Ten years after a miracle

It’s been ten years since one of our twin sons almost died in an accident at the beach. (You can read my original post about it here.) Ten years since a stranger intervened and changed the course of our lives. Ten years of being able to hug this child, watch him grow, nurture his faith, support his dreams, enjoy his quirkiness, and give thanks every single day that he is still with us.

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Ten years is a long time in the life of a child – it is the difference between a preschooler and a teenager! – but a short time for a mama. Sometimes, I am separated from the horror of nearly losing him by only the barest breath.

Even so, it is easy to forget how precious each day is, how precious every breath is, and how none of it is a given. I’ve had 3653 days with my son that I almost didn’t have, yet many of those days have been marred by my impatience, ingratitude, inattention, and other parental failures. Ten years after a miracle, it is still easy to take things – and people – for granted too often. Which is why anniversaries (not just this one, but also birthdays and anniversaries of both love and loss) hold such importance for me. These markers in time invite me to remember, to reflect, and to recognize again the profound gift of life.

It has been exactly a year since I wrote my last blog post (a major writing project was demanding all my “free” time, and now that it’s completed, I’ve got another huge project on my plate), but I had to come by and mark this anniversary in this space once more. It’s hard sometimes for me to talk about this experience publicly, because I know so many people who have suffered the loss of a child (including in sand hole collapses), and I don’t want my own celebration after a near-loss to be somehow insensitive to parents who grieve. And yet it is precisely this – the fact that any one of us could lose any beloved and precious person at any time – that compels me to write. To live in the awareness of the fragility of life is to discover that every breath is a miracle, every moment we have with anyone we love is a miracle. I got a real honest-to-goodness miracle on the beach that day, thanks to a stranger who was radically open to the stirrings of the Spirit. But each of us is surrounded by miracles every day, and the world is so much better when we treat each other with the awe and wonder and gratitude befitting this reality.

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Last summer, we had the amazing experience of meeting Erika Weiland, the woman who saved our son and changed our lives. We had a beautiful time of connecting with her and her dear family (including her brother, who helped pull our son from the sand hole!), and hearing again the story of that day from her perspective. She is an absolute treasure and her faith is an inspiration. I am forever grateful for her and for her openness to being used by God for good.

Not all of us get the chance to save somebody’s life. But every day we have a thousand chances to treat each other as miracles and to make their lives – and the world – better. Ten years after our miracle, I am committed more than ever to doing my part.

[I can’t talk about this story without also reminding everyone about the dangers of sand hole collapses. I had never heard of this happening before it happened to us, but now I read stories of it happening every year, and most of them end in tragedy. Yet it is so easy to prevent – I’ve written about that here.]

 

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On a Day Like Today

It’s July 8th. Those of us in the United States went to bed with more bad news last night (or woke up to it this morning). This week has been a swirl of difficult news in our country. Earlier this week, I had planned to break my unintentional 6-month blogging hiatus by showing you a new finished craft project of mine. But that felt weird once bad news started breaking and kept breaking.

But it’s July 8th now. And I can’t let this day pass without taking a moment to acknowledge that for my family, this day will always signify a day of miracle, celebration, and gratitude. Because nine years ago today, our then 3 year-old son was rescued from a sand hole collapse.

I note this anniversary every year, partly in celebration and gratitude, and partly to spread awareness of  this kind of accident and how to prevent it. And I am so grateful to those of you who continue to help spread the word. Just this week, another three year-old miraculously survived the same kind of sand hole collapse. I have written up my tips for sand safety here, and you can see all sand hole posts by clicking on the category “sand hole collapse.”

For today, though, I just wanted to bear witness to life, and love, and hope – and the kindness of strangers. It was a stranger who saved our son’s life that day (though she is no longer a stranger); we owe her an eternal debt to Erika Weiland. It was Erika and other strangers who helped rescue our child. And many thousands of strangers have helped share our story, in hopes of preventing tragedy for other families. Strangers who show kindness, who share compassion, really do change lives. And in changing lives, we change the world.

