Where do I even begin? Let me start by giving you some back story. Beau was quite the kid, to say the least. He was perfectly healthy and happy. He was strong, smart, funny, kind, and fearless. From the moment he could walk, he was fiercely independent. Everyone was always drawn to him. Teachers, coaches, family, and friends would always tell me, "that Beau is something special." I know I just sound like a doting mother, but those who knew him know I speak the truth. He had his moments, he was not perfect and drove me nuts at times, but he constantly amazed me. He didn't always listen to authority figures, myself included, but in a weird way I'm glad he was that way. Strong-willed was used to describe him many times. He was so good looking I often could not even believe Luke and I made such a beautiful child. Beau's talents were endless. It did not matter what he was doing, it was with passion and a lively spirit. Whether it be building something, drawing, reading, math (big time), sports of any kind, video games, etc. He wasn't just talented, he was pure of heart and kind. He saw the good in everyone and had no problem making friends (or girlfriends). People of all ages were always in awe of him.
Beau was compared to a demigod at his memorial. It was said that his energy was just too big and too much for this world, and he was just too good for us to keep. Too good to spend a lifetime on a planet of mere mortals. He came and went so fast, like a beautiful, bright, shining comet that blasted through our lives. His fleeting existence impacted the lives of so many, and he will be missed so, so much.
We were happy. We played by all the rules and loved each other unconditionally. I was always told how perfect our family was. We were not perfect, of course, but we did everything right as best we could. As I sit here going through my thousands of pictures (thank God I took so many), I wonder how I will ever feel that happy again? That boy was my world, my reason, my future, and legacy. I often wonder how such a tragedy could have happened to us.
He was only 7 years old.
This will forever be the worst day of my life. Let's go back a couple days. I worked with my sister-in-law at a title company. She had invited us to go camping for my niece's birthday at Lake Corpus Christi, Texas. At first I said no because Beau had a baseball tournament that weekend. It ended up getting canceled. I wish more than anything it had not been. He did have a game that Friday, but I told her we would leave Saturday morning and have time to spend. I'm a bit of a homebody, so it's unusual for me to make a 3-hour drive for one night's stay; nevertheless, I told myself I needed to give my son these fun experiences as a family, like mine did when I was a kid.
So we went to Beau's game that Friday, where he played amazing as usual. I have a video of his last at bat, he smashed it to the outfield. I was always so proud of him.
The next morning, we got up early and headed out. We even got to take Beau's big brother, Evan, my 15-year-old stepson. The whole way there it stormed hard and even hailed on us, but once we were in Corpus the weather was bright and sunny. We set up our new big tent we had just bought and waited for my brother and sister-in-law to get back from an errand. They had my two nieces (11 & 6) and my nephew (3). We all went down to the lake and let the kids swim. It was a bit chilly since it was early April. We hung out on the side that was more of a beach. The other side had a retaining wall (see pictures). A while later, we went back to camp to get everyone dry and make food. We had an absolute blast that night! We cooked, listened to music, danced, made s'mores, and played with sparklers. I was so happy we had chosen to come have this time with family. These are the moments that make life worth living. We finally wore out and went to bed. I set Beau up on his cot, got him all nice and cozy, and gave him a big kiss on the forehead.
The next morning when we woke up, Beau was cold and came and cuddled with me on our mattress. I will forever be grateful for that sweet morning cuddle with my baby. We had coffee and breakfast, and started packing up. We had decided it would be nice to take the kids down to look at the lake one last time before we left...
My sister-in-law, my two nieces, my nephew, Beau and I all went and sat on the lake wall with our feet in the water (You can see the wall in the background of the fishing picture). My husband, brother-in-law, and stepson stayed behind at the camp. They had planned to come down at some point, I guess. We were relaxing in the sun and enjoying ourselves when Beau decided to walk back to camp where the guys were. I didn't think anything of it, I trusted he could handle himself. He had proven that to me thousands of times. It was not far at all and there was a big family camping right on the edge of the lake along with some guys fishing near by. My mistake was not realizing the dangers of that wall and letting my guard down around water. Maybe I assumed since we were not swimming I didn't need to worry and he could swim if he did fall in. I watched him as he walked away down that wall, shirtless and shoe less, only wearing blue jeans. Little did I know that would be the last time I would ever lay eyes on my precious son. Nothing red flagged me at that moment, I think I just said something like "you go straight to camp." Again, it was not far at all (maybe 50 yards) and there were people everywhere. About 10 minutes later, I asked my older niece to go to camp to make sure Beau made it. She came back a few moments later and said he was not there. Panic set in and I immediately walked that wall looking in the water, but it was too murky. I asked the family that was RIGHT there if they had seen a little blonde boy. They told me they saw him walk up the grass back to camp. I was relieved to hear that because at least he was not in the water, right? I got my husband and everyone else on alert. Beau was missing. By this point the park rangers were involved and I gave them pictures of Beau (I would later see these pictures on the news and social media). Cops, rangers, fire fighters, and volunteers searched for Beau endlessly. There were drones, a helicopter, search dogs, and boats in the water. I cannot even begin to express the way I felt and what was going through my mind. I feel faint just recalling the events of that day. I wandered the park aimlessly calling for my son, my arms and legs were all scratched up from the tall weeds and trees. I called my close friends and family bawling to each one of them. They all assured me he had just gotten lost wandering around. I was convinced at this point he was kidnapped since 5 hours had gone by and nothing. Even if he had been in the water, surely they would have found him by now, RIGHT? So I was very sure he was snatched up by some child predator. A good looking boy like Beau, yes very possible. There were amber alerts sent out and everyone leaving the park was stopped and searched. By this point all my close friends and family were making the drive down there, hoping to get that call saying, turn around, he is okay, we found him. God I wish more than anything. I was told to sit and drink water, I needed to be home base. So I did. I sat and prayed and pleaded with God to please return my baby safe and sound to me...
