Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less
By Lauren Daigle | Michael Farren | Paul Mabury
Our drive into Hell’s Canyon was a beautiful and winding trip through the wilderness and hilly areas of Southwestern Idaho. We knew we were close to home as we drove into the beautiful wide expanse of the Brownlee Reservoir. Reaching the bridge below Brownlee Dam, we knew home was just twelve miles away after driving the narrow road along the Snake River. Blessed by all the wildlife, we would search across the river to see our community Bald Eagles perched or fishing near the power company park across the way. Along the hillsides there were usually big horned sheep or deer wandering. We had even spotted a small brown bear and some elk at one time or another. With the blessing also came the fear of boulders coming down the mountain side or animals running out in the road, especially at dusk as they would go to the river to drink at sunset.
Many stories circulated about people, some drunk, some not, driving off into the river avoiding a boulder or animal. I don’t recall anyone actually drowning, but it was always a concern for us. Being the protective parents we were, Gary and I had a plan for the worst possible scenario for our drives. Always strategically seated, I would get Bethany and Taylor out on my side, pass them over the top of our car, and Gary would take Shawn and Drew from his side to the bank if our car ever crashed. Playing this safety plan over and over in my mind, it was not strange that I would dream about it.
One night, when Taylor was almost 5, I woke suddenly sobbing. Gary asked me what was wrong. I told him I dreamed that Taylor had drowned. He looked at me soberly and asked for details. I described how our car crashed into the river. We started our routine, and I got Bethany out and tried to get Taylor but couldn’t, so I passed Bethany off to Gary and went back for Taylor. His seatbelt was stuck. I tugged and tugged in a crazy panic for what seemed like ten minutes with the car slowly filling with water. Taylor watched me calmly, not scared at all while I was eventually underwater in a green murkiness screaming inside my head, praying, and begging God to help me. Suddenly a huge wave hit us and took the car downriver popping me up to the surface, helpless and grieving as I watched our car and our son get carried away. I then woke up in my weeping state.
Gary just stared at me and then started crying and holding me. I was confused at his deep emotional response to my dream. When he composed himself, he explained he had been having multiple dreams about Taylor drowning and the night before he had dreamed the exact dream I had! We were dumbfounded. What did this mean? What were we supposed to do with this experience? Is God preparing us for this loss? We prayed, held each other, and tried to go to sleep.
At first, we spent time scared and became extremely overprotective, even more than we had been before. Prior to this we were paranoid about anything in our culture that would harm our children’s minds and hearts and I have to admit we took some things to the extreme. Now we were frightened about anything having to do with the river. I avoided swimming picnics with our friends from church. We took Taylor to our mountain getaway in McCall and had summer swimming lessons for him and Shawn, making sure they were strong swimmers. Taylor passionately loved to fish but we avoided and ignored his requests to go to the river, making excuses and finding other things to do instead. Fortunately, Taylor loved to snow ski and do other activities, so we were able to keep him active away from the water and not make it look like we were completely neurotic parents.
The river did hold a special place in our hearts as Shawn and Taylor decided to be baptized in the Snake River the September Taylor turned five, shortly after my dream. It was very cold. Shawn went first with Gary and our pastor, after a few others publicly committed their lives to Jesus. It was funny watching our normally brave Taylor go into the cold water shaking, but I was grateful for his caution, thinking he wouldn’t want to rush back and swim on his own in the icy water. He wasn’t sure he could get completely wet in the chilly September flow. Looking at his big brother’s encouraging smile, his courage grew, and he let Gary take him out. A peace flooded my heart as I watched my sons commit their lives to Jesus before our church family and God. It was there God started working on my heart and asked me to not live in fear for my son.
My fears did not dissipate right away, but our time at Oxbow carried more wonderful memories of time with loving and amazing people with outdoor experiences and family memories that I will forever hold dear. It was a beautiful simple life, yet I still struggled in fear of rattlesnakes, the dams breaking, and our kids drowning.
One incredibly scary day is forever in our minds and showed me and Taylor how important and real God’s protection was in our lives. We couldn’t find Bethany when she was two. I was almost hysterical. The boys and I looked in every nook and cranny in our house with no success. I panicked and sent Drew down to the neighbors on our row and Shawn up to the houses above our home. Taylor, I sent to the post office below our house. The post office was one of her favorite places to visit as our mail man would kindly stamp the kids’ hands with one of the many stamps he used to mark special mail.
I called a couple friends to come help us look for Bethany then ran outside to see how the boys were doing. After about five minutes, I could hear Bethany screaming and found Taylor literally dragging his resistant sister towards our home up the steel stairs next to the post office, with her bare legs scraping along the metal steps.
“Taylor! Where did you find her?”
“She was walking on the highway by the church at the river! Mama, she almost got hit by a truck going forty-five miles an hour and he didn’t even see her!!”
Our six-year-old son, with God’s help, had saved our little girl. When I asked her why she went down there, she replied that she wanted to see her best friend, Abby at church. Bethany didn’t understand that Abby lived 30 minutes away in Halfway and not at our church. I immediately got my kids in the car and took her to Halfway commenting all the way to my daughter on how far it was and how she could only see Abby if I took her in the car!
Our kids continued to grow to love our home of almost five years. It was terribly hot in Hell’s Canyon in the summer, thus the name. However, it was also a prime snow dumping place for God to bless our children in the winters. With their growing love for the outdoors and all our wonderful friends, it was hard on them when we decided to buy a house in Nampa with the hopes that Gary would eventually get a job in Boise. Shawn was in the third grade and Taylor in Kindergarten, and I wasn’t sure how long I would homeschool our children. Sadly, a huge reason for my desire to leave was from fear. I was afraid of rattlesnakes, the dam breaking and the constant dread that Taylor, our adventurer, would eventually decide to be his independent self and go swimming in the river by himself.
I kept a journal for all my children throughout their lives. As I’ve read through Taylor’s journal, this particular move was extremely hard on him. He didn’t want to leave the only home he had known, and he didn’t want to leave his outdoors but mostly he didn’t want to leave three friends, his best friend in particular, Josh. He felt loved by them and his outdoor play land. Remembering how hard it was to be taken from my many friends, I look back now and ache for the pain it caused him. Like I did from my many moves, Taylor fought to hold onto his past friends and began to take each new friendship very seriously which would bring more miracles in his death.