On a day like today, in a week like this week, the bad stuff seems to overshadow and overwhelm all the good. On a day like today, in a week like this week, I commit myself again to not only seeing the good, and celebrating the good, and sharing the good, and saying the good – but trying to be the good in the world. I am one person, but I can make a difference. What happened for our family on the beach nine years ago reminds me again and again the powerful and life-changing difference one person can make.

It is July 8th, and I am ready to change the world with goodness, and kindness, and love.

 

Our boys, nine years after our miracle

 

4 Things You Need to Know About Sand Safety (plus a giveaway)

Well, hello there, reader. Yes, it’s been awhile. Two months have flown by since my last post, and in that time, I’ve traveled thousands of miles, both literally and emotionally, and I just haven’t had the time or energy to write. I’ve had to make choices between making something (knit, spin, cook, bake) or writing about it; when that’s the choice, the making always wins.

But today is a very special day, and I couldn’t let it pass without my annual blog post about it.

my "little" boys

These are my twin sons, who are now (gulp) 11 years old. They amaze me daily and I’m so grateful to have them in my life. Today, I count my blessings a little bit more, because eight years ago today, we nearly lost one of them.

I tell the story every year in hopes of helping people learn about the dangerous but preventable phenomenon of sand hole collapse. In July 2007, when our sons were three years-old and our family was visiting Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, one of them fell into a hole dug by other children, and the sand collapsed on top of him, burying him completely, with his head at least 8 inches under the surface. He was completely buried for at least five minutes; miraculously, he survived. You can read the full story here, with follow-up here . And read about it from the amazing perspective of Erika Weiland, the woman who saved his life, here. After our accident, I learned that this kind of accident, while uncommon, is not unheard of; it is not a “freak accident.” In fact, this sort of accident happens on beaches around the world every year, more frequently than shark attacks do.

The vast majority of these kinds of accidents happen to boys, between the ages of three and 21. Even when the accident is witnessed and people act quickly, it can be very difficult to dig a child out of a hole or trench on the beach; the sand wants to keep filling back in the hole. The majority of these accidents end in death. While this kind of accident is uncommon, it’s still a risk, and one that can be prevented without too much effort. There are four easy things you can do to prevent such a tragedy.

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(please pin this! I don’t have the Pin It widget, which isn’t supported on wordpress.com, but I would love for you to share this list on Pinterest) So, that’s it: one thing to do when you arrive at the beach, one thing to do while you’re there, and one thing to do when you leave, plus one thing to teach your kids. I know that #2 seems pretty severe. I got this piece of advice from Dr. Bradley Maron, who has studied sand hole collapses, but if knee-high holes are just too shallow for your group to deal with, perhaps waist-high of the shortest person in your group?

Every year, as part of my celebration of getting our baby back, I post about our experience, in hopes of raising awareness of this entirely preventable sort of accident. Every summer these accidents continue to happen. I believe that with more awareness of the risks, such tragedy could be avoided. My internet friends have been a huge part of helping me raise awareness. Will you help me spread the word again this year? I always like to give a little something away as part of my celebration of this amazing anniversary.

handspun squishiness

I’d like to send you a skein of my latest handspun yarn. This is 222 yards of worsted-weight 2-ply South African Superfine (think merino, only softer!), hand-dyed by the inimitable David of Southern Cross Fibre in the “Nobby” colorway. This yarn will knit up beautifully into a gorgeous fall accessory. (If you aren’t a knitter and you win this giveaway, I will knit something for you).

