Michael's Smile

Patti Etheredge

I miss Michael's beautiful smile and sparkling eyes. I miss his love for life and curiosity. I miss his hugs and kisses. I miss everything about him. We lost our 13 year old son on June 19, 1995. We were attending a family vacation in Williamsburg, Va. We decided to take a one day trip to Norfolk to see the naval base and on to Virginia Beach. We took the bus trip around the naval base. Michael loved helicopters, so he enjoyed seeing the naval helicopters. When we got to the beach the temperature was cool, but there were plenty of swimmers in the water. Our daughter was in the water almost immediately not seeming to notice the coldness. Michael was a little more conservative about getting into the cold water. He messed around on the beach for a while. His dad decided to get in and try out the waves with our daughter. After watching them for a while Michael decided that he would join them. He was tentative, carefully easing his way out to them. The last time I saw him he was in water about as high as his thigh but not touching his bathing suit, I looked over to watch my daughter ride a wave in. When I looked back to where Michael had been he was not there. I asked my husband if he had seen him. I went to the lifeguard and told him that I could not find my son. He directed me to his supervisor who was on the boardwalk behind him. I went to him and told him that I couldn't find my son. I told him that I had last seen him in the water. He assured me that he was probably down the beach where the waves had carried him and was wandering on the beach looking for us. He said that this happens all the time and that surely he would turn up. He radioed to the other lifeguard towers to be on the look out and also notified the Beach Patrol. The lifeguard assured my husband the the way that the water was that day our son could not have been carried out in the ocean. Four hours later we were still standing on the beach waiting for our son. Finally the police were notified and the water search began. We spent five days in a Virginia Beach hotel waiting and praying for our son's body to be found. We knew that he had drowned. He was there and then he was not. Five days later his body washed up onto the beach.

It is now six months later. We are getting ready for our first Christmas and birthday without him. Every day is hard. We miss him terribly and the emptiness there can never be filled. We are working at our regular jobs and trying to give our daughter as normal a life as possible without being too protective or lenient. It is hard! I know that we will be okay. We have so many friends and family who support us and best of all we have our faith and our church family. I have read several of the stories from your honor page and wanted to tell mine for two reasons: one I love my son dearly and two he was crazy about computers. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to tell my story.

Patti Etheredge

You can send email to Patti and/or her husband David at [email protected]
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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW