Tragedy in Tampa

Sunshine Skyway BridgeMy to-do list is long this evening, with many details demanding my attention. But my mind is distracted tonight, my heart is weaving back and forth between anger and heartbreak as I ponder the tragic loss of a 5-year old girl’s life in Florida last night, thrown over the Sunshine Skyway bridge in Tampa by her own father.

I am a parent. I am a mom. I think many of us as parents find our hearts pained by the barrage of tragedies that befall children these days. From kidnappings to diseases, from tragic school shootings to natural disasters, the world can be a dangerous place for any child. When I hug my children in the morning and give them a kiss at night,  I sometimes wonder how long I will have them, how long I can protect them from the horrors of this world.

But, I am a mom, so that also means I am human. I fail. I get angry, sometimes more angry than I realize I am capable of. I break promises and I forget appointments. I lose my patience over dumb things like crusty cereal bowls in the family room and socks left all over the house. I don’t play enough with my kids. I don’t always listen well. I fail.

However, no matter how bad things get, I make sure my children know I love them. I want them to go to bed at night and wake up in the morning knowing that no matter what happened that day, no matter how ugly things got, my unconditional love is theirs without reservation. Such love becomes a secure place for children, an anchor in the stormy sea of life. No child, no matter how bad things become, deserves to be tossed over the brink of a bridge into a fast-flowing current, sent to her death by her own parent. Official reports indicate this little girl was screaming when her father removed her from the car and walked to the edge of the bridge. What fear, what horror, but worst of all, what devastating heartbreak for this little girl to realize how very unloved she really was as the cold waves washed her away to her death.

Moms and dads,  I know parenting is hard. Raising children may very well be the most difficult job you will have. We can feel unappreciated as parents, misunderstood, hurt, angered, mistreated, you name it. No one cheers us on or rewards us for our hard work. There are no pay raises or bonuses for good parenting. It can be a draining, discouraging, demanding task. Without help, we can become more angry than we believed possible. But nothing – NOTHING – a child does deserves the punishment of knowing her own parent took her life. Please, moms and dads, if you are at the end of your patience, if your anger is out of control, if you can’t handle your life anymore, look for help.  Ask for help – it is there to be found. Seek out a teacher, a pastor in your community, a counselor at your child’s school, a local crisis center, a moms group, even your child’s pediatrician – if someone cannot help you directly, they certainly will steer you in the right direction.

May we all learn a lesson from this tragic story of  5-year-old Phoebe, the little girl whose daddy did not love her like a daddy should. May we hug our children a little tighter tonight and let them know we love them unconditionally.  There is no greater gift we can give.

About Deb Ashley

At home, Deb is the wife of Mark and mom of three adult children. She enjoys cooking, taking care of a small but somewhat productive garden, feeding the local community of birds and other assorted critters, and taking naps with her dog Mandy. Her passions include teaching, writing and music. In the community, Deb enjoys working alongside her husband in his role as a pastor. She is involved in teaching and encouraging women from all walks of life through book studies, counseling, and speaking opportunities.
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