disobedience.

This is a parable for for all of us, and if I were to poll every one of you, you would have a story which shares all of the above elements. You could describe your sin; you may still suffer the consequence; you remember the sacrifice and the grace that saved you and you are still here, proving that you have been redeemed to live another day.

Maybe some of you reading this may not be Catholic or even Christian. Maybe someone reading this does not fully understand what I mean by the titled terms or what the Catholic Church teaches. I encourage everyone to do the following:

Write down a moment in your life in which you sinned. It does not have to be dramatic. What is the sin? Taking the toy of another? Disobedience to parents? Lying? What was the consequence of that? Did someone else have to make a sacrifice of some sort on your behalf? Was there some miracle (grace) that saved you from something worse which would have resulted from your sin? And how were you redeemed? How did you happen to survive/learn from your sin and continue on?

We all have stories, and through these stories we can come to better understand the teachings of our faith. We cannot ever escape consequences. But that is not to say that we suffer alone or without understanding of others, and certainly, we cannot survive without God's grace, nor would we have eternal life without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

As always, God bless you all, and thank God for the gift of life which you all have received.


Anonymous said...

Adoro - that was powerful testimony. Thank you for posting that.

Unknown said...

Adoro: That did dredge up some memories that I have never fully thought through but I do know that have had a powerful effect upon me. I'll see if I can put them down one-tenth as effectively as you told your story.

Thank you for sharing that.

Anonymous said...

Adoro, You told that beautifully.
Thanks for sharing it.

Cathy said...

That was a great story and so true.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing that. i have had nightmares since 9/11, dreams about tsumanis, etc but i don't attribute those to sins that i have committed. perhaps i am mistaken, but if your dreams never go away, isn't that taking a bit of a risk, as you wonder ceaselessly about what you are doing wrong and waiting for the fruits of forgiveness to manifest themselves? thank you again

Adoro said...


Thank you for commenting.

I'm not sure I fully understand your question/comment, but I'll try to respond. I don't know what your faith is, so please understand that my response and my position is a Catholic one.

You refer to the "fruits of forgiveness". Of course, the Lord has forgiven me long ago for the disobedience to my mother, but that's not to say that we do not suffer real consequences for our actions. Take, for example, a child who is told not to goof around in the kitchen. But that child disobeys and spils boiling water all over himself. Mom and Dad are of course angry, but immediately forgiving as they tend to their child's grevious wounds.

That child is forgiven, but that does not take away the scarring from the burns which he will carry for life. That might be an example of what we Catholics refer to as "temporal punishment".

Temporal punishment doesn't have to be lifelong, you understand, but it is a consequence that lingers beyond the actual forgiveness of the sin. God knows all about it, but as He has given us free will, he lets us life with our scars rather than erasing them.

With the scars come lessons.

I don't worry about the dreams I have for I don't think they really affect my life. Maybe it's a minor form of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and perhaps you are suffering a similar thing. Just because you have dreams doesn't mean you've sinned in any way. The fact that I have dreams doesn't mean that my disobedience wasn't forgiven, it's just my mind remembering what I consciously have forgotten. (little psychology there).

Don't be overly concerned, for what I have stated in my post was my story, and I drew a parallel to faith in order to make a point. What happened is real, and what I have stated is real, but keep in mind that not everyone would experience the same thing I have.

God bless you!

Anonymous said...

hello again,
cheers for your above reply. apologies if my question caught you off-guard--perhaps i ask these things for my own sake, as well! i am catholic, too, btw, and appreciate what you have to say. i've recently gotten into reading catholic blogs, and am very much intrigued by what i've read so far. perhaps i shall be in touch again soon...

Warren said...

Wow. I am really really moved by this story, especially by your mother's side of it. As kids this could have washed over you, not quite knowing how serious a situation it was.


Melody K said...

Thanks for sharing the story, and for your challenge at the end of it. That is indeed food for thought!

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Very moving post. It must have been a terrifying moment for the kids and the parents. Of course, we are all glad you are still with us!

Kiwi Nomad said...

Thank goodness your mother did what she did, flying like the wind like that and saving the three of you.

Adoro said...

Thanks, everyone.

I'm amazed at the heroism of our parents. I just wish I had all their stories becaus I know it wasn't just my brother, I, and our friend who was involved in that flood.

I have a few very clear images of it, and I do remember the sled and the boot because I was with her at the time she found it.

I don't think that she had me with her because I seem to remember someone else taking me from the toboggan, might have been another kid, and I seem to remember seeing my Mom and brother by the tree.

She wrote this long after the fact, too, mind you, so I'm sure not all of her details are so clear, either. And I can't say for certain which version is more correct.

But I do remember the water coming into the toboggan, I remember kids running back up the hill, I remember parents yelling, but thank God my mind has preserved the full image of the water coming our way. No wonder I've had nightmares.

God bless parents. Always. Abundantly.

If my Mom is canonized as a Saint, I think she may become known as the Patroness of floods and flood victims.

Warren said...

From the things you've said about her, it's obvious your mom is an amazing person.

Thank God for all our moms.


Anonymous said...

Your sharing of stories is so reminiscent of the traditional Rabbinical method of sharing the faith ... somewhat akin to the parables of Jesus but without all the metaphores ... " X is like..."

I wonder how many stories we all have inside somewhere that would point to the hand of G-d at work. We probably could stand some introspection and the making of a list. They'd be great to have 'on-call' for sharing when the moment strikes in which G-d places someone in our presence who needs to hear one of them so they can see Him. As I shared with some high-schoolers on a retreat, "I might be the only story about Jesus that someone ever hears."

Adoro said...

Thank you, Uncle Jim.

You just reminded me of a talk by Tim Gray from "Called to Lead" that I heard last summer. I actually bought the CD from the talk because I coulnd't be in more than one place at a time! He also brought up the rabbinical teachings. I also read a book once that my Mom has. She once worked as a nanny for a Jewish family in St. Paul and obtained an appreciation for their methods. Perhaps I grew up, then with Jewish influence, even though it was not obvious?

It is sometimes the smallest things the influence us the most.

I do think we all have stories which are very related to the hand of God. He is present in our lives, He is calling us to him, and by doing so, He is calling us to live and speak as examples of Him.

So often, we all fall short. I just wish we could always see and understand God's hand in our lives at the moment it is happening, but then again, if we could, we would never be able to penetrate the mystery of who He is.