Friday, July 11, 2008

Tempus Fugit, Momento Mori

Today I went to the beach with some family members. I was pretty excited about going today, since the wave forecast was high due to Hurricane Bertha being in the Atlantic. I was ready to go out and get some pretty big waves.

When we got there, we got just that, big waves. They were some of the biggest I have seen at Rehoboth Beach. After a little while, the group of us decided to go in the water. We were floating out there for a while, far enough out that we were still able to go over the big waves without a problem. But then the problem came.

We looked out and we saw a pretty massive wave, probably approaching ten feet high, cresting really early. Where I was, there was no chance that I would get over it, and the chances were slim I was going to be able to dive under it. It crashed down in front of me. The strategy I came up with was to go under the water before the wave water came over me. I dived down. I felt above me the water rushing past me. Then I felt something that I tried to avoid: the rushing water taking me and battering me around. I was gasping for air. I couldn't even find the air, so I stuck my hand out to see if I could touch the air. The first time I couldn't. The second outreach I was able to find the air, and I finally gasped for a breath.

I wiped the water from my eyes just in time to see a second wave, even bigger than before, cresting in front of me. Again, there was no chance for me to get around it. Still struggling to gain air from the previous battle, I went under again, hoping to avoid the foam of the wave. To no avail, I again went through what I went through with the first wave. This time it took a bit longer to find the air.

I again wiped the water from my eyes and gasped for air before another, a third giant wave slammed into me. This time, the sunglasses that were pretty well fitted to my face were thrown off my face, which I never did find. Again I churned, trying to grasp my breath. The saving grace with the third wave was that it literally threw me into the shelf going up to the sand, and I was able to escape. However, these three waves were the biggest waves we saw that day, and they were probably the biggest waves I have ever personally seen. When I saw the waves crashing down on me, I had the sense that they were about the same size as surf waves I often see in pictures in Hawaii. I shared that with someone after who was on the land, and they agreed.

This was probably the scariest minute or so of my life. Even breaking my femur or being an innocent bystander in the middle of a police shootout doesn't compare with this event. I have been an avid beach goer, and when I am there, I spend most of the time in the water. Reality and mortality hit me today, and I kind of wonder if I developed a little phobia to the water; I don't know.

The reason I write this post on this site was after reflecting on this scary situation I find myself in, I realize that during this entire time, I didn't cry out to God, or say a quick prayer to Mary, or even ask God for mercy. My religious sense vanished at a moment of complete desperation for help. And I am not the type of guy to forget about religion or God. I think about it every day. I pray every day. So why, at this moment of need, did I seem to completely forget the one thing that saved me out there: God?

Now, I know that there were obviously other things to think about, such as staying alive and getting air, things that are important for basic survival. But prayer is also important for basic survival. If we want to get out of life alive, then we must have faith in God for Him to raise us up after we die. My faith didn't fail me out there, but I did forget about it. This event is just a realization for me that to grow in holiness involves daily prayer and important charitable works and a whole bunch of other things. But it also involves us crying out to God when all hope seems lost, when we are hanging on by a thread, when we are ready to go under, not being sure if you were going to get another grasp of air. Holiness is really tested in these situations. Now, that being said, I know God helped me, as the third wave did throw me on the sand, where it could have sucked me out for more fun. And I would have asked for help, if I had remembered God in my moment of need.

There is an old saying that the Knights of Columbus are familiar with. It is tempus fugit, momento mori. It is Latin for "Time flies, remember death." It has been in my mind today, and so one thing I learned is in all situations, we must cry out for help, and try not to forget God in our moment of need. In the end, it isn't the near death experience that I am troubled by; I pray every day God would have mercy on me, and I pray that he would answer that prayer when I do die. I am actually more troubled by the fact that I forgot the one thing I depend on, my religion, which helps me get through everything else. But that escaped me today. I must do better to remember God in everything I do, so that in a big test, I don't forget him. This isn't something I am beating myself up over, but it is a realization that I must stay strong in prayer.

Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us.

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