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."
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.
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.