With age, you start thinking. Becoming more introspective, I suppose. You have a life’s worth of experience and events, good and bad. Much more so than in your teens or twenties, you start looking over the decisions and the choices you’ve made, and wondering what you could or should have done differently.
Or if you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.
Because, sometimes, you’re exactly where you don’t want to be.
This was all too clear to me yesterday. On what was seemingly a beautiful summer day at the lake, was also somebody’s last day here on this earth. I was there when it happened.
I don’t want to be insensitive to the tragedy that took place yesterday, but something like that impacts you. It makes you double-check your priorities and want to right the wrongs in your life.
A young man went swimming in the lake with his friends, and only 20 feet from shore or so, took his last breath. Almost as quickly as he vanished underwater, more than a dozen people dove into the murky water to find him. In less than a minute he was pulled from the water, and a 45 minute attempt was made to save his life. That he was so young, so healthy, so close to shore, and only underwater such a short short time is incredibly sobering.
When I was 13, my next door neighbor, the 16 year old prom king at my soon-to-be high school, drowned in a boating accident. He too, was on a lake, and vanished along with three of his friends. He was a smart, strong, athletic football, baseball, and basketball player; the whole world lay wide open before him. He was the right kind of brains and brawn that is quintessentially All-American. Yet he just took a breath that wasn’t oxygen and silently disappeared from this world.
For years – and even still on occasion, especially last night – I had visions of taking gulping breaths for air and only feeling a crushing weight of water instead. Sometimes almost palpably. In dreams I saw my neighbor’s face, contorted with terror, trying to stay above the water. Living in Florida when my children were young, I was never really comfortable when they were in the water. Even after they demonstrated they could swim well, lurking in the back of my mind was that even good swimmers sometimes can’t swim at all. I kept seeing my neighbor’s disappearing face in the faces of my children.
So yesterday, when I saw firsthand that drowning isn’t the thrashing about that we’ve all seen in movies, but more of a just… enveloping of the body by a body of water, I was shaken on more than just one level. That yesterday the young man went underwater while he was surrounded by people… I still can’t wrap my head around it. And even more so, that it took seconds to take one last breath… literally, the blink of an eye.
Life is so fragile. As I later told my oldest, my 22 year old son, I’m sure it never entered that 22 year old’s mind when he stepped into the water that he wouldn’t come out of it alive. Not many of us have the foreknowledge that the next moment will be our last.
In what can only be described as a day of clarity that the thread we call life is ever so delicate, I wanted to tell people to recognize that life can turn on a dime. Without going into details on my Facebook page, I implored my friends and family to tell the ones they love that they love them. Right now. And not to wait. Because love is the only thing in this world that matters that you can take with you when you’re gone.
I took my own advice and hugged my husband and daughter and told them I love them. I called my two sons, one a lifeguard (!) at a Boy Scout camp for the summer, and the other living and working in the city where he went to college. I told them I love them, and while I know I haven’t been a perfect parent, and have made more than my share of mistakes, nothing will ever change the fact that they are the only things in this world that are of any consequence to my existence here.
If it hasn’t been apparent to you, I am a Christian. I call Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. And I believe in the very depths of my soul that when I die I will spend an eternity in Heaven. I was raised in a Christian home, but I can’t say that I always lived as a Christian. And right now, my eldest is pretty much following that same path. Maybe even veering onto that path a little faster and farther than I did. So beyond telling this son that I love him, I wanted to have that conversation with my son about his faith or lack thereof.
Having that conversation is something I’ve known I needed to do for a long time. But I don’t like confrontation and discord, and he can be one pretty defiant person at times, so I’ve hedged my way around it for a while. Still… for my own peace of mind, the discussion needed to be had.
He told me what I expected – that he’s not really following the faith that we tried to impart to him – but surprisingly he was open to listening to what I had to say, and didn’t shut down the communication at all. In fact, he told me that he appreciated and respected the fact that I prayed for him and wasn’t willing to give up on him coming back to Christianity.
Of course, being a “Hallmark commercial” crier, I pretty much wept my way through everything said. But he knows this about me, and can comprehend that being a parent means tears come with the territory. In fact, I think – I hope! – that the fact that I was so moved means he truly does understand the repercussions of him being with me in Heaven.
Regardless, I sowed the seed. I gave him something to think about. I told him that I never wanted him to be someplace where he didn’t want to be and not know where to turn. I told him that I’ve seen first hand that life can end, and sometimes you don’t have the wherewithal and strength to cry out to God to save you. I told him I didn’t want him to ever be in that situation. I told him that I will never ever stop praying for him and loving him.
I listened to what he said, so we can continue this conversation. He told me that I shouldn’t stop praying for him, and he thanked me for loving him that much. He told me that he loved me too.
And even though life can cease in the blink of an eye, that was good enough for me right then. Because I love him and despite the discomfort of the conversation he (still) loves me. So there’s still hope. I have faith. And he knows that love matters.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
Maybe somewhere deep down he still believes….
*Originally published June 2013 on prayerposemom.com