David Jeremiah wrote, "journalizing, memorializes the blessings of God" in his book, "When Your World Falls Apart, Seeing Past the Pain of the Present." My dear family and myself have recently experienced a terrible tragedy, resulting in the death of my precious daughter, Samantha. This is an unwanted journey, one of the most difficult walks that any parent can experience. It is riddled with extreme grief, profound disorientation, and beautiful graces from God. He holds me close. He has not forsaken me. Even though, my heart is shredded with sadness, I shed buckets of tears, I question my purpose now and I wander astray at times, I know I love God. He is real and present. I know what I know!!! And, I feel privileged to have the opportunity to share with you. I have learned that I am at my best when I walk with God, not against Him.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Working Vacation

It wasn't until I was headed home, did I begin to realize the work that was done, while on vacation. After "dragging" Brooke to Sedona, she asked to visit the beach this summer, a different beach, one with crystal blue water, this being "her" idea of a "real" vacation. Brooke, two of her long time friends and myself traveled to Grand Cayman for the July 4th holiday.  In between making the plans and departure, I began to feel that slimy, slippery, unconfident feeling. "Can I really do this? All of this; travel, customs, immigration, the care of someone's else's children in an unfamiliar place, a "safe" trip and return home, passports and more!, Do their parents trust me or do they think of me as fragile?" All the doubts I could ever imagine loomed right beneath the surface. David's reply when I asked if he thought I was capable was, "Sure, if something comes up, just handle it. You can do this." On top of those nagging notions were others, ones that just gnawed on me, "How can I do this without Sam?, These other children are not a replacement for Sam., She would have loved this!, Will people think I am trying to fill a hole with other people's children?" I knew I wasn't; and I had a firm conversation with myself, shushing the inner dark voice within me, telling it, that, to be able to travel with Brooke and her buddies was a blessing, one to be enjoy and embraced. It wasn't without effort but, I was able to silence those obstructive absurdities! So, off I went, knowing that because of the place we chose to visit, more than likely, I would be faced with a water activity or two and possibly a boat ride.  Due to the nature of Samantha's accident, neither are on my "to do" list, at this time. I thought about the possibility that these things would be required of me but, it was fleeting, it was mere notion that it might happen, I didn't take the time to envision the details.  Thank goodness I didn't because if I had, I would have never gone.

David made the travel and hotel arrangements; setting us up in the lap of luxury, as safe and secure as he possibly could.  Our travel to the island was smooth and as scheduled.  After our check in, we began to get acquainted with the area; walking the resort and winding up in the gift shop.  The young girl behind the counter greeted us, a conversation ensued and she quickly captured Brooke's attention with her "scuba diving" services.  Immediately, Brooke was all in - "I don't care if I do anything else while I am here, I want to scuba dive!" I froze!!  I looked upward, out the corner of my eyes, towards the left, felling stiff and scared, and said in my head, "Really God, I gotta let her do this? Really?" There was no way out! I knew if I even flinched at the thought, I would give Brooke, "my" fear.  Quickly remembering, Brooke did not stay in Shell Beach for the scuba search of Samantha's body. She was there the first night and in the wee hours of the following morning she asked if she could leave and return to Mandeville. Quickly able to make the arrangements because of great friends; Brooke was gone by 8:00 am. The scuba teams showed up after she left; she never saw them.

The "resort course" entails a early morning 2 hour training session in a swimming pool followed by an afternoon 40' dive, full gear, the real deal!!  So began my mantra, "Different time, different space, different people, different place!" I had to let her do it. As the instructor pulled out the equipment, I was mentally catapulted right back to that first night in Shell Beach. Darkness had set and David and I were sitting on a swing, helpless. I looked up and saw a familiar silhouette marching down the dark street; one showing relentless strength and determination.  Immediately, I knew who he was. His presence brought control in the chaos and determination, in the midst of desperation.  He made a commitment to David and me, "I won't leave without Sam!" We didn't know what he was going to do but, we knew he meant it.  All the while, standing right behind him, a silent, single, scuba diver with a bright orange mask." I looked at that mask and realized they were looking for Sam under the water and not, on top of the marsh. I felt a single, sharp, slice to my heart. It was very, very, very deep, causing complete delirium, a dizzy disorientating feeling.  Kenny, restated his commitment and dutifully disappeared to do his work.  Back at the pool,  I did everything I could to look calm and collected while I watched Brooke slide that scuba mask on her face. Looking back, as I video taped Brooke practicing in the pool, there was an entirely different world inside of me, in sharp contrast to how I looked, cute suit, straw hat, summery sandals, and a sunny smile. I think, I looked like I was poised and peaceful but in reality, I was working. There was a raging war inside of me;  a fight for life, not death; a fight for the light instead of the darkness, for courage rather than fear, a fight of good versus bad, present versus past.  This war was for myself as well as, the impact and influence, I would and could have on Brooke's life.  Another decisive battle was fought when the time came for the underwater dive. First requiring the unwanted boat ride, my mantra kicked in, "different time, different place, different people, different space. I was onboard and headed out to open waters (I think that helped, in that it wasn't the same type of waterway as Samantha's accident had occurred.) I had my full armor on and was engaged in spiritual warfare as I watched Brooke walk off the back of that boat, in a scuba suit and disappear underneath, because of it's depth, the very dark water!! I had to concentrate to stand steady, and not allow my face to show my fear.  I firmly told myself, that I was not made with spirit of fear, I pleadingly reminded myself that God promises abundant life,  and as His children we are called to walk in the "light of life", all the while chit chatting with fellow passengers, in my cute resort wear!! Brooke was gone for 40 minutes, returning fulfilled, excited and exuberant.

Other battles were fought during our trip.  The night snorkel excursion returned my thoughts to the search in Shell Beach.  Before we began, I whispered to Brooke, won't it be neat to see the life that God created under the water. She smiled. (She gets it!) We were required to wear wet suits, walk through the hotel, down the beach, and swim out to the reef.  I wasn't completely comfortable. I prayed, it was short and sweet," Dear Lord, Please let me be able to do this." I needed help! Brooke and her friends, they didn't bat an eye. It was pitch black dark, we carried flashlights as we snorkeled, so that the guide could keep track of us.  I had to fight off decisive, disturbing thoughts such as, " I can see under this water, why couldn't they find Sam under the water?, Why couldn't they?, Is this what it looked like under the water when they looked for Sam?"  I know it was a full out effort, by all involved, to find Samantha's body and I know it was a different time and a different place. It was necessary to put up mental barricades and not let these thoughts take control.  Again, conscienciously fighting for the present, for life and not death, the light not the dark, the present not the past. Next on the agenda the following a.m., a kayak tour through the mangrove forests. We were educated as to what we would see and driven to our launching spot. Once again, I did not have a preconceived notion to what this would look like. Stepping out of the sedan, I spotted the kayaks on the shoreline and once again retreated to Shell Beach. The only thing I could think of was my cousins's husband's kayak. Upon reading a Facebook status, " Please pray for Samantha, she is missing!" Christian quickly strapped his kayak to the roof of his vehicle and headed our way. Not having a conversation with anyone before he left and in keeping with his military training, he came prepared for anything. I am so grateful for all that he did, above and beyond, again using his army taught skills, he documented his entire time in Shell Beach. Notes, that as of yet, I haven't read. At this point, if I exposed my thoughts, I would bring everybody backwards. Nope, not an option, instead another quick request for help, "Lord, just be with me." I climbed in the kayak with Brooke and headed into the choppy sound. Our adventure eventually led us into calmer channels of water - yes, narrow inlets, with sharp, blinding curves. My mind, again, hurled back to Shell Beach. I kept thinking, "This was what it must have looked like when Sam was on the boat! This is not "open" water."  I haven't seen, for myself, the actual accident site but from delivered descriptions, I assumed it was a similar situation. I was in the kayak with Brooke, I was with her two friends and the adult in charge of them - there was no room for a meltdown, or an explosion of anxiety. Again, my mantra, "Different time, different space, different people, different place."

With our afternoon free, I headed to the beach chairs and the girls took a walk. They returned for me. As we walked along the seashore, Brooke delivered to my upper arm, a jab accompanied with a curt command of, "Read that!" We stared, it was surreal! This time God showed up in the shells and sand, with resplendent words of reassurance, "SAM was here." To say the least I was stunned and shocked.  Trying to explain this with practicality, I quickly asked the girls, "Did ya'll do that?, Did you make that?" Their reply, was "No, Ms. Liz, we did not do that, why would we, we were just going to rent jet skis." Kate had a camera.  Quickly I said, "Kate, take a picture!" She did! I'm learning! The disposable camera didn't offer enough assurance. So, I ran back to the room, grabbing a better camera, running back down the beach, this time, no battery in the camera. I ran and returned to the room again, placed the battery in the camera and ran back down the beach. When I got back down the beach the second time, the word "here" was beginning to wash away!  20 minutes or so, it would have been totally washed away and we would not have seen it. Just like the title of Squire Rushnell's book, I consider this "Divine Alignment."

The next exhilarating experience was the jet-ski tour to "Sting-Ray" city. Nearing my excitement limit, I clearly expressed my anxiety to Brooke, Kate and Ann Bailey, demanding that they pay attention, be careful and "no, hot-dogging!" I gave them, our guide and the other guests, strict instructions not to come near me, using physical illustrations to express my personal space and strong vocals to assure understanding.  I didn't want them toooo close. I felt pressed, it was showing! The girls giggled at me; I was serious. What a incredible experience it was, jet-skiing, snorkeling, sting-rays and starfish. I was grateful for Brooke's cautious nature, as she was my driver. ! Not once, did I feel like an accident might happen.

After a safe trip home, I listened as Brooke shared with David the details of our trip. The best part being, when I heard her say, "...and Dad, I didn't get scared once." I just stopped and thanked the Lord. Brooke was back on a boat, back in the water, and back under the water. After the accident and her personal experience during it - there was room for doubt, that she would ever enjoy the water again. Standing in my kitchen sweeping, my mind flipped through the pages of the Bible, recalling something about robbing, stealing and destroying. I should know it but, I didn't. I knew it was there but, I didn't know where.  My neighbor confirmed my thoughts as I shared with her our exciting excursion and all the healing work that was done, referencing the same scripture about the dark coming to rob, steal and destroy but, God giving life, abundant life! Her husband chimed in and made me chuckle when he said, "Good thing you took a picture the first time; I don't think there would have been a return trip there!" I spoke and shared with David, remembering how"SAM" showed up in Sedona, "I think I need to travel more!" At that, we all laughed!

Recalling, after a few days of reflection, I know it was right that I traveled alone, as the only adult, without Dave or a friend. Had there been someone with me, to listen, I would have given a voice to my fears. Speaking them out loud, would have given them strength. Voicing them, would have given them the victory!  In contrast, the war was waged within. The ability to overcome was not my own. I believe through the power of personal prayer, the strength of scripture and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I was able to win.

I looked it up and here it is:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 
John 10:10

1 comment:

Robin Mc said...

What a lovely story of quiet courage and continuing to live