All you have to do to enter the giveaway is spread the word about the risk of sandhole collapse and what to do to prevent these kinds of accidents. Spread the word however you’d like – on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, your own blog, word-of-mouth, or all of the above. If you spread the word online, you can link back to this page, or to one of the previous posts I linked to above. Then come back here to this post and leave a comment below, letting me know you’ve passed it on, and I’ll enter you into the drawing. I will draw a random winner next Wednesday, July 15, after 5:00pm EST. Some of you, of your own volition, have already linked to this story this season. THANK YOU! If you would like to be entered in the giveaway, just leave a comment letting me know you’ve already posted/linked, and I will enter you. Thank you, good people of the internet, for continuing to help me spread the word about this.July 2007

4 things every parent should know about sand safety (plus a giveaway)

 My boys turned 10 last weekend, which is amazing and wonderful and unbelievable all at once.

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As many of you know, we nearly lost one of our sons in a beach accident almost seven years ago, when the boys were three. I tell the story every year in hopes of helping people learn about the dangerous but preventable phenomenon of sand hole collapse. In the past, I’ve shared about this on the anniversary of our son’s rescue, but I’ve realized I really need to get the word out earlier in beach season, in order to help raise awareness for as many people as possible.

In July 2007, when my sons were three years-old and our family was visiting Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, one of them fell into a hole dug by other children, and the sand collapsed on top of him, burying him completely, with his head at least 8 inches under the surface. He was completely buried for at least five minutes; miraculously, he survived. You can read the full story here, with follow-up here . And read about it from the amazing perspective of Erika Weiland, the woman who saved his life, here.

After our accident, I learned that this kind of accident, while uncommon, is not unheard of; it is not a “freak accident.” In fact, this sort of accident happens on beaches around the world every year, more frequently than shark attacks do. The vast majority of these kinds of accidents happen to boys, between the ages of three and 21. Even when the accident is witnessed and people act quickly, it can be very difficult to dig a child out of a hole or trench on the beach; the sand wants to keep filling back in the hole. The majority of these accidents end in death.

While this kind of accident is uncommon, it’s still a risk, and one that can be prevented without too much effort. There are four easy things you can do to prevent such a tragedy.

20140605-232205.jpg

(please pin this! I don’t have the Pin It widget, which isn’t supported on wordpress.com, but I would love for you to share this list on Pinterest)

So, that’s it: one thing to do when you arrive at the beach, one thing to do while you’re there, and one thing to do when you leave, plus one thing to teach your kids. I know that #2 seems pretty severe. I got this piece of advice from Dr. Bradley Maron, who has studied sand hole collapses, but if knee-high holes are just too shallow for your group to deal with, perhaps waist-high of the shortest person in your group?

Every year, as part of my celebration of getting our baby back, I post about our experience, in hopes of raising awareness of this entirely preventable sort of accident. Every summer these accidents continue to happen. I believe that with more awareness of the risks, such tragedy could be avoided. My internet friends have been a huge part of helping me raise awareness. Will you help me spread the word again this year?

I always like to give a little something away as part of my celebration of this amazing anniversary. This year, I would like to give away something that reminds me of the gorgeous water at Santa Rosa Beach (part of what is known as The Emerald Coast).

FLUFF Merino-Cashmere-Nylon, "Murky," 4 oz.

FLUFF Merino-Cashmere-Nylon, “Murky,” 4 oz.

I love this fiber SO much. It’s so super-gorgeous and I would love to share it with you. If the winner is a spinner, I will send you the fiber for you to spin. If the winner is a knitter but not a spinner, I will spin it for you to knit. And it the winner is neither a spinner nor a knitter, I will spin it up and knit something yummy for you.

the flip-side

the flip-side

All you have to do to enter the giveaway is spread the word about the risk of sandhole collapse and what to do to prevent these kinds of accidents. Spread the word however you’d like – on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, your own blog, word-of-mouth, or all of the above. If you spread the word online, you can link back to this page, or to one of the previous posts I linked to above. Then come back here and leave a comment, letting me know you’ve passed it on, and I’ll enter you into the drawing. I will draw a random winner next Friday, June 14, after 5:00pm EST.

Some of you, of your own volition, have already linked to this story this season. THANK YOU! If you would like to be entered in the giveaway, just leave a comment letting me know you’ve already posted/linked, and I will enter you.

