There are moments in life that you have to shelve to the back of your mind (as best you can). These are moments too painful or too scary or too difficult to relive again and again. To do so would be paralyzing. We’ve had several moments like that with our 3 year old son Cash.
There was the time he just left the house. We have had high locks and chimes on our doors ever since. Or the time a sibling unlocked a door and he found his way to a 5th floor balcony in Manhattan. Or just this past Saturday evening.
I can tell this story once and then it must be buried away. Not that I won’t take lessons way from the experience but I can’t relive the feelings of that day over and over again. I wouldn’t be able to breathe.
We couldn’t find a sitter Saturday night. So we decided to take our kids to the beach to just run around in the sand and enjoy the sunset. A week earlier, my older children had climbed the rocks on a nearby jetty and were anxious to revisit it again. “Let’s go!” we said.
I grew up by the water so walking along a jetty is a familiar part of my childhood. There is something magical about getting to do it with my children. My 6 year old son Chase and my 3 year old son Cash stayed at the bottom with my husband Rick.
I climbed the jetty with my three girls. It was fun and adventurous and we could feel the warm air on our faces as the sun began to fade. With it getting darker, I said, “Girls, we need to climb down now.” They didn’t want to but I insisted.
As we started making our way down the rocks, I saw 3 year old Cash at the bottom. He wanted to climb up. Cash (the youngest of five kids) has endless courage and was anxious to start scampering up the rocks to get to us. I remember calling down to him, “Cash, we’re on our way down.”
And in one second, he was gone. I saw him drop right into this crevice between the rocks and as I looked down from my rock high above, I only saw darkness. No child. Just blackness.
I started screaming. Loud, desperate screaming. I felt frozen and helpless and in disbelief at what was unraveling before me.
Rick and a few guys who had been hanging out on the beach started running towards us. I watched from above as Rick reached down into the crevice and pulled out our youngest son. Rick had seen Cash’s hands reaching up above the water and was able to grab him.
My beautiful, soaking wet, sobbing, bleeding, breathing, beautiful son.
A paramedic (who had also been on the beach walking his dog) checked Cash out and said he likely didn’t need stitches.
But Cash kept saying, “I’m tired. I’m tired” – something my son never says. At the hospital, they were concerned about secondary drowning since he had been submerged under water. But a chest X-ray and a blood test showed he was okay. They cleaned up his head wound and we went home.
Cash should never have been near those rocks. But we didn’t realize the danger that day. We know now.
Rick said that was the scariest moment of his life. “More frightening than when you were running from the crumbling Twin Towers on 9-11?”
He nodded. “Yes. I was more scared than I was on 9-11.”
On Monday, I told my preschool director about the incident – just in case they noticed Cash’s head injury or he talked about what happened. And she made a suggestion.
She said, sometimes when God or the universe or whatever you believe in takes care of you, it can feel good to put something positive back into the world. And it gives your children a way to express themselves.
I thought about my 6 year old son Chase who had said to me, while tears streamed down his face, “I never thought I was going to see my brother again.”
I know honey. I didn’t either.
I took my preschool director’s advice and told my kids that because we were so grateful that Cash was protected – we would give a donation to our local Covenant House that helps homeless teens. I told my children they could give as little or as much as they wanted from their saved up birthday and tooth fairy money. There was no judgement. Any amount was perfect. Because when life feels out of your control, you want to do something.
One tween gave $20. Another gave $11. One twin gave $1. And another gave $7. I put some additional money in the jar. So did Rick. No one griped. No one complained. The kids seemed thankful for the chance to take action after such a stressful, potentially horrific event.
We will deliver the money this week. It’s our way of giving love and kindness into a world that protected my son that day.
I’m so grateful Rick saw those hands reaching up out of that dark crevice.
I’m grateful for the strangers on the beach who immediately came running and lifted my other children off the rocks as I cried.
I’m grateful for this 3 year old boy who is back to his everyday activities like dumping out full bottles of hand soap when he’s supposed to be washing his hands. I will go to the store and buy more bottles of hand soap to replace all the soap he keeps wasting.
And I will take joy in doing so.