What I Can and Can’t Imagine about Melissa Graves, The Mom Who Lost Her Toddler Son, Lane

As I am packing and preparing for our family to go on vacation in a few weeks, I can’t stop thinking about Melissa Graves, the mom whose little boy was snatched by an alligator while vacationing at Disney. I can imagine she was preparing much the same as I am now for her family’s vacation last week.

I can just imagine her, excited with anticipation of the fun, memories and adventures that were coming, as she washed and lovingly folded size 2T socks, pajamas, and everything in between. Moving so methodically, casually from room to room, drawer to drawer.

I can imagine her checking to make sure her little guy had his special blankie or stuffed toy, knowing as mommies do that no one would sleep if it were left behind.

I can imagine her packing sippy cups, Cheerios, and Gold Fish into a smaller bag that would be close at hand in case little Lane let his mommy know he was hungry for a snack. I can imagine her adding a few beeping, button-laden toys to the front pouch of that bag to try and keep him busy or still for about thirty seconds, knowing that her toddler had boundless energy and never seemed to stop moving.

I can imagine her posting on Facebook and social media about her family’s upcoming trip to Florida, maybe even counting down the days or “sleeps” until Disney.

I can imagine her taking one last glance around the house, making sure nothing was forgotten, checking the thermostat to make sure it was set just right and reminding her husband to make sure all the doors were locked and their home was secured.

I can imagine the pleasant exhaustion that she felt as she tucked her children in at the end of each fun-filled, miles of walking, stroller pushing days they had so far.

I can imagine her watching Lane happily splashing in the water, finally occupied for a few moments and in those few moments feeling peace, happiness, and contentment.

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Photo credit: StephanieByrdPhotography.com

What I can’t imagine is the sheer heart-stopping, horrifying fear she felt when realizing he was there one minute and gone the next, like being caught in a nightmare where everything is in slow motion and you can’t run fast enough.

I can’t imagine the agony that she must feel, not being able to scream because it’s so deep inside her with its choking grip making it hard for her to even breathe, much less utter a sound.

I can’t imagine the sickening nausea as she packs away the sippy cups, snacks and toys knowing the round chubby little hands of their owner will never again reach for them. Can’t imagine her folding and packing away soft little pajamas with their sweet baby smell that she had dressed him in the night before.

There are many facets of this unspeakable tragedy that I cannot possibly imagine but sadly it doesn’t make this any less real. The reality is the unimaginable happened and this mom is going home with aching empty arms and a gaping bleeding hole cut through her chest that nothing or no one on earth can fix.

However, although we can’t imagine ever being in the living nightmare that she is going through, we can honor the memory of her son by hugging our children a little more tightly and drinking up every precious moment we have with them whether they are adventure-filled or ordinary. We can honor him by sending our prayers and sincerity, instead of blame and judgement about something we cannot possibly imagine.

As for me, I will be continuing to think and pray for Melissa and her family, thoughts and prayers that she probably never imagined she would desperately need.

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How Do You Tell Your Son He’s Going to Have Brain Surgery Without Exploding Into a Million Pieces?

Luke meeting his baby cousin last year.

Luke meeting his baby cousin last year.

The house is quiet, really quiet. Every one is sleeping in on this rainy Saturday morning….everyone except me. I don’t feel like I’ve really slept since October. Since my son, Luke (I affectionately call him buddy) was diagnosed with chiari malformation. Words like “incurable”, “brain surgery”, and “severe pain” seem to be bouncing around as soon as my head hits the pillow, along with slight shock and disbelief. Wow! How did we get here?

I keep thinking back to the day when we learned Luke was going to have brain surgery….I got the call while Luke and I were riding home from another appointment. I remember we were singing and laughing when the neurosurgeon’s office called and told me that his test showed a significant flow reduction and we needed to come in and get him scheduled for decompression surgery.
My mind began to reel. My breath caught in my throat. I guess the shock of it all kept me from bursting into tears. I robotically went through the motions of scheduling the appointment but my knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheel so tightly. I turned to my handsome little man next to me. How do you tell your child that they need brain surgery without exploding into a million pieces? I sent a prayer for words of wisdom and began to calmly explain to him what was happening.

“Luke, do you remember how we have prayed and prayed that the surgeon would have God’s wisdom in knowing what is best for you? Well, God has answered our prayers Buddy.” He looked at me briefly as I saw understanding creep into his blue eyes. “He thinks I need surgery, right?” “Yes buddy.” He immediately burst into tears as that understanding was replaced by fear. “Luke, it’s ok to be scared and worried and cry. You might see mommy cry too, but we are also going to thank God for answering our prayers. It may not be the answer we want but I know He is going to take care of you and guide that surgeon’s hand. We are going to get you through it one step at a time and then we are going to praise and thank God and give Him the glory for answering our prayers and being with you through it all.” He slowly nodded as I watched him brush the back of his hand over his eyes trying to fight back the fear and the tears.

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When we got home, instead of turning on the TV, he ran straight for his room. Trailing behind him, I walked in to see him drop to his knees by his bed, clasping his hands in prayer crying. He was saying something over and over but I couldn’t understand so I went closer and sat next to him. “Thank you. Thank you.” He was whispering between gasps and tears. He then reached around to the back of his head with his small hands and began to pray and beg God to give him strength to make it through. It was one of the most precious and heartbreaking moments I have ever known. I let the tears fall quietly down my face as I prayed beside him and let him pour out his heart to his Heavenly Father. Oh!! The strength and faith in that little boy was astounding! I briefly thought of the verse in Matthew 18:4, “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

I gently pulled him up and into my arms. Drawing all my strength I said, “Luke, like I said before it’s ok to be scared and cry, but let’s wait until it’s time. You are not having surgery today or next week. We are going to enjoy the holidays and spending time together with family and we are going to pray until then. He has been with us so far and He will continue with us every step of the way. Let’s worry when the time comes.”

Well that time is now fast approaching and in a week my little guy will be going in for surgery. I am having a hard time with it. As a Christian mother I know that God is honestly truly with us. I have never felt His presence more than I have since all of this started; felt a peace in my spirit that I can’t explain. (Philippians 4:7 “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”)

But as Luke’s mommy, I am heartsick and terrified. My worries and fear seem to sit on my shoulder and threaten to drown me. I honestly do not know what I would do if I didn’t have the Lord giving me strength. My emotions are all over the place. And my sweet little Luke;  I can’t hug him enough. I can’t kiss his head enough. I can’t thank God enough for giving me the unspeakable honor of being that little guy’s mom. Of having the honor of comforting him, holding him and guiding him through this life.

There is that peace again, stirring up in soul, creeping up into my spirit and touching every corner of my heart. I will allow God to continue to guide me because He is allowing me to guide Luke. And I whisper just like he did between gasps and tears, “Thank you! Thank you!”

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