Thank you, good people of the internet, for continuing to help me spread the word about this.
our family :: five years ago
July 9, 2007 – the night after the accident

 

The worst five minutes of my life.

Dear people, thank you so much for your very kind and compassionate responses to this post. I just want to make sure new readers know that this occurred six years ago (July 8, 2007). My family is doing well now – we did work through the lingering effects of post-traumatic shock, and we continue to celebrate the happy outcome, cherish our two sons, and remain grateful for Erika Weiland, who saved our son’s life. One of the ways I try to honor the grace we were given on the beach that day is to get the word out about this kind of accident and how to prevent it.
After our accident, I learned that sandhole collapses are a more frequent occurrence than I would’ve dreamed, and that the majority of them end in death. There are four easy things you can do to prevent such a tragedy:
1. When you arrive at the beach, always check nearby for any holes left by others, and fill them in.
2. Do not dig holes any deeper than knee-high of the shortest person in your group. Yeah, I know this sounds extreme. If this feels more extreme than your group can accommodate then perhaps you can at least stop at waist-high.
3. If you do dig holes, fill them in before you leave. The hole my son fell in had been left by other children.
4. Make sure any children you go to the beach with know that holes and trenches can be dangerous, and that they should let you know if they see any abandoned holes.

Thank you for reading, and for helping spread the word.

I knew my blogging would be sporadic while on vacation, but I had not intended to take a hiatus for this long. Life intervened. A week ago tonight, my family sustained an enormous trauma and near tragedy. Miraculously, all ended well. As life is slowly turning back towards “normal,” I am feeling more energy to put into words what happened, and I find I need to, more and more. What follows is the story of how we almost lost Little Buddha, and how a total stranger saved his life. I have decided to break with my usual blogging habit and use everyone’s real names. The telling of this story seems to demand it.


Last Sunday, on our next-to-last night at Santa Rosa Beach, our family headed down to the beach – me, Paul (My Old Man), Rob (Little Buddha), Charlie (Tiny Dancer), My Old Man’s daughter S, her husband L, and their baby J. The red flag was up, indicating hazardous water conditions, so I had already decided we would only play in the sand. When we got to our usual spot, not very far from the lifeguard tower, we began setting up our chairs, right along the ledge where the soft sand drops to the packed sand. I was setting up chairs while Paul watched Rob and Charlie play in the sand about 6 feet away. I asked Paul a question about the chairs and he turned to answer me. Within seconds, I became aware of only one child in my peripheral vision. I turned to look directly, and did not see Rob. A quick scan of the beach in all directions was enough to let us all know that he was nowhere he could’ve gotten in that very brief period of time. We immediately thought he had been swept out by the water (we were somewhat close to the water, and I feared Rob had somehow accidentally backed into it – he is afraid of the water and would never go into it on his own).

I screamed for help while Paul ran out into the water to search for him. Many people came to help us, some assuring us that he had probably just wandered away. I tried to flag the lifeguards two or three times, without success. Paul’s daughter ran to get them, and they proceeded to treat it as a “child wanders off” situation, telling us “this happens all the time” and not to panic. I knew how quickly he had disappeared and was certain something terrible had happened. (I am grateful for that certainty, because in the end it turned out that time was of the essence and if I had not quickly gotten so many people to help us look for him in the immediate area he had been, we would not have been able to save him).

For five horrifying minutes we searched the water and the beach, with no luck. I knew it was long enough by this point that there was basically no hope of his still being alive (assuming he was in the water). My one hope was that the waves would bring his body back to us, because I could not imagine leaving the beach without him. A young woman who had been helping with the search suddenly noticed a sort of indentation in the ledge of soft sand, just a few feet from our chairs. She asked if it had been there when we arrived. I didn’t know. She stuck her hands in and began to dig a bit – and felt his head. She, my husband, and several others started digging and were able to pull him out – alive, and totally okay. Totally okay. I had not been able to watch them dig him up, because I was so afraid he was dead – it had been five minutes or more! – and I could not bear to see his little body brought up dead, and I could not bear for Charlie to see it either. It seemed to take so long for them to dig his head out (probably a minute, though) and then someone called to me – “He’s all right!”

