I was a volunteer lifeguard for three years. It was at times a boring job, because most people at the pool either knew how to swim, or were with people who did. I consider myself lucky there. I met some good people during those years.
My first couple months were awkward, because I was still getting to know how things were done. One guy made me feel at ease. His name was Isaac. I grew to really enjoy seeing him, because he could always make me feel better if I had a rough day.
He was also the first to allow me to teach part of a swim lesson class by myself. There was little choice around that. I was his assistant for half an hour two times a week. We had six children in our class. Three girls were at a higher level than the three boys. After asking a couple questions, he realized I had been swimming for years and decided I could teach some basics to the boys. We had a lane to ourselves. He took the three girls to the deeper end and was teaching them diving techniques while I did more basic stuff, such as elementary backstroke, regular backstroke, and more. The faith he put in me has stayed with me ever since. He hardly knew me and still decided I could help him teach two different levels to our students.
After the summer was up, he left to pursue his goal to become a police officer. He would still act as a substitute if someone called in, so I saw him once after he left. When he was sitting above the pool, he would throw a nickel into the pool and I would dive after it. One time, I could not figure out where it went and had to eventually surface for air. He told me simply, “It turned blue.” The center of each lane was marked by blue tiles. It did not take me long to find the nickel after that, though I am still surprised he could see it.
I hoped to see him again, but it was not meant to be. Isaac went scuba diving with a friend one afternoon and never resurfaced. His friend realized he was having trouble with his equipment and tried to help. When it became clear he could not do it alone, he rushed to the surface for help. The friend was hospitalized after such a quick ascent. But it was too late for Isaac.
It was my first real experience with death. I had some distant family members die over the years, but I hardly knew them, and never attended their funerals. For some reason, my parents did not want the three kids at the different funerals. Isaac’s memorial service a week after the accident was the closest thing to a funeral I had experienced.
It was a freezing cold, wet, and windy October day. We were on the beach near the area where he died. Trains passed by much slower than normal out of respect to those who gathered. My dad and brother waited in the car during the service. Though some refreshments were offered, I could not bring myself to partake in anything other than hot chocolate, and that was only in hopes of warming my hands.
Isaac died thirteen years ago this past Monday. I still think of him frequently. I did not know him very long, but he left a lasting impression on me. His kindness to everyone around him just made him stand out among a lot of people I knew at that time. I can only imagine the good he would have done if he were still alive. To say I miss him is a big understatement.