Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On Death and What Is So Near

Things got a little scary for me, last week, at the lake. The girls are older, now (almost four and almost five-and-a-half), and--although they haven't yet taken swimming lessons--I'd come to trust them within the confines of the roped-in, kiddie area. They know to stand up if their faces get wet, and their legs are long.

Still, I watch them like a hawk.

Last week, they followed a couple older girls to the back side of the rope. I yelled for them; they didn't hear me. "Honey," I said to Cade, "go reel your sisters in a little. They don't need to be out that far." So my gentle darling headed lackadaisically in that direction. When he'd walked about halfway to the girls, I realized: Charleigh was in trouble. She seemed to be bobbing, panicking.

"Hurry!" I yelled to Cade. "Charleigh's in trouble!" So Cade dove, and swam. What neither of us realized until he reached Charleigh was that Clementine was also in trouble. Both girls were in over their head, literally; grabbing onto one another in panic; pulling one another under.

A few minutes later, I sat soothing a shaken Clementine in shallow water, and just that fast, Chip lost his legs. "Get your brother!" I yelled, and Cade lifted Chip out. At that point, I was done; all three of my little children had swallowed lake water. Through it all, the lifeguard hadn't budged. I believe my babies could have drowned, all of them, without his realizing.

I couldn't bring myself to leave the house, next day, but about what are we talking, here? We're talking about a mother whose job is to watch her children play, lakeside. Meanwhile, there are mothers watching terrorists snatch up their babies and lop off their heads. Meanwhile, there are mothers hiding terrified in the mountains: mothers who have no bread and water for their children.


My grandfather came to me once, many years ago, in a dream. He showed me the long, thin contrail behind a jet. "Tell Mary Ellen," he said. "Tell Mary Ellen: it seems like the sky has been divided into two parts, but it hasn't. The line between heaven and earth is just like that. I am much closer than she thinks. Tell Mary Ellen." 

"It was him," I told her, later. "I know it was him because you've never been Mary Ellen to me, only Ellie." She nodded, and I knew she believed me, but she didn't cry. She's been all cried out for a long-assed time.


"You can still talk to your mom. You don't need a phone," I encourage Jim, and I tell him my dreams: the one about Grandad, then the (second) one about his mom. She was pink: wearing a pink sweater, yes, but also awash in pink light. I'd thought her angry with me and this was making her laugh. Her laughter was high-pitched but gentle as a jingle bell, as if she'd never smoked a day in her life. 

"I love you so much," she said, laughing, and when she hugged me with force, I couldn't hear her breathe. "Take care of Jimmy." And she was light: just light as Glinda's bubble in her spirit...not as if she'd merely forgotten for a moment the pains of a lifetime, but as if they'd floated for good from her like some helium balloon, or as if she'd never known them to begin.


Robin Williams, and I don't know how to speak into your pain, or my own except to say that most of us feel it. Remember: anger is rarely the real emotion. What seems callous or ignorant or rude may well be a cover. Even if it's not, it's misguided.

Mr. Williams' light has gone from here; may it burn brightly in another place. May comfort descend. May we remember his tremendous talent with gratitude; it was a gift of his--our!--Maker.


This is what I do. This is what I do, having lost a close friend to leukemia and my mother-in-law to lung cancer, this year. This is what I do when I feel ill-equipped to keep my children alive at the lake: when it seems like death is everywhere (on the road, in the air, at the end of a belt).

I pray, and I teach my children to pray. (Clementine has, for the most part, taken over our praying when the ambulances race past.)

I express love as much as I can, as much as it's true.

I look for beauty. 

I try to appreciate the day: the gift of life, the gifts of my children's lives.

I try to generate a little light right where I am, right in my own community. It only takes a spark, sometimes, to chase away a lot of darkness. A little bit of kindness goes a long way, sometimes.

And I try to remember: heaven is not so far away. I can talk to and about my loved ones there.


  1. What a huge scare for you at the lake. And this world, it's so scary, so sin twisted and scarred, my heart aches for all that is happening and I feel so helpless, so I pray. It's all I know to do.

  2. Oh Brandee, the pain, the scare, the hurt, it does the same to me as you explained at the end of this post. All of these things.....make me live a little more intense for today and appreciate ALL and EVERY circumstance that comes my way. I'm sorry for your losses this year. Grateful for your heart.

    Cade, thank GOD for our big boys, huh? We count on them.

    Maybe first outing for homeschooling would be swimming lessons, I got probably more joy watching my kids learn how to swim than most anything we have done.

  3. This is perfect. Thank-you so much sweet lady for sharing. Love you much!

  4. Wow. Just wow. I don't know what else to say. But you did keep your kids safe, and that's what matters. Thank God.

    Peace <3

  5. blanket friend....lessons everywhere you turn everywhere you look and every - almost accident....
    I have to say that this past week a friend of mine performed the heimlich maneuver on me as I almost and she said "we are connected for life..that happens and what is that saying about when someone saves your life" thats what she said, and CADE saved 3 lives..... I am sure you were paralyzed in losing a child or the thought of , the glimpse of is horrifying....I now wonder even more what that is that they "say" about when someone saves your life...hmmmm I googled it but didnt find what I am speaking of YET ... <3 you

  6. Oh yes. How can you put into words so well so many of my emotions/thoughts though our life circumstances are different? You are a blessing, Brandee.
    In our last month of out-of-the-blue-dread at our house, I had almost been consumed by fear. Clinging to faith because that is all I know to do. And God answered my prayer today, and I find this strange sense of guilt that He answered mine how I wanted for my own babies' protection, and yet so many of others' with it much worse do not get their prayers answered how they want. The hope I will cling to tonight as I continue sorting through emotions and faith - "heaven is not so far away."

  7. Beautifully done, Brandee! But I'm so sorry for the terrible scare!!