A few months after his third birthday, my son Adam drowned. I found him floating in our pool. He stopped breathing. His eyes fixed and his pupils dilated, and he actually went to the bathroom inside his pants. My son died. More than twenty minutes passed before the paramedics loaded his lifeless body into the ambulance. Shock and horror filled the streets around us. Thoughts like firecrackers exploded in my mind, “He has aspirated.” “He is brain-dead.” “My precious little three-year-old can’t be gone.” “Why?” My bright and beautiful son’s eyes looked dark and empty. He didn’t smile back at me or respond when I spoke. He just laid there.
I did not expect what happened next.
During the ambulance ride he miraculously awoke as if nothing had happened. He went from not breathing to suddenly talking. He said, “Hi mom” then he pointed out the window and began talking about his preschool. I couldn’t believe my eyes or my ears! My daughter Amanda played at school while this happened and shockingly we made it home from the hospital before she got home – talk about a whirlwind of trauma and hope all mixed together like a raging tornado.
My recovery took years…
People said, “Why are you struggling? Adam is alive.” As a young Christian, I attended a church at the time which taught principles like when something bad happens we must have done something to bring it on. Maybe I didn’t pray enough, or have enough faith etc. There had to be a reason God allowed Adam to die, then brought him back to life. Right? Seeing my child dead left me shattered. I have since learned how bad theology messes with us; nonetheless I found understanding only by wrestling giants.
Fear moved in.
From then on I tried to do everything right and especially right by God.I over protected Adam and Amanda as a result of my ongoing fear. Poor kids, they barely played outside or spent the night anywhere growing up. The safety regimen started anytime they rode their bikes or did anything posing any danger. First the helmet, then the knee pads, then the elbow pads. At times, gloves, long pants and even long sleeves made the list. The kids cried, “Mom it’s too tight I can’t breathe, I’m choking!” The bike wobbled and their sight strained but I did not care. As long as they stayed safe. And it didn’t stop there. The locks on the doors, the sticks strategically placed in every window. Vitamin routines, and the uncountable doctor’s office trips occurred, even if they sneezed. The boogeyman kept me busy and exhausted.
This helicopter parenting continued until my mother suddenly died at the age of 59. She died in my arms as I did the CPR. Everyone told me she is in heaven and she is better off. Everyone talked about heaven as a magical place. I questioned everything I knew about the Bible, God and heaven. Where was her sweet spirit and her precious soul? Heaven seemed more like a word than a place. I am a pastor now, and had become a Christian many years before this, but at this moment, heaven turned into such a cliché. I chased reasoning and grief around and around like a dog chasing his tail.
Beauty can be found in the most unexpected places.
Then a day or so after my mom’s death, I had a thought shoot right through my spirit, “Adam, my son had died—but where did he go?”
Then Adam shared with me what happened the day he drowned. A story I had never heard before this day. He poured out the story of his trip to heaven. Yes, heaven.
He saw heaven – the place.
God used my son’s drowning as my provision out of pain and misunderstanding. Had my son not told me the things he did, when he did. I believe I may have never recovered from my Mother’s death. So many months, I thought I did something which didn’t please God, or caused this brutal trial. In reality, God knew exactly what I needed all along. I saw Adam die. I had to — otherwise I would never have believed it. Then, when I approached the verge of literally dying inside, Adam’s death brought me life.
He can take what we think is the darkest hour and transform it into the brightest, lightest moment of our existence, if we will let him. Jesus doesn’t waste one tear we ever shed. Our stories are never wasted, not even the bad ones.