What if?

“What color bathing suit was your son wearing?”

 The Sheriff’s voice on the other end of my cell phone is calm, matter of fact. He can’t see my wrinkled brow as I struggle to recall the photo I’d taken of my son four hours earlier.

He was standing ankle deep in the river wearing a red life vest and…

“Black knee-length swim trunks.”

“How much does he weigh?”

Am I really having this conversation? I’ve never dialed 911 to report a missing person, or in this case, persons. My teenage son went river rafting with my grown daughter and her boyfriend.

And now I’m standing on a tall embankment, with my husband, staring down at the river’s swift current. Thankfully, the water is shallow, but the boulders on the riverbed would have slowed their progress; made the trip challenging.

What if the raft deflated? What if someone’s injured? What if they’re stranded on a riverbank?

“I wouldn’t bother you Sheriff, but they should have been here an hour ago. And the sun is setting!”

My voice is steady, but there are high-pitched voices in my head: What if they got separated from each other? What if their raft was carried further down river?

Warm skin tingles as dusk settles over the mountains, ushering in a cool breeze. What if they have to spend the night outdoors?

“Stay by your phone,” he says. “I’m calling search and rescue.”

His words conjure horrific news reports. I tell myself, Don’t go there!

My husband and I drive a short distance along a gravel road that parallels the river. We stop, searching the horizon for signs of life.

Within minutes, my heart jumps. “A beige raft!”

“How many people?”

“I only see two.”

I wave my arms like sheets in the wind until my daughter waves back with her paddle.

“Three, I see three people!”

 My husband hurries down the dirt path to the river’s edge while I notify the Sheriff. “We found them!”

Three exhausted, dripping wet, shivering bodies walk into my eager embrace. They reassure us, “We weren’t in danger.” But relief is written on their somber faces.

A half hour later, back at camp, night is dark as coal. Tears stream down my cheeks as I praise God for protecting our children, and sparing us from the multitude of what ifs that could have happened. But didn’t.

  “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22, 23)

Author: Karen Foster

I'd like to say I've changed, but after decades of living, I still have the same four passions. My relationship with Jesus, spending time with family, attending live theater, and writing devotions & first-person stories about a loving, faithful God who reveals Himself in our every day circumstances.

13 thoughts on “What if?”

  1. Karen: I have stood in your shoes, and it’s the worst feeling. My heart aches for every single person who has a missing child. Great post, and grateful for God’s protection over our sweet babies every day.


  2. Wow, that was scary, Karen. I’m so glad it turned out well. Don’t you hate those opportunities to trust in God? One of my sons was a white water raft guide on the Yellowstone River just out of Yellowstone Park for two summers – fortunately he was five hours away so I didn’t know when he got in late! This summer he was an engineering intern – a much safer occupation except for his weekend adventures.


      1. That’s funny. I think sometimes it’s easier to trust Him in the big things because they’re so big we KNOW we can’t do them on our own – it’s those little things we like to control!


  3. Meandered here via Barb Raveling’s blog. I know we don’t know each other, but I praise God with you for His protection of your children. And we are so very blessed to have brave people ready to help us as first responders.


    1. Thank you Elaine for the feedback. I’m aware of the times I ask God “why me” when bad things happen. BUT do I realize how many times throughout the day, God spares me and my loved ones from disaster? Too often, I take God’s grace and mercy for granted.


  4. They were rafting on the Truckee River. Heading from Truckee to Reno. People raft there all the time. Had the sun NOT been setting I would have held out longer before calling 911. Thankfully, they showed up before any search efforts were made….but it made me appreciate having those resources available.


  5. Oh Karen…my heart aches as I am reminded of that fear all parents experience at some point with their children. Thanks for sharing this wonderful reminder of His never ending love and faithfulness 🙂


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