A Story...

...told by my dad, published in my Grandmother's book 'Confessions of an ex-Jehovah's Witness':

We stood on the slick, brown path at the top of the cliff, shivering, dripping wet, not really conscious of what had just happened. "Am I in trouble?" Toni asked. I choked down the lump in my throat, smiled and answered, "No, honey." She was silent for a few moments, no small accomplishment for a chatty 7-year-old. "Well" she said finally, "I guess God just didn't want me dead yet." All emotions broke loose. I knelt down in the mucky path and held my precious daughter in my arms, tears shamelessly falling down my cheeks. Other hikers may have passed us by. I do not recall. All I could think of was what might have happened, could have happened to Toni. And me.


It was a beautiful May afternoon in the Pacific Northwest. The rain was much warmer than normal for this time of year.

I had carefully chosen an ambitious outing for myself and my three kids: Tyler, my oldest, was all boy at 11. Cali, my youngest was 6 years old, had a wanderlust; I'd have to keep a close eye on her. And Toni. "Little Miss Socialite," my wife called her. She had a God-given gift of leadership that did not need teaching but did need mentoring.

The outing I had chosen for that Saturday afternoon was a hike I'd found in a trail guide for children. It appeared to be a relatively easy hike in the foothills of Snoqualmie Pass. The guide showed a beautiful waterfall on the trail, plus a natural waterslide. It was unlikely that we would be able to enjoy the waterslide because the spring runoff would be fierce.

The rain drizzled steadily over us, but the thick pine canopy reduced the rain to a faint mist. Happily, we marched in a single file up the trail to the first top, a 50-foot drop called Franklin's Falls. The scene was breathtaking and the kids loved it.

The thick, foggy mist made our hair and face wet and cold, but the kids didn't seem to mind. We lingered for awhile as the falls poured thousands of gallons into Denny Creek, making the smooth rocks at the base of the falls waxy and unsure. Then, we returned to the trail.

Again, we formed a single file as the path wove up and away from the river into the dense forest, and back along the canyon's edge some 30 to 40 feet above the creek. Occasionally, we would wander away from the path and look over the edge of the cliff, admiring God's handiwork, stopping once to eat a quick lunch. I encouraged the kids to explore safely, within eyesight and earshot of myself or one of the other kids. These were smart kids, eager to wander but conscious of their surroundings and potential for danger.

Off to the right we could hear the thunder of another waterfall. This one was not on the map. We left the trail to find it.

There it was, smaller than Franklin Falls, but no less beautiful. It fell at least 40 feet straight into a steeply declining chute of rapids. I could see now why the guide said we would not be able to delight in the waterslide; the river was angry here, rushing by at a speed I could not calculate. I stood in awe of the raw power being generated. The sound was nearly deafening, and I did not notice that my three children were climbing down for a closer look, with Toni, the natural leader, in front.

I started down after them, being mindful of the glassy smooth rocks that were thinly covered by new green moss.

"Watch your step," I yelled over the din of the falls. "Those rocks are really slippery!"

Toni nodded. Tyler waved, but Cali held back a little and let me pass so that I could help her down.

As I reached back to help Cali down a small ridge, I heard a scream.

I whipped my head around just in time to see Toni falling headfirst over the cliff's horizon.

Strangely, I was not afraid, was not panicked. I felt a profound sense of urgency and concern, of course, but never fear.

"Stay put," I told the other two. I quickly made my way to the cliff's edge. I listened intently for a response to my calls and finally heard the sweetest sound I shall ever hear: "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!"

Somehow, she had managed to miss the massive rocks jutting from the face of the cliff, missed the huge log that lay placidly across the boiling river, and miraculously, missed the wrathful current itself.

"I'm coming, baby. Daddy's coming," I called back. The closer I got to the steeply sloping cliff's edge, the less footing I found. Suddenly, my feet slipped on the mossy rock. The sky became the ground the ground became the sky; pain began to stab at my back, my leg, my arm as I tumbled helplessly down the cliff, bouncing off boulders and the huge pin log before becoming instantly, briefly airborne, and finally splashing in the the freezing water. I came up immediately, gasping and ready to fight the fierce current.

Incredibly, the current charged past behind me, a scant two or three feet away. I stood now in approximately five feet of slow-moving, almost still, water where the cliff face made a sharp inward V-cut into the mountain. To the right and left of the V-cut the icy water rushed madly by, oblivious of the sanctuary where I landed.

Toni was clinging to a small flat rock at the base of the cliff. She looked so tiny and courageous there as she silently struggled to grip the smoothed edges of stone with her small, frosty fingers.

"Daddy's here, Daddy's here," I panted. "I gotcha, baby."

I wadded over, the water still up to my chest at the base of the cliff. I pushed Toni up and out of the water and onto a small lip. From there we slowly made our way up the face of the cliff, crawling, grabbing crevices, shoving our knees hard against the stone, and dragging ourselves upward, our clothes still weighty and hanging with the drenching from the river below.

I briefly looked up. I saw my son, whom I'd completely forgotten about, leaning precariously down with a small strap he'd taken off the water bottle.

"Get back!" I barked. "We're OK. Go back up." Somewhere far above us, Cali was safely embracing a huge tree.

We continued our struggle up the cliff, finally emerging at the ridge where we began our trek.

Later at home, we examined our wounds. Toni had somehow managed to escape with only a small scratch on her leg. She had fallen approximately 20 feet, head first. I had bruises on my back, legs, arm and side, plus a very painful sprained left wrist. I had fallen closer to 30 feet.

That night when we said our prayer, we took our time.

Since that day, God has reminded me of the incident and the significance of many aspects of that trip. Such as how we as human beings are so easily lured by the things of this world when we stray from the path that God has chosen for us, and how easy we can fall because of our weaknesses. But he also reminded me that when we do fall, we can still call out for Him because we have a relationship with Him; He is, after all, our Father. And when we call out to Him, He is swift and sure to come.

(A time after my dad was haunted with the details of this traumatic day he woke up in the middle of the night and wrote this song)


The path is narrow, the cliff is steep
I try to focus, but sometimes I fall deep
And no earthly man can save me from my fall
There is only One Who hears my call

I'm cold and weary, my strength is gone
I'm bound to stumble; how long can I go on?
And just when I'm about to give it in
He gives me the hope to try again

I cry out, Oh Father, and He comes to me
I reach out to Him, and He takes my hand
And like a frightened child I'm clinging to the Rock of my salvation
until He comes

He comes for me


I ran across this book today while looking for something in our book shelf. I forgot that this experience was published. And until reading the book several years ago, didn't know that my dad immortalized this memory on paper. I'm moved by Grace and am driven by His plan. He's not finished with me yet.

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