For as long as I’ve known Emily, she had what she considered a healthy fear of natural bodies of water. Lakes, streams, rivers, oceans – whatever the case, she was fairly certain that all of them were chock-full of sharks and body parts. Any time a report would come in of a random human foot washing ashore or the like, Emily would forward me the article with a subject line that usually read something like, “TOLD YOU SO.”
Naturally, this fear meant that I spent a great deal of time trying to get her to just jump in the water. Throw caution to the wind and body parts be damned – let’s go!
Several years ago, Emily and I joined some of my other family at my mom and step-dad’s camp on Toledo Bend. I had coaxed Emily in the water for short spurts throughout the day, but not for very long and never without some type of flotation device to hang on to.
As the day wore on, Emily and I decided to take a short run to get some exercise. Somehow, inexplicably, I convinced Emily that we were going to finish our exercise by running straight on to the dock and leaping off. Now, from the railing of the dock to the water was probably somewhere around 10-12 feet, but for Emily, it may as well have been 1,000.
Throughout our jogging I would continue to remind her of what was coming, really believing she would not follow through with the plan. As we got to the dock, we both stumbled down the planks, ripping off shoes and socks and shedding our running clothes, tight with sweat. In the back of my mind, I knew we’d get to the end and Emily would change her mind when she saw the murky water below.
We got to the edge and climbed up the rail, standing on wobbly, tired legs. This was it. She was going to throw on the brakes and say, “No way.” We stood straight and she looked down into the unknown and she said, “Wait!”
“I knew it,” I thought.
Then she pulled an Emily. She grabbed my hand and quietly but defiantly said, “Now.”
And we jumped.
I discovered a song a few days after Emily passed away called “Water” and couldn’t help but think of her during the chorus:
So I crawled out of the back door
Took off all these tight clothes
Jumped into the water
During the last four years, life had become increasingly difficult for Emily. Not the actions of a life, but the ability to be alive that we all take for granted. Being alive had become a burden to living her life. She knew she was approaching the end of that dock.
And Emily was comfortable in her belief that what was in that water below was unknown, as scary as that can seem. Regardless of your faith or belief system, none of us truly knows until we know. We may convince ourselves of something based on what science or religion or stories have told us, which may all very well be true, but until that water collapses around you, it is all just a guess.
Emily looked down at the water with all of its unknown mystery, she “took off all those tight clothes,” she held my hand, said “now,” and she jumped into the water.
I’ve never seen bravery like that before and doubt I ever will again.
I’m so proud of her.