We are currently taking our first ever almost all of the family vacation. I say almost all because my son-in-law had to work so he had the misfortune of staying home in the peace and quiet . . . and serving as the gatekeeper and provider of food and water for our cats. Oh, and the designated cleaner of litter boxes.
It was supposed to begin in the early morning hours of Saturday; two of the four grandkids had soccer games, the first beginning at 10:15 in Bartlett. That was to be followed by the second one at 11:00 so the plan was to see both games, grab some lunch, and hit the road headed toward Hot Springs, Arkansas. Now, none of us had ever been to Hot Springs so we had zero working knowledge of the place, and other than bath houses, there wasn’t a lot on-line about stuff to do. But it was a three hour drive instead of a zillion, so Hot Springs it was . . . except then the soccer games were canceled so the plan could have changed, but we’d already rented an Airbnb that would hold all of us . . . so Hot Springs it still was.
Sunday afternoon was dedicated to visiting Magic Springs Amusement Park which looked somewhat promising on the internet but also maybe a little sketchy. When you’re only open full time for two months of the year and then weekends in September and October so you can decorate for Halloween and bill yourself as “The Scariest Place in Arkansas” it does tend to make one pause. My chosen role was one of solitude as the keeper of the Malcolm—‘cause what’s a five month old gonna do in the scariest place in Arkansas? So I stayed behind and Malcolm’s mommy went instead. I told them that was the better option . . . and I was proven right within the hour.
My phone dinged and up popped a picture of Kathryne and the grandkids, Wilson and Anderson, all smiles and strapped into some sort of harness. I understand the boys’ smiles faded soon thereafter. The next ding brought a few more pictures and a video. The pictures showed them high above the park, tethered horizontally to a line with Kathryne in the middle and the boys to either side, clinging to her arms for dear life. The video showed them being pulled slowly up and back, higher and higher, still hovering above the park, then a voice began counting down . . . “three . . . two . . . one . . . FLY!!!” And . . . nothing. That’s because Anderson was yelling “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! NO!! NO!! NO!! NO!!” and Kathryne knew he hadn’t heard the countdown—because he was too busy screaming hysterically—so she told him they were going, repeated it for him, then gave the cord a yank. That’s when the magic happened.
You see, the three of them had been suspended 110 feet above the park and held there. Yanking the cord released whatever held them in place, dropping them the length of the line while propelling them forward. Think pulling someone as far back as you can in a swing and then letting them go. Basically, the contraption was a giant swing, and they flew back and forth, twirling around, until the momentum finally subsided, bringing them to a gentle halt. And the boys, both of whom had determined they really didn’t want to do this after they were passed the point of no return, loved it. Right after they screamed in terror. And they each got a shark hat to compensate for their trauma.
There are some things in life that simply must be done with as much speed as possible. Evidently riding the Sky Shark at Magic Springs Amusement Park is one of those things; otherwise, you’re going to back out . . . and I think there’s only one way down when that happens. And I know you don’t get a refund. Other qualifying events would be jumping into a swimming pool when you first arrive. One quick shock is usually better than trying to inch yourself into the water. Or pulling off a bandaid that’s stuck to the hair on your body. Or taking really nasty tasting medicine. If you’re smart you don’t sip that mess. It’s gone in one nose-holding gulp.
But there are also times when speed is not your friend. Dealing with Death is one of those times. When you try to hurry through the process you hurt a tremendous number of people, not the least of whom is yourself. Too many times we see families in such a hurry to bury their loved ones that no one knows they’ve died until they’re already residing in the cemetery. And, although I know there are times when having everything in one day is the best option, many times it denies extended family and friends the opportunity to express their condolences and say their good-byes. Usually only immediate family can get off work when a death occurs; visitation the night before, even a brief one, allows others who can’t attend a daytime service to still pay their respects.
So the next time you happen to be at Magic Springs Amusement Park, feel free to ride the Sky Shark, just close your eyes on the way up. And when you first get to the pool, don’t inch . . . jump. Same philosophy for bandaids and nasty medicine. But when you start planning the farewell party for someone you love, slow down. Take your time. Give yourself a chance to rest and get organized and to let family and friends know of your loss. For most of the departed, it took years of living to get to this point. A few more days won’t bother them one bit . . . and it may be just what you and the people who loved them need.