On Monday evening, the Grizzlies beat the Thunder. Fans in Memphis were ecstatic. Fans in Oklahoma City dejected. Despite being a basketball fan, I couldn't have cared any less about that part of the world that particular evening. But the basketball world moved on. So much more moved on that evening. My world did too. But it could have come to a crashing halt, while the rest of the world moved on. One of the sad facts about life !
Earlier that day my wife called me while I was away working at a client site a stone's throw away from home. She recounted the most recent minutes of her day that sent my heart racing, my head pounding, and my body into furious perspiration. When I hung up, I apologized to the client that I had to go, packed up my things, and drove to meet up with my wife and daughter at the Urgent Care.
Not too many minutes before that phone call, my wife had pulled our baby daughter, 19 months old now, out of the communal swimming pool, where all alone, she had been flapping about desperately trying to find anything to hold onto and bring herself up above the water. Her head, and the rest of her body, was under water, with only the crown of her head peaking above the water and her arms flapping about.
It appears she'd probably just fallen in not too long before. In an evident panic, she pulled her out of the water, calling her name frantically. Not sure what to do, she tried to make her throw up, hoping any water she might have swallowed would come up and out. Instead, our daughter, fought her back, shouting " 'top it mummy, 'top it" when she could finally push her mum's hand away. "Top It" is her way of saying "Stop it".
After that moment of panic she carried her back to our apartment to call the doctor, before calling me. In all that time, I could hear our 19 month old chatting about in the background going about her own business like nothing at all had just happened. Kids are amazingly oblivious !!
Kids, also, too easily have a knack for slipping the attention of their parents, even when parents pretty much have them closely under watch. This was one of them times. She was with my wife getting the laundry done just outside our apartment, down the hall, in an open room just past the swimming pool.
The swimming pool is completely fenced inside an area that also has two BBQ grills, a half dozen or so reclining sun lounger beds, and a common room, that are all only accessibly via a wide, 5 foot high, heavy wooden gate, that needs you to reach over the top to release the latch on the other side of it. Its not an easy gate to open for even my two older kids. Certainly my 5 year old can't, but my 7 year old has kinda figured it out, but she still needs to jump, pull herself up, and hang onto the gate, and feel her way about to find the latch and lift it to open the gate.
The gate is held to the supporting wooden fence by the kind of springs that force the gate shut again once somebody walks through and lets go of it. Once you're outside that area, and are about 5 foot or shorter, you would not be able to see the swimming pool on the other side of the wooden fence. You cant see through, the way you would a chain-link fence. And I think that's a good idea, because its less tempting to little kids passing by.
As my wife was loading the laundry into the washing machines, our 19 month old was right next to her, singing audibly enough to herself. The very moment she couldn't hear her, she turned to her side to realize that she was no longer there. She looked down the 3 halls that converge into that open area that the laundry room, without a door, also opens into. No sight of her. She quickly checked into the nearby gym whose door was open, but she wasn't there either. She ran back to the apartment, while calling her name out at the top of her voice, thinking she might have started to make her own way back home, but she wasn't there either.
The swimming pool area was the only place she hadn't checked, even though all logic suggested it was way too hard for our daughter to find her way inside that area.
And that's where she found her. In the pool, alone, flapping wildly under water. The gate had been shut behind her too. Its hard to imagine how she got past the gate, apart from maybe someone had held the gate on their way out so that it doesn't make that loud sound when it slams shut. And maybe because of that, it hadn't been latched in place, by its own weight slamming it secure. Cant think of any other way.
Either way, she found her, probably like half a minute after she noticed she wasn't singing by her side any more. She said it seemed like a lifetime. That was probably the reason why she was more just a little shaken up and quickly forgot the experience and got back to singing to herself. The doctor at the Urgent Care confirmed that there was absolutely nothing wrong with her. She couldn't hear any water in her lungs, so she'd probably just gotten into the pool not too long before my wife found her.
We are now getting one of those toddler leashes I see parents have their toddlers on. And I don't mean that to be funny at all. I'm dead serious.
Laying in bed that night, I couldn't imagine how parents go to bed the night after losing a child. I know one family that lost a 4 year old to a swimming pool accident years ago. I know two families that recently lost young children to sickle-cell anemia. I don't know how they went to sleep that night, or any night after that. The very thought of it made me sick in the stomach.
I couldn't even bear to bring myself to look at my daughter's photos hanging on the wall and around the house that evening, cause my mind just kept on telling me that those could have all just been now a memory I was looking at that.
But I did fall asleep, thanking the Lord for answered prayer, because he did watch over our child in an oh so evident way that day.