[ Miracles ]

Angel Wings on the Water

The last day I spent with my cousin Mark was during the summer of 1992. We were on his boat, sturgeon fishing on the Columbia River in Washington state. It was one of the few times in our adult lives that we were alone together. We had a blast!

Mark loved his boat and his wife, Lisa, was more than happy to have me accompany him so she didn’t have to. I’m not a big fan of fishing, but I had more fun during that little trip than in a long time. We caught a few fish, but none big enough to keep. We talked and kicked back, laughed and joked. I brought my video camera along since Mark had promised to show me waterfalls and teach me how to pronounce "Oregon" correctly. I'm so glad that I had the camera, but even without it I could never forget that marvelous day.

Mark was born in February of 1958 and I came along seven months later. Growing up, he never let me forget who was older. After his 30th birthday, I never let him forget who was younger!

Every summer, during our teenage years, I was allowed to spend a month at his family's house up in Camas, Washington, overlooking the Columbia River with a beautiful city-light view of Portland, Oregon at night.

Mark was the third child of nine, seven boys and two girls. That house was always full of life, total chaos! My family was big, too. I was the oldest, the only girl with four younger brothers. We had other cousins as well, but like Mark’s family, they all lived in Washington. As my family lived in California, going up to Washington was a dream that I lived for all year.

Mark was the perfect cousin, handsome with light, bright blue eyes and hysterically funny, with lots of friends to hang out with. I was in heaven when we spent time together. As we grew into our twenties, got jobs and apartments, my trips to Washington were a frequent, inexpensive getaway and guaranteed good time with lots of laughs. Mark was going to school, and working hard setting up his own computer consulting business. Yet he still always made time to hang out with me -- even if it was just to yuck it up.

But, as happens in life, we both grew into our thirties with more responsibilities and less time to have the fun we used to. I was transferred to Phoenix and only managed to get up to Washington about once a year.

Mark had a daughter, Megan, with a girlfriend (whom he never married) and started to settle down. Megan’s mother had other children by other men and moved on with her life, but Mark was a good Dad to Megan, had joint custody of her and loved her with all of his heart. Eventually, Mark met and married Lisa and together they had a little girl, named Angela, who was their little Angel from heaven.

In February of 1993, I found out that my husband and I were going to be parents ourselves and I called Mark and Lisa to tell them the good news. They were very happy for me and Mark told me to have a girl. "Girls," he said, "are better kids than boys. I should know, eh?”

"Hey," I laughed back at him. "You don’t have the market on brothers, ya know, you only have three more than I do."

"Yeah, but I was a boy, Joanie. Trust me, you want girls."

That was the last time I talked to him.

On April 15th, 1993, Mark took the day off from his business. He had promised to take six-year-old Megan fishing and figured tax day was as good as any to take a break from his daily grind.

The day started out fine. Mark put Megan's life jacket on, but as usual, disregarded his.

Not long after launching, Mark used the "catwalk" to go from one end of the cabin cruiser to the other. Somehow, he slipped and fell into the Columbia River. The water in April is extremely cold and there are huge logs floating just underneath the surface.

He surfaced for a moment and yelled to Megan to stay where she was. She didn't. She jumped in after him. The boat, motor running, proceeded to go down the river unmanned.

Megan could not see her Daddy. She was crying and cold and floundering. She thought she saw her Daddy's head bobbing on the river, far away. It went under the water.

"Don't worry," she heard a voice say. The voice was not her Daddy's. "You'll be okay; don't cry!"

Megan felt arms lift her up and carry her across the water to a buoy quite a distance away. "Hold on to the buoy," the voice told her. "Don't let go. Someone will come and get you." Megan held on as tight as she could.

Some time later, two fishermen spotted Megan. They had passed an unmanned boat going in circles down the river and had phoned the authorities. Suspicious, they continued up the river and were amazed to find a small child clinging for life to the big red buoy.

"How did you get here?" they asked, as they gently pulled Megan off the buoy and wrapped her in blankets.

"The angels," she said, simply. "The angels told me to hold on and someone would come and get me."

Megan was brought to the hospital and found to be suffering from slight hypothermia. Besides being obviously traumatized, she was otherwise okay.

They said her survival was a miracle.

Despite a huge search effort by Search and Rescue, Mark's body was not located until May 9, 1993 -- three weeks after he had fallen off the boat.

Megan's tale was marveled over by the family, although some felt that Mark himself must have pushed her to that buoy. But Megan kept insisting that her Daddy was too far away from her, so the angels had taken care of her.

I don't doubt it for a minute.

The police investigation determined the approximate location that Mark fell off the boat and the length of time between the accident and Megan's rescue. They told the family that there was no way that Megan could have had the physical strength to swim to that buoy based on her size, the water currents, temperature and floating debris. Additionally, it would have been extremely difficult for a little girl to drag her wet body, with life preserver, up onto the part of the buoy she was holding tightly.

Mark was an excellent swimmer, but the theory is that a log may have drug him under the surface and he was unable to extract himself from it. No one will ever really know for sure. He was 35 years old.

My daughter, Skye, was born on October 10, 1993. She has light, bright blue eyes. I like to think that they look rather like her guardian angel’s.

Joanie K.-B.

Mesa, AZ