Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why was my life spared?

I did it. I made it through law school! I received my diploma on 8/2/08 in a graduation ceremony in Los Angeles, CA at the Skirball Center (a Jewish College). However, I came very close to not graduating even though I had finished all the work and received acceptable grades due to an error in judgment while in the ocean at Rosarito Beach, Mexico.

But first, I need to follow up on my first blog a year ago. I did not have all the stress of Pioneer Trek and vacations this year just before my finals and guess what? I did not do as well in my classes and on my finals. This is further evidence that the Lord really did bless me last year for accepting the calling to be a youth leader for Trek. Even though I did not want to accept the calling because of school I did it with faith, believing that He would bless me for my obedience and I truly was blessed.

Even though my grades were not as high as my third year, I was able to end with a cumulative GPA of a 3.02 which put me in the Honors society. I was one of 13 to graduate with honors out of the 74 in my graduating class. My first year GPA really helped the cause because it was a 3.7. I was able to get that without even worrying about grades. I focused on learning and took most of the tests during the year without extra studying and then used the answers to help me learn the material. However, that year I read every page from every book and briefed every case. I did everything asked of me and spent tons of time studying and not much with my family. My dear wife asked me to be a better father and husband even if it meant dropping out of law school. Our compromise was that I would spend ½ the time or less the second year or I would quit. It amazes me that I was able to make it through three out of the four years of law school without opening a book! I focused more on the grade and doing what was necessary to pass the class rather than absorbing knowledge. I could have done a better job in learning and getting grades but the sacrifice of my family was not worth it.

Actually, as I look back on my undergraduate and graduate studies I guess I really didn’t open the books much then either and even worse, seldom attended classes unless it was required to pass. I found that it took twice as much effort to get a 3.9 or 4.0 than to get a 3.6 or 3.7 GPA. Since I only needed a 3.6 to keep my scholarship I did ½ the work and then spent my time starting businesses, working and getting my real estate, insurance and stock broker’s licenses.

So when my children give me a hard time for only getting a 3.0 GPA in law school because they get 3.9-4.0 I just smile, knowing I did my best under the circumstances and that I am sure pleased that they do so well in school. It saves me a lot of money in tuition and gives them the satisfaction of a job well done. As a matter of fact, the only college tuition I have ever paid was when I went to the BYU extension in SLC during the summers I was at BYU because my scholarship would not pay for classes at the extension. However, because I went to the extension every summer during my undergraduate years I was able to graduate in three years. I will never forget receiving the letter from BYU AFTER I graduated asking me if I were going to use the fourth year of my four year scholarship. I remember thinking, “let’s see, I graduated from BYU and am in my final year of MBA school at the University of Utah, no, it is not likely that I will use that fourth year of my scholarship but thanks for asking and thanks for making me pay at the BYU extension.” The small tuition I paid at the BYU extension was worth the year’s time I saved of full time school. Also, by graduating early I ended up in most of the same MBA classes with Alma Hansen which lead to him becoming my business partner 27 years ago. The hand of the Lord certainly can be seen as I look back on my life.

Now, back to the beach. All of my family except Sherrie, Lee, and Annalee attended my graduation. They could not come because of a greater cause--Sherrie was pregnant and had Lucas Edward Anderson on 7/23/08 in Houston, TX. We packed everyone else up in my new, victory red suburban and Ann’s Tahoe and drove to Rosarito, Mexico which is about 20 minutes south of San Diego and Tijuana. My World International Vacation Club (WIVC timeshare) has condos in La Paloma condo project just south of the famous Rosarito Beach Hotel on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It is beautiful because it has its own swimming pools and beach (but all beaches are public in Mexico so anyone can walk anywhere along any beach without trespassing). We have been going down there as a family since 1985. Our maid, Crisante, remembers her first year working there was 15 years ago and that Josh was a babe in arms at the time. She seems really pleased to see us each year. I must be leaving too large of a tip for her or she really appreciated the Book of Mormon we gave her one year. She mentioned that she keeps the thank you notes we have left her over the years and that she appreciates those.

