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November 2014

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Present from Caleb Andrew Dubas

A few days before Caleb passed away, I remember being in my bedroom and I started to hear what sounded like a pencil on the wall. Over the years most of our kids have wanted to draw on more than just paper. Caleb was NO exception. When I turned to hone in on the sound that was all too familiar as a seasoned parent of 7 children, I saw Caleb  with a pencil in his hand scribbling on my bedroom door! Lucky I was close by (15 feet away) and I said , “Hey” in his direction and he stopped for a moment to look over at me. Once he saw me and our eyes met, he tore off running full speed as fast as his two little legs could carry him with the pencil into the living room. “Hey, get back here!”, I said. He knew he was busted. It was a fun game to him.  I would retrieve the pencil from him and this is just one example of many of Caleb getting into things. Out of all of our children, he was perhaps the most curious of his surroundings. From tearing through the cabinets or pulling all the books down off the book shelf, there was no stopping this one man wrecking ball. He loved life and all that it had for him to explore and there was no doubt about it. I am so grateful for the time we did have with him and for our diligence in this information age to capture so many memories in picture and video.

Though I could write many blog entries on Caleb’s conquests in his short life, today’s entry is about a present my wife discovered weeks after his death. At times it was hard early on to see his toys or pictures of him as the reality is so raw and the pain so deep. For weeks my wife would weep each time she would find his clothing in the laundry. With a family of 9, the piles of soiled clothing are deep and the reality of his passing plus the aspect that his clothing in the laundry would no doubt come to a final end at some point was a sorrow filled journey that lasted weeks as his clothes worked their way through the cleaning process.

This present my wife found however was very different though. It was made by Caleb himself and ties to a very specific memory for my wife. For those that know Caleb, he loved to climb onto the kitchen table. Perhaps it made him feel taller in a house of giants. Being the smallest, he liked to be up high. Whether it was in our arms, on my back in the backpack or on the kitchen table, he loved being a big boy. As many times as we would pick him up and place him back onto the floor, he would just climb back up on top of the table. Honestly, it got to a point where we just accepted it. It was Caleb. It’s who he was. I will share a few of those photos now as a prelude to the present.

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So where the gift begins is a day of painting on the kitchen table. Alexis, Josiah, Isaiah and Caleb were painting pictures with tempera paint at our kitchen table. My wife often would allow them to paint and do other crafts. Caleb loved to do whatever his older siblings were doing and painting was one of his favorites. Anything messy actually. Though I was not there at the time because I was at work, my wife would relay the story to me weeks later after she was looking at the paintings on the freezer in our kitchen. After Caleb passed away, my wife approached the paintings because she knew Caleb painted one of them that day. The problem is even though Caleb had his very own painting he was working on in the color red, Isaiah our four year old son had painted over a lot of Caleb’s work but not all of it. As my wife studied the painting reflecting on that day, her eyes were drawn to a small set of foot prints on the left side of the painting. Could they be Caleb’s?

It was a huge find but we were a little cautious. My first reaction when she found it was to go to Isaiah and put the prints up to his feet just to confirm they were not Isaiah’s. My wife did remember cleaning Caleb up that day as he had paint ALL over him… Including his feet! Though she did not have pictures from that day, her memory is vivid of the event. Our excitement grew as the prospect of this being Caleb’s footprints on the painting would soon be confirmed. I quickly took the painting to Isaiah’s feet to match it up and it wasn’t even close. I held the painting in one hand and Isaiah’s foot in the other and it was obviously not Isaiah’s footprint. We knew right then that the footprints were in fact Caleb’s. This painting event happened just a couple weeks before Caleb passed away. So needless to say, this Painting has become a very precious gift from Caleb to us. It embodies who he was and the fact that he loved being on that kitchen table. So neat. No one should be surprised. Instead of painting from the chair, he climbed right up on top of the table where he could be as close as possible to the action! He dove right in and became the art. His body became the brush and the canvas.