I was on the phone with my mother-in-law when a female police officer approached me. I hung up and looked at her with hopeful eyes. "I have bad news" she said, "we found him in the water..."
I was faint, my head was spinning as I tried to process this information. I started screaming and wailing, sounds I didn't know I could even make, I grabbed this poor woman by the shirt and shook her. "My SON", I wailed, "My son is DEAD?!" I could not believe my own words. How did this happen and why did it take them so long to find him? That family said they saw him, why did they give us false hope?! WHY?
It was so surreal, almost like an out of body experience.
I could hear my family around me crying and wailing, my husband was on the ground weeping. I later found out that he was told before me...Right at that moment (after I let go of the officer) I turned to see my best friend, I clung to her and we sunk to the ground. "My son, Ash, my son is gone," was all I could say. I don't know how she made it all that way (3 hour drive) to be there at that exact moment, but she did.
The search crew handled everything very discreetly. They were able to recover my son's body and get him out of the park without any of us noticing. I now feel relieved that none of us witnessed them pulling him from the water. I guess the one thing I can be grateful about is that they found him. I can't imagine not knowing what happened to him. At least there was some type of closure. Ultimately, he was found right by the wall he was walking along. For the life of me I’ll never understand why it took so long to find him. I suppose since that family said they saw him walk back up the grass, they didn’t search the water right away. They were more so searching the park at that point, then with no luck there, decided to take to the water.
I sat thinking about how this could possibly have happened. I know he did not get in on his own. He could swim, but knew better than to just go jump in the water unsupervised. Did he hit his head and fall in unconscious? I have yet to check the autopsy report. I'm not ready for that. Did he fall in and panic? It was also speculated that his jeans got caught in the underbrush and he never came back up. Regardless, it's beyond awful and was ruled as an accidental drowning. It only takes 30 seconds to a minute and that's it. Game over. My question is how of ALL those people, nobody saw or heard anything? HOW? Why didn't I realize the dangers of him possibly falling in? Even if he could swim, I still should have been more cautious. It wasn't until I started researching and hearing other people's stories that I realized. Oh how I wish I would have known all this sooner. We were around water ALL the time. Lakes, rivers, pools, the beach, you name it! We were always cautious. I had even taught Beau how to float on his back if he got tired in the water. I thought he was capable. He wasn't a small toddler anymore, he could handle himself, or so I thought. I would have rather a stranger saved him, then yelled at me for not watching my kid better. I would have taken that scolding and been glad to hear it. At least my son would be here. It just doesn't seem real, thinking back to that day, even now..Three months later.
I was very protective of my only child and was constantly looking out for him, but we cannot have our kids in our sight 24/7. I would like to say we live in a world where bad things do not happen to good people, but I can't. Beau was one of a kind, truly a unique character and loved by so many. He had a bright future and a family that adored him. I still can't believe something like this happened to him. My heart is forever broken and I can't help but beat myself up. Our lives are forever changed by this tragic event. Never let your guard down, not just around water, but life in general. I know that's no way to live, always in fear, but after what I've been through, that's my advice.
That's why I'm sharing our story. Maybe it can help save lives. Most of the time these drownings are young kids ages 1-4. I just want to make people aware that it can happen to kids Beau's age and even older! If it can happen to a tough kid like Beau, it can happen to anyone. I can honestly say I would have expected this from any kid besides Beau. He was the true definition of “survival of the fittest.” Maybe if someone had shared with me, Beau would still be here in our lives. My sweet, golden boy. My hummingbird, my sunflower.
Please don't take your kids for granted. As humans it's natural and sometimes we're just not in the mood, but always make time for them. Play games, take walks, have conversations, tell them you love them EVERY day, kiss and hug them often because you just never know what life will throw at you. I'd give anything in the world just to hug my boy one last time.
*That happy, smiling picture is the last picture I ever took of my son.*