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When We Fall

I can’t describe this feeling. I’ve photographed hundreds and hundreds of seniors, always trying to picture this day with my own son. Then the day comes. Last night, I’m there with my boy, now a young man. My wife and daughter are down below, my wife lifting up a prayer while my girl snaps a photo of me. I’m a speck on the top of a cliff face almost 60 feet up and opposite the cliff face he is on, catching the last bit of sunlight in that golden hour, and as my son is climbing up, at 30 feet he slips and falls.

My reflexes kick in. My finger is still pressing the shutter. There is absolutely nothing I can do. I can only scream his name and watch him fall – from a front row seat. Pure helplessness. He bounces from one ledge to the next, and finally drops the last 10 feet in free-fall. He lands flat as a pancake. I see his head hit the rock as he literally bounces off the ground.

I scramble down as fast as I can go. It feels like an eternity. By the time I reach him both the girls have him in their lap. He is awake. He is coherent. He is talking. Pure adrenaline. Then he wants to lay down and close his eyes, but I won’t let him. We check his pupils for dilation, he follows commands, there is no throwing up, no slurred speech, no indication he had fallen, except a sore leg, ankle and tailbone. He said his head didn’t even hurt. In fact, he was hungry. Nothing broken. No blood, full range of motion and so we start to move, trying to walk out and make it to the car in case he crashes from shock. It happened to me in Haiti years ago. I remember it too well. We reach the car and he says he feels ok.

So we prayed and we drove home. We ate some comfort food, had some ice cream, drank plenty of fluids and watched him through the night. Kari told us that the moment before he fell she was praying, and heard herself say, “Lord, please just catch him when he falls.” It even surprised her. “When he falls?” she thought, and it was then he slipped.

Despite the terror of that moment, it was the most graceful fall I’ve ever seen. I still can’t fathom how, but this morning my son is studying in his room, doing his school, and we are just praising God, grateful for another day, and thankful that He catches us when we fall.

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