I am drowning!

by Jay Fadden


"I am drowning!"

It was a hot August day in 1971 on Cape Cod when an event took place in my life that I still remember vividly today. I was 8 years old and I remember a whirlwind of activity. As I look back, I am not sure how my mother handled me and my four sisters who included a new born—my sister Sheila. Every day, we would head for the lake along with hundreds of other people who we considered friends. There was a real community feeling in those days, and parents would sit together on the edge of the water as the kids splashed around and played in the lake. I have such fond memories of the people and the events of those Cape Cod summers.

This particular day was like most others. It was hot, and we had packed our bags with lunches, towels, beach toys, and sunscreen. Putting on the sunscreen was always a major event and I never enjoyed it because it took too much time. Together as a family we would march down to the beach carrying along chairs and floats. It was a glorious parade filled with laughs and conversation! Every day was an adventure, and today would top them all for me—but it wouldn’t be fun.

As we reached the beach, we quickly set up the chairs and the kids all started running around to gather the beach items to plunge into the water. From experience we knew that with the extremely hot temperatures the water would feel even colder, so it was best just to jump in and experience the quick shock to the system that would pass in about 5 seconds. My mom set up her chair in the usual spot at the edge of the water with her friends while holding my baby sister and watching Katie, who was four at the time, playing with sand buckets in about 4 inches of water.

Maura and Colleen, my older sisters, were good swimmers and had already begun to swim to the raft that was outside my abilities to reach. The raft was for the older more experienced swimmers. The older kids would swim to the raft and then spend the next two hours throwing each other off of it. I longed for the day I could swim to the raft and be thrown off because that would mean I was one of the “big” kids.” But I was not a good enough swimmer, so I just splashed and jumped around with the strict instructions from my mother not to go over my head. I did this by myself and loved it.

In those days I was a risk taker. Yup—I liked to push the envelope, so I would wade into the water right up to my chin while standing on my tippy toes. I was a rebel and proud of it! To be on my toes was quite the balancing act—pressing against the sandy floor while the water rippled at my chin. I was good at it, except on this day I lost my balance. As I started to sway I tried to step forward towards the beach but I fell back and was now over my head and no one saw me. I panicked! I began to jump up and down gasping for air every time my head would peak above the water.

When my head got above the water I could see my mother on the shore, but with all the other kids splashing around and the noise, no one heard or noticed me. They thought I was playing. I was alone and I was in dire trouble. I can remember the helpless and desperate feeling as time seemed to slow down. My arms flailed, sending water everywhere. Still, no one noticed because all the kids were splashing around.

I was scared and I did not know what to do. Seconds seemed like hours. My legs were getting weaker and began to shake. In my last attempt I planted my feet firmly on the sandy floor and pushed forward, sending body back towards the beach. I moved just enough so that my head was just above the water as I stood on my toes—once again balancing, but not so confident now. I edged forward with great effort as my legs shook until I could stand flat footed with my head above the water. My breath was heavy and I coughed from the water I had swallowed. I made my way onto the beach and collapsed on my towel as my chest heaved and I looked at the sky. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I was alive and safe again.

Today as I reflect on the day, I am reminded that if I had not panicked, I could have simply gone under water and pushed towards the shore. But I was so excited that I reacted poorly. I was surrounded by people who loved me, yet I was all alone and struggling and no one noticed. They certainly cared for me but they just did not see me among all the others. They did not know what I was experiencing or the danger I was in at that moment. They did not experience what I was going through or understand what I was feeling.

In life we can all face that “drowning” moment—a time when we feel isolated and alone even though we are loved. We can feel as if no one notices us or our struggles. But we are never alone when we allow God in our life. He notices us. He walks beside us and understands our challenges. He is our lifeguard! He can save us!

In all things love is the answer. It is the cure to all predicaments, but it can be elusive. In my next blog I am going to write on love. I am not sure I can truly define it but I think it needs to be discussed more and practiced by all. Thanks for reading my blog and have a great day. As always, I look forward to your comments.

Your Friend, Jay.


I am drowning!