It was a Summer later when I read an article about the silence of drowning. It's not the desperate thrashing, arms waiving, crying for help, we see in the movies. The act of drowning is very quiet. The body goes into survival mode and instincts kick in. The arms move close to the body, the feet tread water, and the air for yelling is conserved for breathing. People drown every day without anyone knowing something is wrong.
After that tragedy at the pool, we parents kept closer eyes on our children. I never read a book, talked on a phone, or had in depth conversations poolside. I did see a child in trouble again that summer, and just like I read, I saw only the panic in their eyes, no obvious signs of struggle. I held out my hand and pulled her to safety.
I wish I could have done the same for my sister-in law. She was drowning too, but no one could save her. I think often of what could have been different. Why couldn't she have just taken one of the many hands held out to her. We all wanted to stop her from sinking, but by the time we saw the panic in her eyes, it was too late. The weight of alcoholism and hopelessness was more than any of us could help her bear.
Rebecca Lynn Martin lost her struggle a few days after Christmas this year. In some ways, many of the people who loved her, lost their struggle as well. They never stopped trying to get her to swim to shore. Some of us threw out the life ring, knowing that the safest way to save someone in trouble is to stand on solid ground and hope they grab on. Others dove in selflessly, holding her up, until there own strength was exhausted.
In these first days of 2011, I've spent a lot of time thinking of Becci in her glory days. She was the girl many were jealous of. She was naturally thin with beautiful legs and striking green eyes. And she really loved her clothes, always dressed to the nines. She also had the deep voice that carried through a room like a microphone. We always tease Aidan that he got Aunt Becci's uncanny loudness. Becci also had beautiful hands. It was rare that she didn't have the perfect manicure on those long, graceful fingers. When Camryn was born, one of the first things I noticed were her elegant little fingers. She got Aunt Becci's hands. Everyday I'm reminded of her in my children.
Why Becci couldn't grab on to one of us, we'll never know. I know we never stopped trying to reach her, never stopped throwing out the life ring.
I know drowning is quiet. I have been a witness, a stunned onlooker that can't help.
I now realize that sometimes drowning can be completely silent, the sorrow of life pulling down, until there are only ripples on the surface to show you were ever there at all.
Becci lived with the weight of alcoholism threatening to drag her down everyday. That weight has been lifted. May her spirit soar to the heavens. May she take the hand of God and be lead safely to shore.