This day didn’t happen. This didn’t happen. I close my eyes. Darkness. I toss and turn, distressed. The sweat breaks out.
I heard the news report. Desperation flooded my soul. The baby had been dragged into the water by an alligator. At Disney World, the best place on earth.
How many times have we played on those beaches? How many times do we dip toes near to danger? How many times do we dig our toes into near-terror?
Little kid buckets, shovels, rakes.
Footloose and fancy-free.
Year after year since my girls were eight and six. The beautiful beaches. The water you’d never go far into. But the beaches that you’ll run along the shore … the ones that aren’t marked: “Caution: Alligators” … The water’s edge you’ll sit by. Feed the ducks by. Throw out bread. Soak your feet in on a hot day, while taking a break from the rides and the park thrills.
My heart cries out for those parents. The parents who tried to grab that baby. The ones whose strength was no match for the beast. The ones whose hearts sank lower than anyone can estimate. The ones who will have to fight to recover their own hearts.
A dream come true turned nightmare.
The weight attached to my heart sinks deeper in the mud and mire.
The eyes of our children sinking to despair, to tragedy, to disease, to cancer, to pain.
The last breath.
The eyes begging for relief, help, mercy.
And through a strangled cry, we beg God–take me instead.
How? How do you press on after a loss like that? After swallowing a defeat so massive?
Some things we never get over. We never quite recover.
You’d have to tell your story. Through tears and heart-shredded insides, you’d have to open your mouth and tell what you witnessed. Tell what you did right, to no avail, and what you did wrong. Tell what you wish you’d have done. Tell what you wish you hadn’t done. You wouldn’t even be allowed a chance to hide, to dig into the mattress and cover yourself with feathers, fear, fault, agony, failure, fury.
A chance to cry out–“Oh, God … why?” All alone.
But then you get alone. And you cry and cry and cry. You sleep and sleep and sleep. You wish away time and time and more time. You wish to never wake up. You wish to wake up and find it all a nightmare.
But one day, you’ll open your eyes from the deepest of sleep. You’ll find the sun shining slight rays again. The waters won’t look so murky, you’ll see blue. You’ll see the ducks and not the deep. You’ll see the glory of the waters and not the gore.
You’ll forgive yourself and forgive others.
You’ll know you’re forgiven.
You are forgiven. Forgiven by yourself, by others, by God.
You’ll accept that we don’t know everything, we can’t see everything, we can’t understand everything, we can’t be everything. We’re fallible, human, faulty, frail.
And a thing called hope will flood your soul. It’ll reach out and grab hold of you. And you’ll allow it to soak you in. Take you under. Deep. A new day.
You’ll look into the eyes of those remaining, of those you love, of those who love you, of those who don’t want to live this life without you.
And you’ll realize you have something to offer once again.
Things will be different. But it’ll prove the best place on earth once again.
Trust it will.