I still don’t know how he survived being totally buried (8-10 inches above his head) for more than 5 minutes in the sand. Perhaps there was an air pocket? Perhaps he had somehow fallen in with his hand over his mouth? We have no idea. His eyes and mouth were closed when he was pulled up, and we think perhaps he had passed out, but he fairly quickly opened his eyes and began to cry. He had no sand in his nose or mouth. After the EMTs checked him out, we went to the hospital for a chest x-ray and it showed he had no sand in his lungs either. We realize we are exceptionally fortunate – not only to have found him, but to have found him alive and okay. I would never have thought to look in the sand for him, and if the young woman helping us search had not noticed the indentation and thought to look there, we surely would have lost him for good.

What we have been able to piece together in retrospect, based on what Rob has been able to tell us, is that there was a hole there (the woman who discovered him remembered seeing some boys digging a hole in that area not long before we arrived), and that he stepped in it (either accidentally or on purpose, we are not sure – he says he fell in). As soon as he was in it, it caved in (in his words: “I fell in a hole. The sand kept coming in. The hole closed, and it locked. I don’t like to be locked.”) He was in a crouching position when he was dug up, and I get the impression from his acting out of things that perhaps his legs buckled beneath him (as a very cautious and not particularly physically adept child, he is not a jumper – I cannot imagine him jumping into the hole and landing in a crouch position). I think the collapse happened immediately. What Paul and I cannot figure out is if the hole was already as deep as it was when we found him (in a crouching position with 8-10 inches of sand over him), or if the hole somehow sunk beneath him as soon as he stepped in. Given that the hole was in the ledge of soft sand, we have wondered if the tide somehow had hollowed out some of the sand beneath the hole, so that when he stepped in the floor of it dropped.

At the time, we thought it was a “freak accident,” and the hospital personnel certainly treated it as such (after ruling out foul play). Later that night, I googled “buried in sand” to see if anyone else had experienced such a thing. First I found this. Then I googled “buried in sand death” – and I discovered that just two weeks before Rob’s accident, a physician in Boston had a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine about just this thing, sand hole collapses. I was shocked by his findings, which the AP picked up (you can read a summary here). I have been in extensive conversation with Dr. Maron since Rob’s accident, and the conversations have driven home even more how very fortunate we are. Last summer, a woman in Australia was at the beach with her child. She walked to the water’s edge to wash something off, and when she turned around, her child was gone. The lifeguards and others treated it as a child abduction situation, and began a full search of the beach. Sometime later, someone remembered seeing the child playing in a hole in the sand. People began to dig, and discovered the child, who was dead. In 60% of these kind of accidents, the victim dies – I imagine that number is even higher if the accident is not witnessed (as was the case for us).

The fact that we not only found Rob, but got him back alive and totally okay (no brain damage, for instance) is astounding and overwhelming beyond words, and we are living in the amazement and gratitude for what feels like a miracle (and for our personal angel, Erika Orlando, the woman who found him and, by doing so, saved his life – and ours). At the same time, it is hard to describe my other reality – the fact that for many minutes I was living with the horror and grief of thinking my little boy was dead. Those emotions and that fear got somehow seared into my mind and heart, and it has been hard to come fully back from those moments.

Still, every moment I get to kiss that sweet face, hug that sturdy body, smell those golden curls, and hear that little voice feels like a miracle all over again. I am beyond grateful.

It may be awhile before I return to my regular blogging, or to my regular blogging topics. I still feel fragile and vulnerable and a bit consumed with what happened that afternoon at the beach. I wanted to let you, my internet friends, know what my family has been through and why my blog may “go dark” for a bit. The earth swallowed up my little boy, and we somehow got him back.

[For an update, read here.]