“Karen!!!” I pounded on the door praying that at two AM she’d hear me. ”Karen!! Please help! Ila is blue!! Help!!”
To my relief, the door flew open. Karen grabbed my limp week old baby from my terrorized arms and administered CPR while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. I knew, somehow I just knew that Karen’s house, across the street from ours, was where to go that night. Not only did she have a medical background, she was strong. She was fiercely loving. She was loyal and friendly and welcoming and I knew that night that she’d help us no matter the time, no matter the request. And that is exactly what she did.
We were so fortunate that night to have Karen help us. So very lucky. “But for the grace of God go we…” So true huh? That phrase has plagued me this week. “But for the grace..." It applies to so many things in this world. So many horrors. But this week, I have been thinking about it in terms of the horrific boating accident that took place on our beloved Lake George. “But for the grace of God…”
That sweet little girl could have been my girl. She could have been yours. She could have been your best friend’s daughter. That grieving family could have mine. Could have been yours. Could have been all of us. It is a horrific scenario that my mind will only allow me to delve into in a surface way before panic sets in and I flail my hands to wipe away the nightmare. My heart, your hearts, our hearts break,of course they break, for the life cut short and the emptiness that that family will carry inside them for the rest of their years.
But that's not the only family who is grieving. There's at least five other families on the other side of this tragedy who are shocked and saddened, regretful and lost, and have a much different kind emptiness inside them. And I wish...I wish...we’d all be careful with our persecutions and shaming. With our public disgust and outcries.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that the stories out there point to seemingly callous decisions from the five in that boat that fateful night. And so, those five young adults will face the proper judicial prosecution and they will have to face the repercussions of a myriad of choices that they made that night. That is what our judicial system is for. That’s the way our society is set up. It will give all sides, all humans involved in this maelstrom, a chance to get it all out and for consequences to be doled out in the manner that the court sees fit. A court is allowed to judge. It is its job.
But are we? Who are we really to sit in judgment? Remember that phrase, “But for the grace of God…” I suppose it is human nature to have judgy thoughts about those who were in that boat. But alas, the things I have been reading, the conversations I’ve overheard aren’t just about the boat occupants. I have read scathing comments about the families of the five, about the parents, about the jobs that they did in their roles and the ineptitudes that they must have. And, well, I think it’s wrong. There I said it.
Instead of persecution, could we try and place ourselves in those parents’ shoes? Because here’s the thing--just like that sweet little girl could have been any of our children--those five young adults could be as well.
My children, your children, our children are not perfect and neither are any of us. I'd like to think that everyone of our kids would have responded differently than what seems to have happened on the lake that night. But I am convinced that we cannot be 100% sure of what might have happened if it were them. Dear readers, I have read too many rebukes of the parents and families over the past few days. Their children have free will and shame on us for assuming that we know ANYTHING about the kind of humans their parents are. Shame on us.
There are no straight lines in life. How lovely the world would be if all the intentions that parents have for their children were received and followed and experienced and NO ONE or NOTHING but the parents had an effect on the way our children think, act or speak. What a life. What a world. There’d be no mistakes small or large. Our kids would be perfect. Anyone have those kind of kids? Not me. Nope.
And perhaps that is where my fury for the judgment comes from. My son stole. My son is an addict. My son is in prison. And believe me, I didn’t need ANY help feeling the terrible horrible soul-sucking regret and self-hatred for the mistakes I made as his mom. But that didn’t stop my own mother from writing a scathing letter to my addict-son delineating all the things she imagined his awful mother did to him as if...as if the totality of his mistakes resided on my shoulders.
But here’s the thing, it just wasn’t true. While all mamas hold some responsibility to how their children are raised there are circumstances that we could never know about. Never. How dare we assume that we know all there is to know. Maybe one parent did a monumental job trying to keep her child on the straight and narrow while the other did all they could to sabotage that. Maybe the grandparents were absent. Maybe the child witnessed something that would change them forever. Maybe something happened to the child that was out of the parents control and that somehow caused them to step off a path of success. Maybe a child was brutally bullied. Maybe one was abused. The world is chock FULL of influences both bad and good. Is there ANY child who is immune to it all?
We don’t know. We will never know the why of that night. We will never know all the split paths that those humans took to get them to that fateful night. All I DO know is that because of that horrific boating accident there are so many many people in agony. How about instead of adding to it, we try and alleviate the suffering. Donate to the gymnastic fund started on behalf of that little girl. If you know one of the family members of the suspects, reach out and tell them that you are thinking about them. Don’t forget that those families are not in any way shape or form the totality of their children’s mistakes. There’s so much to them as there is with ANY human.
Almost seven years ago, I frantically banged on my neighbor, Karen’s, door in the middle of the night to ask her to help me save my daughter. Unfortunately, that Karen, the Karen that saved my daughter’s life, is also a parent to one of the young adults in the boat. But don’t you see? That isn’t ALL she is. She’s reliable. She’s warm. She’s fiercely loving and loyal. And she is responsible for saving my daughter’s life. Imagine if in my terror, she stood arms folded at the front door pointing her finger rolling her eyes making wild assumptions like, “Did you lay her on her stomach. What a horrible mom! Don’t you know about SIDS? You obviously didn’t do a good job!!” But she didn’t. She wouldn’t. She never judged. She just reached out and helped. Her judgment wouldn’t have saved Ila that day. Her willingness to help did.
And in the same way, our judgment will do nothing but add to the anguish of this devastating incident. So I for one have decided to be like my friend Karen in the midst of chaos. Tomorrow, my Ila, saved by Karen the mother of a boat occupant, will coincidentally have a playdate with the niece of another member of the boat that night. She knows that her friend’s family has gone through some kind of tragedy but we haven’t given her details. Tonight, when I put her to bed I asked if she had any questions she wanted to ask about the friend and what the family was going through. True to her nature, she lifted her head from the pillow and rested it on her hand and said, “No, Mommy. Because here’s the thing, I bet she still like to play dolls and so I am just going to forget about the other stuff and remember why I love her. My friend is still my friend even if her uncle made a mistake.”
How right you are, Ila. How right you are. So readers, it is my fervent hope, that starting now, if you have the urge to judge another about a situation you know little about you remember: "But for the grace of God go I.”