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  • When i was 9, my babysitter stole a row boat and took us for a jaunt.Who knows what she was thinking? The water was cold, the sky was grey, and the wind came up. When she couldn't get the boat back across the lake, she decided that swimming back was the best option, and over we went. Within moments, I was going under. Heavy clothes, cold water, and fear sucked me down. Looking up, I saw a lovely circle of light, and an angel flying down, to get me. I was not a religious child, but firmly believed in Fairies, angles, and ghosts, irreverently classing those creatures together.

    Let me back up. It was the late 1970's, and the lake we were on was in a very segregated part of Northern Michigan. White people as far as they eye could see. No signs of laws kept out Black folks, just fear and discomfort and custom. In fact, at the age of nine, I had never spoken to a Black person, unless they worked at a store we went to.Many Black people never learned to swim at all. This made the angel even more notable, because he was a Black man. A Black man wearing overalls, and with a giant mound of puffy hair, that my one hand gripped, as the other hand gripped the overall strap.

    Much to my surprise, when we broke the surface of the water, we did not continue upward to see Jesus. He swam to shore, one of his arms, shiny in the water, wrapped around my back, me facing him, holding his hair and clothes in mute surprise. He took me to the shore, spoke softly to me, sharply to the older girl, and was gone. Many adults came, who saw him quietly walk off, wondering who he was but not asking. And there was my mother, shaking me, crying, screaming. I slept for a long time that afternoon, and I never saw my angel again.

    Now that I struggle in the valley of the shadow of depression, I wonder what this all means. Was I meant to die, and that is why things can be so difficult? Or was I meant to live, and that is why things can be so difficult? Or like all of life, was is just chance?
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