Once we knew the prints were his, we wanted to spend whatever it would take to get this piece framed. To proudly display his work in our home. Though his older brother painted over a lot of his personal work, we know the red was his color that day. Sure it would have been better if it was only his but along with my wife’s memory of the event and the whole story in itself paints a beautiful memory that we can hold onto for years to come. We now have a priceless piece of artwork! Thank’s Caleb!

The next task would be to find a framer. My wife took to social media to ping her friends to find a reputable framer. We did not want to take it just anywhere. The suggestions started pouring in however one started to rise to the top. Some teachers as Brandywine High School had started to volunteer their time and expertise. We were concerned with the chain of custody and it was great because my wife took the painting in and was there the entire time as it was carefully measured. It only left her sight for a few minutes while it was digitally scanned for a high resolution picture shown below. No need to leave it with some frame shop with people we didn’t know. Obviously, before having it scanned, we would only have a cell phone picture of it in case something happened to the original. We are very grateful to those have helped make this possible. I would post their names but this is a public blog and until I get permission, privacy remains. Anyway, below is Caleb’s present. Sure, it may not be famous work of art or prestigious subject matter but coming from our 18 month old son Caleb who is no longer with us, it is absolutely priceless to us. Enjoy! Caleb’s foot prints can be seen in the middle to lower left side of the painting. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Author: Andrew Dubas

 painting

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Elephant in the room… What happened that day.

This entry starts with the Pennsylvania state police returning my security camera PC October 21, 2014. The recordings of which contain the last moments Caleb Andrew Dubas spent on this earth. Though I saw glimpses of what happened that night while reviewing the security footage with the state police before handing over my PC, I still had unanswered questions and needed more details. For seven days without my security footage, I wondered and agonized over the details recorded that day. The main question being, who or how was the door left open??? How did this happen when we are so obsessive with Caleb and where he is?

As parents, we try our very best to protect our children. Though we can’t save them from everything, we try. So the task of understanding what went wrong that day was something I was obsessing over. I knew the answers were on that computer and I really wanted it back badly. The police told me it would only take a day or two at most and I would get it right back so I reluctantly handed my PC over at the time; but after a few days went by, I began to worry and regret doing so. I reached out to the officer by phone and email several times with no response. I was beginning to think after six days that they lied to me and it would be months or more. Would I really have to wait months for answers? I already had a pit in my stomach over this so when the officer finally responded to my email, apologizing for the delay because of other events that happened during his week, I was relieved when he told me he would be returning my PC then next day October 21, 2014.

That next day would come and the officer called me in the afternoon of the 21st to confirm someone would be home to receive the PC. I assured him yes, someone would be there even though I was not home at the time. I explained to Tiffany the day prior that the police would be dropping off the PC  and someone needed to be home. I was OK with Tiffany receiving the PC however I wanted to be there and thank the officer and make sure it was OK with my own two eyes.  The officer eventually arrived and I couldn’t be more excited to see the police with my computer in hand at my front door. He handed me the computer and it felt like Christmas for a split second but the gravity of what it contained brought my emotions back in check. I set the computer down at my feet and I eagerly signed the paper stating I received it back. A quick “Thank you, I really appreciate it.” and the officer was on his way. As I closed the door, I looked down and to my left and stared at the PC. Even though my anticipation was building, it was also met with deep concern and some apprehension. I knew what was on there and it wasn’t all good. The footage I needed to see for answers, but was afraid to examine at the same time because I did not want to re-live this event over and over. It wasn’t easy. None of this is but I had to do it.

As much as I wanted to drop what I was doing and hook it right up, we had guests and I did not want to be rude and disappear. The anticipation was somewhat intoxicating in a sense because I could not stop thinking about it.  It got to a point where I couldn’t wait any longer. My emotions were consuming me and my desire to know outweighed courtesy.  Sneaking away became easy to meet the answers that I hoped were on that computer. The raw emotion as I connected each cable back in place was intense .From the mouse, keyboard, network cable, and finally the power cable. Every motion built on the next to the final pressing of the power button with anticipation. Starting that computer, my only thoughts were, “Please start, please start.”

