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Informed Consent


Like most children, Jeremy Cramer thought his father would never die. Some nights when Jeremy had trouble forcing his ten-year-old eyes to sleep, his mind drifted to what he’d do if anything ever happened to his parents. But he relegated such thoughts to the world of disbelief—the same world he entered when his dad read The Runaway Bunny to him. His parents could no more die than rabbits could talk.

To conceive of his parents’ passing was rare enough. But that his father would die the way he did had never entered Jeremy’s imagination, rich as it was. He allowed passing thoughts of motorcycle accidents and biking mishaps and even falls off the side of mountains during ski runs. But never what actually happened.

Every morning except Sunday, Jeremy’s father, Randall, roused his son at 5 A.M. Then Randall pulled swim trunks over muscular legs, sipped black coffee by the pool as he read the paper, and waited for Jeremy to finish his oatmeal. On a hook beside the water hung a stopwatch, a whistle, and a towel. A clipboard lay on an ironwork table at the pool’s edge. It contained each day’s times recorded in green ink with the shortest circled in black. Flipping back through the records of the past two months alone, anyone could see Randall had good reason to believe in Jeremy’s potential. Randall’s blond hair and physique seemed godlike to Jeremy compared to his own scrawny, dark body. Never mind that Jeremy’s mother said he had enchanting eyes that would someday break hearts. Girls didn’t interest him; he just wanted the build of an athlete. He worked to increase his muscles and endurance, but speed came naturally. He could slice through the water like sharpened cutlery.

From what Jeremy’s fifth-grade teacher taught him about family trees, he knew he inherited most of his physical features from his mother, who was Indian, and few from his American father. But the invisible parts—Jeremy’s drive, his speed, his style in the water—these came undiluted from his dad.

Randall pressed hard, but he praised generously, and that combination motivated Jeremy. He pushed himself to earn a black circle, ever striving to beat the previous day’s speed. He usually accomplished what he set out to do, driven by his father’s smile and the word Jeremy loved to hear him emphasize—that’s my boy!

But this day differed from the usual routine because it was Sunday. Sundays in the Cramer household were for sleeping in and eating pancakes. Jeremy glanced at his digital clock, congratulated himself for slumbering through the equivalent of twenty laps, and dozed off again.

When the blaze shining through the window hurt his eyes and the aroma coming from the kitchen overpowered him, he obeyed the rumbling in his stomach and padded off to join his family. He found his mother bent over the stove, his father reading the Denver Post, and his little sister, Gloria, drowning her pancakes in blueberry syrup. As she sawed her cakes into sloppy squares, she sang an alphabet song learned from endless loopings of her pre-school video. “You left out ‘v,’” Jeremy corrected. He reached for the plate of hotcakes on the table, but he stopped when he noticed his father’s attire. Though his mother stood wrapped in her usual satin robe, his dad had on swim trunks. And deck shoes. Normally on Sundays everybody lounged until noon in their pajamas.

“Up for a rafting trip?” His father winked at him.

“Yes!” Jeremy glanced over at his sister and tempered his joy. “The whole family?”

“Just us. Your mom’s taking Gloria to a movie this afternoon.”

That was fine with Jeremy. He would have more fun without Gloria whining about getting wet.

“I reserved a place in the noon group. I wanted us to make the first run of the season,” his dad told him. “It’ll take about two hours to get there, and we’ll need some time to gear up. We leave in thirty minutes.”

His dad was always early. And even though Jeremy knew they had plenty of time, he shoveled and gulped the rest of his food, and tore off to get ready. He’d waited all spring for this—school was finally out, and it was warm enough. The only thing better than the pool was the river.

Jeremy had vivid memories of the conversation at breakfast that morning. And an uneventful drive to the Arkansas River. But after that it got foggy.

Jeremy didn’t recall putting on a life preserver, but the photos produced later left no doubt that everyone suited up in proper gear. Apparently the guide gave plenty of instructions—two witnesses testified to that. Jeremy remembered only that the water splashed up and numbed his hands as he pulled his oar through the water . Had he turned around to complain and distracted his father? He was supposed to paddle hard to move the boat away from the rocks. Had he shirked his responsibility because he was too cold? He wasn’t sure. But the icy feeling in his fingers had been minor compared to the shock of having his entire body cast into the roaring waves. He felt his father grasping his arm, but shortly after that the gripping sensation ceased. A wave pushed Jeremy under, but he resurfaced to float in the sea of frigid motion. Then he watched horrorstruck as he saw the back of his father’s head bobbing down the rapids. After that, Jeremy lost consciousness.

A few days later when the hospital released Jeremy, his mother and Gloria accompanied him on the eternal two-hour drive home. He learned later what the police report said—that the boat hit the rapids at the wrong angle and capsized. Of the six people on board, Jeremy and another child survived, but the four adults—including the guide—died. Without the help of some photographers downriver, none of them would have made it.

Jeremy was submerged for longer than his father in the bitter cold, yet he survived. And though his dad was a strong man and a great swimmer, he died. His head hit a rock, and they thought the impact killed him. But then the autopsy revealed a reality more horrible to Jeremy than his worst fear. The blow wasn’t fatal. His father drowned.

Informed Consent
by by Sandra Glahn

  • Genres: Christian
  • paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: David C. Cook
  • ISBN-10: 1589191099
  • ISBN-13: 9781589191099