We left Friday, 7/25/08 in the late afternoon and drove to Primm, NV and stayed the night at Whiskey Pete’s. We slept in, ate at their restaurant and drove to Rosarito on Saturday. We had a wonderful time in three, 2 bedroom condos. Vance, Jennie and Mylah had their own condo, Robbie, Meri, Jared and Alex had theirs and Ann, Aimee, Josh and I were in the last unit. Everyone had their privacy in a nice large condo. We were able to get wireless internet in the condos for the first time ever this year. Well, at least out on the patio most of the time. They also, now have telephones in the units so we feel like we are connected to the rest of the world which has not been the case for the past 23 years. Although the only time we used the phones was to call each other. We turned our cell phones off because it is $1.50 per minute to use them down in Mexico.

We have a tradition of going to La Fonda to eat which is on the coast between Rosarito and Ensenada. It is a great Mexican restaurant on a cliff overlooking the ocean. We usually see dolphins and surfers there in the ocean. They usually have a real Mexican band sometimes mariachi, but always entertaining. They usually have chickens walking the restaurant floors cleaning up the crumbs left by the diners but they were noticeably absent this time. We usually go from 4-6 PM on a weekday in order to get the early bird specials and we got a kick out of their sign a few years ago because they put “Early Birb Special” on it.

Ann seldom goes into the ocean even in Cancun where the water is warm but she went in this time so there was a little pressure on me to go in also and show her how a real boogie boarder does it. I usually do not go into the cold ocean of Rosarito because I am spoiled by the warm Cancun waters. However, it was warmer weather on July 30, 2008 and the water seemed warmer so I went out to have some fun and boogie board in the ocean. I was out for only a few minutes when I was watching for a wave to come in and about 10 yards away I saw a dark triangular fin moving in a straight line parallel to the waves heading north up the beach. I was in about 4 feet of water and watched silently as this fin which was a little larger than one foot high out of the water and about foot wide at the base, slowly went by. I thought about it and realized that there were no birds or dolphins in the water in that area and that it might be a shark. It appeared larger than the dolphins we had seen earlier in the week so I yelled out “shark, shark, get out of the water, take the next wave to shore.” I yelled it again and Aimee, Vance, Robbie and Josh acknowledged that they heard me so I took the next wave that came by and when the ride ended I got up in shallow water and saw that no one was out of the water yet because none of them had caught a wave. I began to frantically shout and wave and they started swimming to shore. Aimee was completely panicked and the others were a bit frightened by the prospect of a shark. Fortunately, none of them drowned in their panic to get to shore nor was anyone attacked.

Aimee said that she had seen a similar thing of the larger dark fin swimming straight in the ocean earlier in the day as she ran for an hour along the beach. Never once did it jump out of the water and the fin was not curved like the dolphins were. We looked it up on the internet when we got back and it seems more probable that it was a shark than a dolphin. However, since no one got attacked or eaten we do not know for sure. However, I am grateful that we all made it ashore safely even though that ended our fun in the water that day.

The next day on 8/1/08 we saw dolphins and birds in the area so we thought it was safe to go out again and boogie board. Earlier that day we watched some real pros surf and boogie board. They took those 10 foot waves and had a great time with them. All we were catching were the tail end of the smaller, closer-in waves which were fun because they would propel us all the way to the beach but it just wasn’t the same as what the pros were doing. The waves were about 10 feet high further out so I decided I would swim out and catch a couple and have a lot of fun just like the pros.

I walked out until the water was so deep that I had to get on my board and paddle to where the big waves were breaking further out. As I was getting close to where I had seen the waves break I was thinking about how much fun it was going to be. Then to my surprise and horror a big wave formed and it appeared that it was going to break right on top of me. I could do nothing but turn my board around and hope that it crashed behind me and sent me forward for the ride of my life. Well, I was almost right except that it what would happen next would be the ride FOR my life.

