Anatomy of a Nightmare: When My Son Fell

It happened so suddenly. Isn’t that how life, with its myriad twists and turns, its triumphs and tragedies, actually works? What started out as a planned day for fun and memories quickly morphed into one of the most bone-chilling experiences of my life.

There we were, playing and laughing, talking and living, with no thought of how everything can change in one split second. Funny how it isn’t so often the years or the gradual processes that shift things the most; rather it is those instant-replays that are really just mere snapshots in time that forever become imprinted, time stamps of when that terrible thing happened. 

Our family enjoying Lake Erie in Cleveland, OH with my sister minutes before the accident; clearly we had NO idea how quickly we would quit smiling

Our family enjoying Lake Erie in Cleveland, OH with my sister minutes before the accident; clearly we had NO idea how quickly we would quit smiling

I watched it happen. I watched my son begin to slip, his footing becoming completely unsure, throwing him down to the ground, among a ledge of infection-riddled boulders several feet below me. I was powerless. There was nothing I could do. As soon as I saw his head come to rest against the jagged edge of the rock, I knew. I knew he was injured, though the extent was still unknown. I’m pretty sure time stood still as I waited for him to breathe, to move, to give a sign that he was conscious. Immediately as Gary’s head began to rise, Mel jumped down to pick him up. 

As Mel yanked his shirt off to stop the intense bleeding, I began to run. I had one thought in my head: get Gary to the hospital now. Get Gary to the hospital now. Then, as EMT responded, they grounded my feet, telling me to remain seated on the rocks, holding on to my shaking son.

How ironic that I was to remain on the very rocks that caused this injury. That’s when my Rock whispered: I am here. I love you. Call on My Name. When your feet shift, I will place you on the Rock that is higher. Always I Am Steadfast.

Over and over Gary asked if he was going to be okay, if Jesus was going to heal him. While I continued to apply pressure to stop the bleeding, I encouraged my own soul along with his, recounting all the times our God has never failed us. I did not know the outcome. I did not know any thing for sure. But I did know this: Jesus can be trusted. Jesus is alive. Jesus is my only Hope. As Gary and I sat and waited for the ambulance, that was all we needed to know.

There are millions of what-ifs. All parents know this. We are masters at detecting the risks, unveiling the irrational fears, coming to grips with how utterly powerless we actually are in the daunting task of protecting our kids.

There is no grace for the what-ifs. Those are endless and abstract and arbitrary. There is only grace for the what-is moments of our lives. When that thing has actually happened, when the nightmare comes true. When we surely need Him, He is surely already there, anchoring our lives to His Mighty Rock.

What if Gary hadn’t survived that horrific fall? What if he became paralyzed? What if he had a concussion? What if there was brain trauma/damage?

Oh, how the what-ifs can crowd out our peace! I had no grace for those thoughts. Why? Because they were not my reality. But there was a bucket full of grace when I actually needed it, when my what-is situation had turned on a dime.

This Mama never wants to ride in an ambulance again!

This Mama never wants to ride in an ambulance again!

Throughout the hours spent in the ER, my mind raced with every possible outcome. I was keenly, even painfully, aware of how very different our situation could have been. As the team of doctors deliberated on how best to treat Gary’s traumatic head wound, I received a glimpse into what I believe actually happened. I am convinced that because so many faithful prayer warriors carry our family before The Throne regularly, my son is okay. I have no doubt that angels who were commanded to be in charge (see Psalm 91) cradled my sweet boy’s head as it collided with that rock.

With hospital discharge papers in hand and eleven staples across the back of Gary’s head (binding up a very large laceration that reached down to his skull), our family stepped out with gratitude and grace. We had all the grace we needed, exactly when we needed it. Tomorrow is a new day, full of myriad what-ifs, but this family can rest, will rest, assured that God’s got all the upcoming what-is moments, and He is faithful!


I'm so incredibly grateful for my sister, Erica! She sprung into action, calling 9-1-1 immediately, and helped the paramedics locate us on the rocks. She also remained cool, calm, and collected throughout the entire ordeal, ministering to Joelle in the process. We needed another adult that day so that both of our kids could be cared for: yet another provision of our great God!

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