We are in the Bahamas spending some time together and trying to adjust to our new life. I purposely don’t refer to it as a vacation. While we are at a vacation spot, we are trying to move forward one day at a time and continue to struggle each day with the loss of Grayson. Many people have said there are no words to express the grief and pain that we are feeling, unfortunately that is true.
In the last few months my perspective on many things has changed. One that I have specifically noted is that this type of emotional pain/loss is far worse than any physical pain or physical injury. I have a few chronic pain issues both from my Crohn’s disease and also from years of abusing my body physically. However, I no longer even notice these pains; they pale in comparison to the grief and pain over the loss of Grayson
Life is so precious. It is so precious and so out of our control that most of us choose to, in fact need to, not think about this reality on a daily basis. The reality of it is too scary to really focus on. Any of us could be gone tomorrow for reasons we would never guess. We are all human. We are all mortal.
When faced with the loss of a child this reality, that we usually try to keep in the back of our mind, is thrust forward into the forefront of our mind as one of the main and only things we think about. It’s no longer an internal philosophical idea we can rationalize away; it’s a fact. Life is fragile, we are all vulnerable and it’s out of our control.
So one of the things I am going to try and do is to embrace the above and see if there are ways that I can use this reality and awareness towards something positive in my life. We have all heard the cliché “you only have one life to live so live it to the most”. Clichés are clichés for a reason-they are true and often very wise. I am not fully there yet in my process but I hope to better embrace this reality and goal and to get as much out of this life as possible; this I why I played Tug of War with a shark today.
We went on one of those day trips in the Bahamas where they take you and 40 other people on a giant speed boat around to a few islands. The highlight is when you get in the water and feed the stingrays then observe the Sharks as the come very close to get the large fish on a thick rope being thrown in to bait them to the shore.
The guys doing this do it every day and clearly know what they are doing. They have a Grouper that’s about 2 feet long. They thread a rope through the body of the grouper just behind its head so the rope is in tight and good and becomes a part of the Grouper’s body. They then toss the Grouper into the water about 10-15 feet offshore and as the sharks begin to approach they pull the bait closer and closer until the sharks are literally in just a few feet of water. Today there were Reef, Lemon, and Nurse Sharks that ranged in size from 4’-8’.
I was feeling down so I was observing all of this from a little platform above the shore looking down on the guides, the sharks, and all of my local tourists. Then the guides started to play tug of war with the Sharks. They would throw the rope/grouper out (they went through about 5 groupers in all) then pull it towards the shore then, at times, let the shark get a real good solid full bite of the fish and the rope....they would make sure the Sharks teeth were really sunk in and its jaw tight. Then they would attempt to pull the shark up on the beach as the shark fought back, jaw fully clinched.
Where the water line ended and the sand began was the center of the tug of war. The Shark fought as hard as it could both keeping the food in its mouth and using the muscles of its body to flop on the sand and pull towards the ocean. All the while the guide was holding the rope with all of his might and pulled towards land. In each case it was more or less a draw as the shark would get uncomfortable with how out of the water it was getting and the guide too,.. was getting uncomfortable with how out of the water the shark was getting and,… the shark would release the fish and the guide would release the rope. Repeat game.
At that point they turned toward the crowd of tourists and asked who wanted to play tug of war with the sharks. Nobody stepped forward. Then they called on one man specifically who was near the front and said “hey man its your lucky day, we pick you to play tug of war with the shark”. The guide roped the shark handed the rope to the man and the man quickly dropped the rope as quickly as he could.
At that point I really didn’t see what the big deal was. Their fear was of fear itself, not of actual danger. The shark itself had its jaws 100% clinched on the fish and rope. If he wanted to bite you he would have to first release the rope which would, by its mere action, send you and the Shark in separate directions. So compared to the grief and pain that I am currently enduring I simply saw a group of people who were fearful only of one thing, fear itself,… and that seemed simple to me.
So I walked down off the platform, politely pushed my way to the front of the tourist crowd, and told Steve, the main guide, that I wanted to play. He said “yeah man, we got a live one here brother… let me get a new grouper on the rope for you man”. A minute later with a fresh grouper on the rope they tossed it in the water about 10 feet and got one of the larger lemon sharks to firmly clamp its jaws on the bait.
At that point Steve handed me the rope and without hesitation I began pulling as hard and as fast as I could. With each pull the shark came another 6 inches closer to me until finally its head and my feet were only about 2 feet apart and the shark was essentially out of the water. At that point Steve yelled at me very loud to let go of the rope and as I did he grabbed the tail end of the rope and the shark let go of the bait and wiggled itself back into the water. And during that entire time I felt no fear. I was simply choosing to experience something interesting that for very personal reasons posed no fear to me.
I walked back up to the platform and watched the guides put one last grouper on the line and play with the sharks some more (no more tourist’s opted in). As I sat there I was thankful for the 10 minute distraction yet my mind went back to Grayson and thinking about how cool she would have thought it would have been to play tug of war with a shark. How she would have probably been out there even before me. And I was again reminded of just how much I miss her and love her.