As I write this, I’m comfortably sitting on my couch, listening to my two toddlers play with their Finding Dory water tables (Yes, indoors). Toy Story 2 is blaring in the background as my girls occasionally break from their splashing to run towards the television and sing along with their favorite scenes. You see, Mrs. Graves, we are a “Disney family” and the tragic loss of your son, Lane, pains me deeply. When I was a little girl, our family would save money all year long just to go on vacation at Walt Disney World. On the years that we could not afford airfare; it was a road trip, complete with yucky bathroom rest-stops and cheap roadside motels. Thinking back on those summer vacations of years passed, I can honestly say they were some of my fondest childhood memories. No one argued. Everyone was relaxed and happy. We couldn’t wait to hit the parks, eat, and visit with our favorite characters.
As I grew up, I continued my affinity for all things Disney. I became a manager for the Disney Store. I converted my husband into a Disney enthusiast and we vacationed there several times during our dating years. My personal prince charming even agreed to let us get married at the Disney Wedding Pavilion.
A Disney Fairytale
In June 2002, we had an intimate, small wedding, with Cinderella’s castle as our backdrop. For our honeymoon, we stayed at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and shared many moonlight walks on the beach, adjacent to the Seven Seas Lagoon.
I’ve stood on the very same sand and waded my feet in the same water where you tragically lost your son. I cannot imagine what you are feeling right now. I don’t pretend to understand the absolute horrific trauma you must have experienced to see your baby snatched from you during a picturesque moment of childhood innocence.
Throughout my life and specifically in this last week, there have been numerous world events that have placed a lump in my throat and a pit in my stomach. But thinking of you, Mrs. Graves, and how you must be feeling after the death of your son has brought tears to my eyes. My heart breaks for you as the mother of two toddlers myself.
I am so, so sorry that you suffered such a tragic loss at what has been “the happiest place on earth” for so many families, including my own.
The older I get, the more I continue to ask myself two questions: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and “Why do people capitalize on tragedies by promoting hate?”
Mrs. Graves, since we are not personally acquainted, I don’t know if you are a “good” or “bad” person. Taking your children to Disney World does not place you in one category or the other. However, I know from the reports about your family’s misfortune that both you and your husband valiantly attempted to save your son. You laid your own lives on the line for the life of your child. In my mind, that confirms you are indeed loving, caring parents.
Don’t Listen Mrs. Graves
Please, Mrs. Graves, I beg you, do not pay any attention to those who choose to berate, put down or insult your parenting skills. These heartless souls are unable to conjure up the smallest amount of sympathy, let alone empathy, towards any fellow human being. The sole purpose of their miserable existence is to “lay the blame” on someone for whatever news worthy story happens to momentarily grab their attention. Shame on them!
I want you to know in the wake of Lane’s terrible loss, there are members of the online parent community and Disney enthusiasts who mourn with you. Hear us when we tell you, what happened was “not” your fault. What happened at Walt Disney World this week was a gut-wrenching, un-foreseeable tragedy. No one could have possibly predicted such a horrific turn of events. Not even, the most caring, loving, well-intentioned parent.
What happened to you, could have happened to any of us. It could have been my own two children splashing their feet in that lagoon.
Now that your baby has been found, I pray you return home to Nebraska to lay him to rest amongst the community of friends and family who love you. I pray you find peace in the midst of this profound loss and seek the therapeutic and spiritual guidance your family may require to help you through the grieving process. I also pray your husband is a comfort to you during this difficult time.
Moreover, I hope your daughter’s childhood can surpass this tragedy. Children grieve differently than adults do. I know it will be hard, but as you begin to process Lane’s death, reiterate to your little girl that what happened was an “accident.” Let her talk about her brother. Help her to remember him. Allow her to express herself and her grief with you by her side.
And on nights when you ask yourself, “Why,” know there is someone out there thinking of you. I will continue to hold your family in my heart. I will hug my daughters slightly tighter when I think of your precious Lane.
Let your loss remind us all, that when tragedy strikes any family; they don’t need our opinion. They need our prayers. They need our compassion. And you will forever have mine.
There is nothing more tragic in this world than the loss of a child. Each of us should embrace the kindness in our hearts necessary for you to feel supported in this moment, not judged.
May God Bless & keep you always, Blind Motherhood.