Confirming my worst fears the wave broke right on top of me and a 10 foot crashing wave hit me with such force as to knock the wind out of me. It rolled me several times underwater with more force than I had ever felt before. My borrowed boogie board was torn from my grasp and the worn safety strap on my wrist was torn from my body. I was completely disoriented, out of air and did not know which way was up. I opened my eyes and saw only sandy water all around me. I reached out with my arms and legs and there was nothing to touch but water. Being claustrophobic and out of breath I panicked and was about to take a deep breath underwater knowing that if I did so my lungs would fill with water and I would die. I thought “I have no choice, I have to take a breath because the air was knocked out of me, even if I am underwater.” Then I frantically thought, “I must swim to the surface.” I was just about to frantically swim not knowing which way was up in a last ditch attempt to get air into my lungs.

Then to my amazement, a pleasant, assuring and calm voice told me to relax and be calm. He said that I had held my breath for longer periods of time and that I should just relax. “Be calm, you will be fine, you can do it. You don’t need to swim, just relax and you will float to the surface.” I don’t know why but I trusted the voice and immediately relaxed and calmed down. I knew he was right. I became calm and relaxed and felt peace that I would make it to the surface in time for the oxygen I needed.

I reached the surface right when I could not hold my breath any longer. My lungs burned as I exhaled and gasped for the dense air just above the water. My attempt to fill my lungs with air seemed futile and I could not breathe deep enough to get the amount of air I needed. My second attempt at gasping for air was meet with a small wave coming over me resulting in me swallowing water instead of getting the air I needed. I prayed for a calm sea until I could get the air back into my lungs and was blessed with it. I had no strength left. The lack of oxygen completely depleted my strength and all I could do was to try and float and get oxygen into my deprived lungs through short, shallow gasps of air. After a minute of floating I realized the danger I was still in. What if another large breaking wave hit me again? I knew that if that happened I would not have the strength to make it through because I was in deep waters and my strength and oxygen were both depleted. My life was still in danger and I needed to do something quickly to get out of danger.

I looked up hoping to find my boogie board because I did not know how much longer I could even float in my weakened state. Surprisingly it was only 10 feet away. I told myself that I had to get to it or suffer death. I asked the Lord for the strength to get to it and for a calm sea until I did. Fortunately, it was not pushed away with the motion of the gentle waves and I was able to reach it and pull myself up on it before my strength completely gave out. It was upside down but I didn’t care because I was floating and safe for the moment. After resting for several minutes on it, Vance yelled out to see if I was OK. I assured him that I was and after regaining my breath and some strength I slowly paddled to where I could finish walking to the beach.

I do not know whose voice I heard underwater that day but if I had started swimming I likely would not have gone toward the surface and I would have run out of air and died. Had the voice had not calmed me down I would have continued panicking and I would have taken a breath under water which was sure death.

I have never lacked air to the point that I did that day and have never had my lungs burn as they did. I know that I wanted that breathe of air more than anything else. It reminded me of Socrates and the young man who wanted to be his student so Socrates took him out in the ocean and held him underwater until he was almost dead from lack of air and then let him up and told him that when he wanted to learn as much as he wanted that breathe of air to come back and see him.

I will never know how long I held my breath that fateful day but I know that I have never held it that long before and hope to never be in that predicament again. That was the end of boogie boarding for me for a long time.

The question that remains unanswered is why was my life spared when others in similar circumstances have died? Who was the voice that knew me intimately and had the power to calm me when I was extremely panicked?


coolhandluke said...

That's quite the experience! Thank you for sharing it. The Lord definitely was watching over you. It's also quite impressive that you did so well in law school while working full time and taking care of a family (including visiting us a few times). We appreciate your good example and love.

sherrie bebe said...

Apparently you still have work to do here on earth. Now you just have to figure out what it is! We sure are glad you're still around for a while longer. We (Lee & I and the kids) are sad we missed out on such a fun vacation as well as your graduation. We are super proud and amazed at your accomplishments.

Besafe said...

You are blessed. I have been asking myself for 19 months "why wasn't Nolan's life spared?" Nolan died tragically in Cancun last year. He drowned in 4 1/2 feet of water in the hotel swimming pool in the middle of the afternoon. Read Nolan's story and many other stories about people that were not as blessed as you. Visit: WWW.MEXICOVACATIONAWARENESS.COM