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When I was 14, I won the backstroke at Bible Camp just before I drowned.

My fingers touched the dock. I heard the victory whistle. Then I was both sinking in the lake and hovering above the campers, gazing down at their wet heads and bright bathing suits. The chiseled counselors with their deep summer tans stomped around blowing their whistles. Their cheers turned to horror and empty gasps, frantic chatter, screaming, weeping.

I woke up that morning, unaware I was going to die, even though Bible Camp had prepared me for exactly this sort of thing. You don’t know when your time will come, what will you be doing? Where will you be when the Lord calls you? Will you be right with Him?

That day was like any other Bible Camp day. I ate three bowls of Apple Jacks out of a plastic container and slurped down the milk. Shot a bow & arrow. Had small group Bible study and held hands with Rhonda Mason during the closing prayer. We scrubbed our cabin during Morning Clean and camp Director Chuck came through with his white rubber glove and he gave us an extra 15 minutes before Lights Out. We played a softball game. Had another Bible study. I watched Jeremy Reed change into his swimsuit until he yelled at me and called me a name. I ate a dry ham sandwich with wilted lettuce and a bag of Ruffles for lunch. I wrote Rhonda a love letter on the back of the day’s Good News Daily.   

I never wondered what I would be thinking or doing in my final moment. I thought I had more time. But there I was in a murky lake at Bible Camp, furiously backstroking, thinking about all the small things I did that morning when something snapped inside me—like a taut rubber band breaking. I began to sink. It didn’t hurt, it just felt strange. I saw dim green sunlight beam through the water. I wasn’t scared. There was no slideshow of my life. How strange to have a body that could glide through water while people cheered. How strange for that body to suddenly quit working. I thought about nothing, really. Not Rhonda or Jeremy. Not Jesus’ blood or God’s kingdom or Hell’s eternal damnation. I heard and saw the cheering. Then the silence. Then the screaming. I heard it from below and I heard it from above. It all sounded like drowning.