When planning a vacation to Hawaii, one usually envisions relaxing in a hammock, scuba-diving, or searching for seashells. Rarely does one imagine experiencing a dramatic, life-changing event. But when my family took a vacation to Hawaii, that was exactly what we experienced.
About three years ago, my mother turned forty. My parents, my brother (then age eleven), and I (age fourteen) celebrated on the main island of Hawaii on the Kona Coast. I still recall the white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and abundant wildlife.
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We stayed at an ocean-front hotel, the Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort in Kailua-Kona (http://www.outrigger.com/). We often journeyed out to explore other parts of the main island, such as national parks (www.nps.gov/havo/) and other cities like Hilo.
But, although these memories are still clearly preserved, the event that stands out most in my mind took place on a small beach right off the interstate. It was a seemingly harmless beach, beautifully preserved and relatively uninhabited by tourists. We pulled over after a long drive to relax in the sand. My brother Jackson and I immediately ran out into the water even as it became choppy and the waves grew larger. After a while, I made it out of the water to where my parents were sitting. I heard a loud scream, the type that made the hair on the back of my neck curl. I looked out towards the water, trying to find the person capable of producing such a bloodcurdling scream. It was Jackson.
The waves were overtaking him and dragging him under; he could barely get above water to scream. My parents tried to get to him but couldn’t. They beckoned to the lifeguards, yelling that their son was drowning , but they couldn’t reach him either. I thought that this was the end. Jackson was going to die. I would never again be able to tease him, to ruffle his hair, to laugh with him about the silly jokes that only we understood. I watched as the waves tried to squeeze the life out of him and claim an innocent soul.
Then, like a dream, two men on surfboards made their way over to Jackson. As I watched his small head bob under the water, the men put him on their surfboards and swam him back to shore. My parents and I ran to him and hugged him tightly, thanking God that he was back safely with us.
I learned a few valuable lessons from that event. My brother very easily could have died that day, showing me how fragile life really is and how easily it could be taken away. I am reminded that we only have a short time to accomplish our goals here on earth and that I should live life to the fullest because I could die any second. If it hadn’t been for those two men, Jackson would not be with us now. Those angels in disguise, although I never talked to them, have changed my life drastically. Most importantly, I have learned to love my brother and the rest of my family unconditionally because I don’t know when their last days on earth will be and I want the last thing I say to them to be loving, not hateful and rude.
While our trip didn’t go exactly as planned, it was still a remarkable experience. I believe that trip changed who I am and helped me mature into a better person. It was a difficult event for us to go through, but I’m thankful I had the opportunity to learn these lessons before it’s too late.