Our Dance With Death
One year ago, today.
I came very close to becoming a widow.
Matt, my husband, and I share something very special. He is my best friend, my soul mate and I can’t imagine a life without him. He is an unbelievable step-dad who loves my children as his own. There are so many reasons why I love him: he is kind, gentle, loyal, sincere, honest, trust worthy, works hard, excellent provider, fantastic listener, supportive and gives the most amazing foot rubs! That’s my Matt Shea!
Matt grew up on the Ocean. Being from the East Coast you practically live on the beach and I can recall the stories of how he loved to play in the ocean as a kid. His brother is a fisherman. I heard stories of how Matt loved jumping off the boat into the deep ocean. We had been married eight years, I just assumed he knew how to swim. Or even float on his back, for that matter!
February 13, 2013 we were relaxing on the beaches of Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba when we decided to take a dip. The water was a little choppy but didn’t appear serious. See that sandbar just beyond the darker part of the water? We saw people playing on that sandbar in knee deep water. That’s where we were headed. A few feet out our toes no longer touched the bottom but it appeared that we were almost there. I am great at treading water & floating. This is where I learned that Matt…not so much.
Waves began to pick up. We were swimming against them. By now, we had been over our heads for about 15 minutes. The sandbar looked closer than the beach. I looked back to see Matt struggling. Fear began to appear in his face. Closer to the sandbar, we kept heading in that direction but the waves made it difficult. The beach looked so close yet so far away. I was ahead of Matt as to try to find land that my toes could reach. I looked back and I will never forget the panic in his eyes. He was scared and in trouble. He said, “should I go under, just for a second, to rest?” NOOOOOOOOOOOO! I asked him to float on his back and he said he didn’t know how. My heart sank. How can I be married to this man for 8 years and not know he doesn’t know how to float?
I am usually a woman who fixes things or has the answers for people. I did not have an answer here. The water is above our heads, there is nothing to hold onto, waves are pushing us, Matt can’t swim and is considering going under to rest. As tears start to form in my eyes, a calmness comes over me. How do I fix this?
I see a catamaran in the distance. I begin calling for help, bobbing in the water flailing my arms in hopes that they can hear or see me. At this point Matt is telling me to stay out of arms reach so he doesn’t pull me under in an attempt to keep his head above water. The couple on the catamaran notice me! I can see them heading in our direction now. I said a little prayer to help Matt keep his head above the water until they could reach us. I was helpless. Was I about to watch my husband drown while I could do nothing to help?
They arrived just in time. We were plucked from the ocean. Matt sat in disbelief and silence on the trip back to shore. As soon as I knew we were safe I began to cry. The woman on the boat hugged and held me. I kept apologizing for interrupting their catamaran trip to which she only replied, “we are happy to help.” Pulling on shore I apologized again and asked how we could ever repay them. She joked that we owed her a drink. The joke being that we were at an all inclusive. We never saw them again. We were at a small resort of 133 people and we never saw them again. Angels sent to help us? Maybe. Either way, we are sincerely grateful.
The lesson I learned that day: Life is a gift. We are here for a reason. Each one of us! Life is precious and can be taken away in the blink of an eye at the most unexpected times. Treasure the life you have and live each day like it might be your last. Tell the ones you love what they mean to you, make those dreams a reality, figure out what’s most important to you and do more of that! Practice gratitude. Life is a gift.
Happy Valentine’s Day 2014, Matt! I am beyond grateful that you are here with me today. Love love love you! TCB xo