By Randy T. Rogers
“Somebody, help me!” cried the eight-year-old boy as he struggled to hold his little brother above the chilly water. On that cool, cloudy October day, while finishing a chore his mother had given him to do, the boy heard a cry coming from the deep end of the family’s partially drained swimming pool. Seeking the source of the cry, he discovered his neighbor’s three-year-old daughter floating helplessly on her back in the dirty, leaf-filled water.
The little boy raced to the shallow end of the pool, slid down a slope into the deep end, then waded through the water to the frightened girl. Picking her up, he turned to see his three-year-old brother floating ten feet away, his brother’s face buried in the murky water. The boy lifted his little brother above the water, and with the girl under one arm and his brother under the other arm, the boy struggled repeatedly to climb out of the pool. But the slope was too slippery for the boy to climb, so finally, he just stood there, waist deep in the water, for what seemed an eternity, crying over and over, “Somebody, help me! Please, somebody, help me!”
Finally, a man two houses away heard the boy’s cries. The man rushed to the pool, bounded through the shallow end and down the slope to where the boy struggled to hold the crying girl and his motionless brother above the water. One by one, the man lifted the three children out of the pool. The girl was soon gone from sight, running to the safety of her home. By then the boy’s mother had appeared and frantically tried to revive her youngest son as the boy watched helplessly nearby. A volunteer firefighter appeared and hurriedly scooped the boy’s little brother into the back of a car and rushed the lifeless child and his mother to the hospital.
An hour later, the boy’s parents came home from the hospital. They did not bring the boy’s little brother. He died that day. The boy’s father tried to hug him, but the boy pulled away and ran into a field that was behind the pool. Part of the boy died that day too.
If only I had let him play in my game earlier. He asked, but I said no. Why did I send him away? If only I had stopped what I was doing when I first saw that they had gone through the gate into the pool area. I knew they were not supposed to be in there. Why didn’t I do something then? If only I had been bigger, I could have gotten them out of the pool. It was my fault! It was my fault! These thoughts tormented the little boy until he refused to think them anymore, and for the next 21 years the boy never thought about what happened that cool, cloudy October day.
The little boy grew up. He strove to excel at whatever he did. He was always near the top of his class. Academic success along with his six-foot-seven-inch frame and skills on the basketball court paved the way for his admission into a prestigious university. Graduation from law school followed graduation from college. Along the way the boy-who-became-a-man married his high school sweetheart. Three children followed. His law career blossomed immediately.
Then it happened. Cold, gloomy clouds from that long ago October day returned. The man was depressed and could not understand why. He had difficulty working and wanted to be alone. In his mind he struggled because he knew he was not supposed to be this way. He had a loving wife. He was successful in his business. He taught Sunday school and served as an elder in his church.
“God, what has happened to me? Help me. God, please help me.” It was then that the memory of that October day returned. For 21 years he had not thought about that day. He had never told anyone about how guilty he felt about his brother’s death. He had never told anyone about what it was like, crying out for help that did not come in time for his brother. No one had ever asked.
It had been while he was lying in bed one Sunday afternoon, with the bedroom door closed and shades drawn, that the memory of that tragic day returned. He was already depressed, and recalling that terrible day did not make him feel any better. But God had heard his cry for help. Right after he remembered what happened 21 years before, his wife walked into his darkened room, and he shared with her what he had remembered. She cried the tears he could not cry. She knew immediately what he must do.
She led him in two simple prayers. “Ask God to forgive you for whatever role you played in your little brother’s death,” she said. He prayed that prayer. Whether it was his fault or not, he blamed himself. Next, she said, “Now forgive yourself and ask God to forgive you for hating yourself for all these years.” She was right. He prayed that simple prayer.
After praying these two simple prayers for forgiveness, he suddenly felt like someone had taken him back to that pool that October day. Except, as he relived the experience, when he remembered first seeing the little girl floating in the water, he was aware that there was a man standing next to him. When he waded through the water and picked her up, he was aware that there was a man standing next to him. As he relived the experience, even when he was standing in the water with the girl under one arm and his brother under the other arm, crying over and over, “Somebody, help me!” he was aware that there was a man standing next to him.
When the medics tried to revive his little brother as he lay on the ground that October day, their efforts were in vain. But as the boy-who-became-a-man relived the experience 21 years later, whereas he once stood helplessly nearby, this time he saw his little brother’s eyes open. He saw his brother get up and crawl up into the arms of the man who was now standing there. The little brother’s eyes radiated with joy as the man cradled him in his arms. Then the boy-who-became-a-man looked at the man cradling his little brother. That man was Jesus. I was the boy.
With my little brother still in his arms, Jesus then walked across the yard to an old tree about twenty feet away and turned. With a big smile on his face, my brother waved, and Jesus took him on to heaven. For the first time I could recall, I felt love. The guilt I had carried for those 21 years was finally gone. The prayers of forgiveness and God’s love had washed the guilt away.
About the Author
Randy T. Rogers is a retired judge from Ohio. During his 26 years as a judge, he was active in developing therapeutic court-directed programs for those with drug addiction and mental health disorders. He also presided over more than 3,000 adoptions and authored the book, Some Stick with You: A Heartwarming Collection of Adoption Stories. Randy and his wife, Nancy, have been married for more than fifty years, have three children, and eight grandchildren. Randy currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors and as Treasurer of the Religious Alliance Against Pornography, Inc.