This is not my story, but I will tell it as best as I can…
He spent the day at the reservoir with his two young daughters, swimming back and forth from the beach to the big rock that sprung up from the water far from the shore. His eldest daughter was a strong swimmer and loved making the challenging swim with her father. The younger daughter was a bit more timid and stayed behind on these adventures.
Near the end of the day the youngest daughter finally decided she wanted to join in and told her father that she wanted to swim to the big rock with him. The waters were calm as they approached the big rock and the young daughter was filled with excitement at her accomplishment. “OK, let’s go back now,” she said to her father. But her father, having made this voyage several times that day, realized that he was extremely tired. “No,” he said, “I need to rest for a while.”
As they rested on the big rock, the weather suddenly turned. The sky became grey and the water churned up choppy waves. Knowing that he was tired, but also knowing that he wanted to get his daughter to safety, the father took a deep breath, put his daughter on his back and started swimming towards the shore.
After a while he started becoming exhausted. “If I don’t panic and I float on my back, I won’t drown,” he thought to himself. But then immediately he realized that he had something most precious on his back. The exhaustion continued to settle in and he knew that if he didn’t do something, he was going to drown them both. In that instant of realization, he grabbed his daughter and threw her off his back. “SWIM,” he told her.
She started swimming, all the while fighting the choppy water. “Float on your back if you need to!” he yelled to her. “No, I’m OK,” she said and she kept swimming as her father fell more and more behind. Then, all of a sudden, he was under water. The water beneath the surface was calm, quiet and he could feel his body sinking. “Am I dreaming?” he thought to himself. His body sank further.
Who knows how long he was under water. It might have been a minute, or only a few seconds. But as he sank, something happened. He heard a voice- maybe the voice was in his head, or maybe it was from somewhere else. “You’re not dreaming,” the voice said. Those words sent a burst of adrenaline throughout his body. His muscles came back to life and he clawed his body upward. When his head finally rose above the surface he could see his daughter swimming ahead of him. He rolled on his back and swam like that for a while so he could breathe.
Eventually they both made it to the shore, exhausted and relieved…
* * *
I keep thinking about that story. Keep thinking about the moment when he threw his daughter off his back. He knew he would drown them both if he tried to hold her up. But how, on the other hand, could he let her go? How could he release this precious gift that was literally holding him down? “SWIM,” he said.
I have learned so much from that word. It reminds me of the sanskrit word svaha meaning “let it go.” It is so easy to hang on to things that are precious to us. We love them and we want to hold them forever. But there are also times when, even in the space of deepest love, we have to release them so that we both don’t drown…