In a split second

Life can get really busy. I’m 47 years old now. I have two kids who are living in other parts of the world, one in Iowa and one in the Ukraine. We still have 4 children at home. I run my own business. I have a church calling that takes up a lot of time, especially on Sundays. This all makes time fly by. But before too much time passes, I wanted to get this written down. This is a hard one for me to write. Spoiler alert, there was no tragedy. Life went on as usual. But my heart aches and I get so sad when I think about what happened in Cedar City, Utah a couple weeks ago, and it’s all my fault.

For President’s Day weekend, we decided to get away and do something as a family. I travel a bit for my company and I gather “points” through which gives us a free night here and there. We decided to go south where it might be a little warmer and explore around Cedar City, Utah, and then visit Grandma and Grandpa Bringhurst in St. George, UT.  Ironically, the biggest snow storm of the year happened while we were there and it was a mess driving home. But that is another story.

The trip was going really well and was coming to the end. The kids wanted to go swimming one last time. The hotel was kind of weird because the pool was in one room and the hot tub was in another room. The pool was cold, so all of the kids went for the hot tub in the other room. I noticed there were no towels, so I went to the other room where the pool was. A big storm was coming in and it was windy and it made the pool room even colder. I grabbed the towels and walked back to the hot-tub room. There was a couple about our age in the hot tub and our four kids. My wife was situating shoes and when I walked in said to me,”We forgot Xavier’s life vest.” It was his birthday. We had just celebrated his 6th birthday with grandma and grandpa. It was freezing outside and the thought of going back outside to the hotel room to get the life vest didn’t seem fun. I said, “He’ll be fine. We’ll just have to watch him.” At that moment, I glanced down at the hot tub, and Xavier was face down in the hot tub, with no life vest, kicking. I jumped in with my flip flops still on and scooped him up. As I did that, I said to our daughter Emma who is 15, “You guys need to watch him!”  I immediately regretted saying that because I hadn’t thought of how that might make her and the other kids feel. He started coughing and screaming at me that it was too deep and that he needed his “floatie.” I was so happy to hear him screaming, even though he was really upset.  In a split second, life could have changed. We were on a family vacation. We had celebrated Xavier’s 6th birthday with cake and ice cream. We were supposed to be having fun swimming. My heart aches when I think of what happened. The other couple in the hot tub were astonished. They said they didn’t even notice.  Jen said that out of the corner of her eye she’d seen him and she thought that he was just playing.  Right there in front of everyone, he was doing everything he could to survive. He has taken some swimming lessons, which I’m sure helped, but he was not ready to be in there without a life vest. It was all my fault. I wasn’t watching him. I’m the parent. I’m responsible for his safety. I regretted saying he’d be OK without a life jacket.  And I really regretted saying anything to the other kids.  What if he hadn’t been OK? The other kids would have blamed themselves for it. I shouldn’t have said that.

I was shaken all night and the next day, and anytime I thought about it again. That night after everyone had fallen asleep in the hotel, he was sleeping between me and my wife Jen.  I held his hand and offered a long prayer of thanksgiving. I am so incredibly grateful that tragedy was avoided.  Xavier has been our miracle child. Born 3 months premature, he has gone through 8 brain surgeries for hydrocephalus. He spent his first four months at Primary Children’s Hospital. You’d think that we’d be more careful. But right there in front of everyone, right there with other people including adults in the hot tub, there was a boy drowning. It pains me to say it. It pains me to think of it. I have incredible guilt over it.  Yet for Xavier, 5 minutes later life was great again and he hasn’t spoken of it since.  For me, I’m haunted by it. I keep thinking of it over and over. How incredibly close we came to losing him, once again. This time not because of something out of my control, hydrocephalus (water on the brain), but because of my negligence in a hot tub full of water.

The interesting thing is he wasn’t making any noise. He was just kicking underwater, probably trying to get back to the edge. His face was under water, so you couldn’t hear if he was screaming. I don’t know how long he was like that, struggling, doing all he could to get back to the edge for safety.

I wonder if there is not a metaphor here for our spiritual lives? Could there maybe be a person right in front of us, or next to us, even on happy days and joyful occasions, ore even at church, who are sometimes drowning spiritually or emotionally? What are the signs? How do we notice them? Are they our children?  We need to pay attention to our children, so they don’t literally drown, and so they don’t spiritually or emotionally drown. There is so much guilt as a parent for mistakes that we all make. We aren’t perfect.  Parenting is so hard. God has trusted us with His precious children. I pray that I can do better in all three areas and be thankful for God’s blessings.

Xavier Bringhurst


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