Four years ago my family and I went down to visit my parents. They have a pool and a jacuzzi. None of the kids could swim at the time so we put swim suits on #1-3 and had them play in the jacuzzi. While they were playing in the water my brother was swimming in the pool next to it. While I was supposed to be watching the kids my brother and I started talking.
Like a fool I turned my back on the kids who were walking around the edge of the jacuzzi where it was only 2 feet deep. However the middle portion is deeper than the kids are tall. While talking to my brother for several minutes, I all of sudden just turned around. When I turned I saw #2 was drowning. What I never knew until after that experience was that drowning for kids is called a “silent death” because they are not able to flail their arms and yell like a drowning adult.
I will never forget that day. When I looked at her she was completely silent and her eyes were filled were fear as she was drowning. I jumped in and pulled her out and held her tighter than I had ever done before. My family was around so I didn’t process or think about what happened. However, on the drive home once the kids fell asleep, I couldn’t contain my tears. I wept because in a moment of stupidity I almost lost my daughter. It doesn’t take long for kids to drown, and if I hadn’t randomly turned, I would have missed a small window of opportunity to get her out.
I also wept because it was hard seeing my daughter’s eyes when she was drowning. She looked helpless. She looked so scared. With her eyes she was screaming for my help but I wasn’t there. For months I had a hard time sleeping. I felt guilty. I felt the pain of almost losing my daughter over and over again. Even now I will think about that day and break down.
After looking into kids and drowning my perpective grew. Drowning is the #2 cause of death for kids. What is even scarier is that 9 out of 10 kids who drown do so while being supervised. It only takes a moment. Of the 90% of deaths that happen under supervision 38% of those cases are a result of a parent talking to someone. 18% happen while a parent is reading. 17% happens while eating. 11% happens when a parent is on the phone.
I now know that day was both tragic and fortune. She is alive. I turned around in time. I have learned to thank God for having her in our lives where many families have lost their little ones. Nevertheless, it is still a painful thing. I will never forget that day. In many ways it helped me as a father. I am more careful. I appreciate every day I get to talk to and hang out with #2. That day also filled me an empathy and sympathy for people who lost young children. I cannot imagine a greater pain.
Like all sad days, the life lessons were plentiful. On the one hand, I am more careful now as I mentioned earlier. What is equally true is that I learned how fragile life is and can be. One moment can change everything. One moment can completely alter your life forever. No matter how much you do as a parent, one moment, one accident is all it takes.
Being responsible and careful are certainly attributes every good parent has or should have. However not enough is said about being humble. There are things we can control (like that drowning accident) but there is more that we cannot. That day infused in me a humility I never had before. My kids can live and grow and flourish despite my negligence, tempter, stupidity, etc. My kids can experience tragedy despite my carefulness. That day I saw the reality of grace in this life. We like to think that the world works via reciprocity. I do good. Good things will happen. I do bad. Bad things happen. This is not truth. It is not reality. It is not life. Good things happen to bad people. Bad things can happen to good people. Life is primarily lived under the mystery of grace. Undeserved favor. My sense of entitlement was gone. Everyday is a gift. I now understand.
I have the fortune of my saddest day being that I ALMOST lost a child. I know there are many who have actually lost children. I hold this perspective with brokenness because I know I have been fortunate. To those who have lost children my heart goes out to all of you. My hope is that you have found healing or will find a peace that heals.