I read an article today about country music star Granger Smith’s final moments with his 3-year-old son. He shared (in a youtube video) that one moment he was playing with his daughter while his two younger sons played with water guns. As he watched his daughter doing gymnastics he thought to himself, “soak up this moment because it isn’t going to last forever”. Seconds later he was performing CPR on his youngest son, River. He had drowned in the family pool. I simply cannot fathom what that must have been like. Those moments of terror, desperation and uncertainty. If that had happened to me and my son, I think I would just die right there. My heart could not take it. I don’t believe there is anything more difficult to go through than the loss of a child. I’m brought to tears just thinking about what Granger’s family has gone through and the images that most certainly haunt them.
I spent a lot of time dwelling on how this tragedy could have happened. All the dark thoughts were creeping up in my mind. But I kept reading. Granger went on to say, “we are gonna search for every bit of good that we can find in this situation. That’s my commitment to River’s legacy.” Wait. What? How can there possibly be any good thing coming from the loss of a 3-year-old? I’m a bit shocked by his comment but after reading more and reflecting on his words, I realized I was locking myself in my own box of grief. Granger is going to search for the light instead of wasting away into the darkness and to do that, he is focusing on the legacy of the son he lost and what River would have wanted. It’s so selfless and beautiful. And I had been looking at it all wrong. I would want to shut out the world and wallow into despair if all I could focus on was my own pain. River’s family set out to find the meaning of what happened and to uncover whatever blessing can come from this, because they are still fighting for him. They are an example to their children (and a lot of other people like me) that life can change in an instant, but you can’t stay in the dark for too long. You must keep living and loving, not only for you but for everyone who loves you. That is courage.
“What happened that night defied all possibilities. Love those close to you, soak up those moments. Live for today, live in the present, because we are not guaranteed tomorrow.” This statement took my breath away. Sure, I’ve said things like “don’t dwell on the past” or “don’t worry about tomorrow. Focus on right now” probably 100 times. But I am literally the worst at doing that myself. For example, my son is home on leave from the Marines for a few weeks before he deploys for 2 years. I am so stressed out about the day I have to say “see you later” to him. I cry or become anxious just thinking about it. Dreading that day has made it hard for me to just enjoy every second with him because I’m always sad, thinking about the destination and ignoring the journey. Why can’t I just stop thinking about what will happen in another 2 weeks? Why can’t I enjoy the now? Maybe the quote is true; “depression lies in the past, anxiety waits in the future.”
Over the past few days, a certain scripture has been sticking out to me. “Do not fear, for I am with you”. I’ve been meditating on this and the realization that when I am afraid, it is because I have lost sight of Him. When I seek him, my fears dissipate. Granger also touches on his faith in a way that surprised me yet again. “I don’t believe that God takes anyone too soon. I’m not going to play around in my mind that there’s this fictitious timeline of River graduating from college, or high school or playing football because I believe that he was put on this earth for that exact amount of time.” His daughter asked him how many days River had lived. It had been 1,000 days. He then says, “What if you’re given the gift of 1,000 days on earth and you could live those days barefoot, red hair flying back on your go-kart, on your tractor, full speed ahead? If you could do that with your family around you, with no real care in the world, that’s a good 1,000 days. That’s a good way to live. He lived a good 1,000 days. That’s a huge example for me and how we are going to look at every single day.”
He has put faith over fear. He fully trusts God. He isn’t worrying about tomorrow because he knows that God is already there. And that’s how God wants us to live! He wants us to live like children. If only we didn’t worry, fear, judge, hate or envy. If only we put all our trust in God like we did as children, putting all our faith in someone else to guide us and love us. We had nothing to worry about back then. We knew that no matter what, things would just end up okay. When we lose faith and decide that we can do it all on our own, living for ourselves, of course we’re going to be overwhelmed with stress and anxiety. Granger knows the secret. If you put your trust in God, when you can give it all to Him, you become lighter. You know that no matter what, God’s got this. It allows you to truly savor the moment as it happens.
Sometimes I feel like I spend more time worrying than anything else. Days are going by, one right after the next, and they seem to be speeding up. I long to be free from all the things that keep me from living every day with joy. For me, that means having complete faith in Him and being truly thankful for every day He gives me. There isn’t one thing I can do about my past. And the future is the great unknown. But I can surrender and live without fear. Letting go of the past and the future can make so much room for all the blessings that I have right now, in this very moment.
Granger signs off by saying “Don’t feel sorry for us. We feel very blessed. We had an incredible boy for 3 years, and we feel good about that. We are going to live our best life.” What an inspiration and a perfect example of endless faith. He’s determined to find a bit of sunshine in what happened. Maybe some of that light is in the way he loves the Lord and inspires us to see things differently. Or the way he reminds us that tomorrow is not promised and every day is a gift. That we can soak up every beautiful moment as it happens. Barefoot, wind in my hair, full speed ahead! “Live like Riv” sounds perfect to me.