My immediate concern was making sure the video data from that day was still intact and not damaged while in police custody. The computer thankfully booted perfectly. Before starting the security software however, I copied off the raw data files to a network location to prevent them being overwritten by new event recordings from the cameras even though they’re not set to do so. I wasn’t taking any chances. I wanted to preserve Caleb’s last moments on this earth and find further understanding of what went wrong. I had to know more. My next task was locating the export files with the date October 14, 2014. I quickly found them and started watching without hesitation. My focus was intense. I leaned in toward the screen so I could see better and started with the front door footage naturally because this was the last place Caleb was seen alive at 5:21 PM on camera.  I knew this because the night I sat and briefly reviewed the footage with the police while looking for quick answers.

Starting from 4:00 PM file, there was plenty of activity on the camera from Isaiah and Josiah to chickens walking in the front yard. Each motion event ended with the front door being closed. That was my focus. Was the door closed and when did it open or was it left open or was it closed and not latched all the way. The next event I witnessed was my wife Tiffany arriving home with groceries. The kids following her like little ducks however with grocery bags in tow. We do not normally bring groceries in through the front door so my first thoughts were I would soon be witnessing where my misery would begin but this was not the case. The door was shut behind them.

As I continued the footage, at 4:38 PM the next motion event was captured with my wife coming out to the front porch with Elijah,Josiah, Isaiah and Caleb behind. I could not help but notice the front door left wide open as they were all on the front porch. My wife made adjustments to the wooden chair on the porch and then sat down on the edge of our front porch on the concrete with her feet on the earth in front of her. It was 76 degrees outside. Quite balmy and a beautiful fall day. Caleb and the other kids seem to play and Caleb sat next to my wife for a few minutes. My 12 year old Elijah moved to the side of the house with the pond and trampoline out of camera view. At some point as the other kids left to the same side of the house to play, Caleb got up and walked off in that direction with the other kids. My wife was then alone on the porch.

Tiffany then stood up and looked to make sure Caleb was OK in the direction where Elijah was and it seemed and I tried to read her lips as she said something to Elijah who was over in that direction as well and out of view of the security camera. Elijah is a great caretaker and watches Caleb well. We trust him. My parents were coming over for dinner and to celebrate my wife’s birthday a day early as we would not be home on her birthday because we planned on being at church like usual on a Wednesday night. My wife was making tacos and asked for help around the house to straighten up. After Tiffany spoke to Elijah and was at peace that Caleb was being looked after, she went back inside to the kitchen. What I could not help but notice is that the front door was still wide open.

Still not sure if this is what happened, my emotions were swelling that this could be it. My wife re-entered the house around 4:48 PM. I thought to myself, it’s 76 degrees out and Caleb was already outside. If she knew Caleb was outside, there would be no need to shut the door on him. If Caleb is inside every door remains a fortress and Caleb was with the other kids. All the other motion events at the doors were normal all day except this one as Caleb was already outside. Even all the other kids closed doors after entering throughout the day as Caleb was in the house. This is our normal procedure. Knowing Caleb was last seen alone at 5:21 PM on the front porch and the front porch was completely empty at 4:48 PM, I had to know more. On the night this happened and I was sitting with police reviewing footage, things were moving quickly and I initially only saw the door open and Caleb last seen on the front porch at 5:21 PM. I did not see the proceeding events of who opened the door and that Caleb walked off with the other kids earlier. Naturally, I did not have enough data because I know Caleb left the porch earlier and no footage showed him come back or at least I thought so.

I quickly turned to the back porch footage where I know there had to be more details because when Elijah found Caleb in the pond at 5:39 PM he came out the back door outside our living room. I started to understand what happened but needed to confirm so I intently watched the footage. At 4:57 PM or there about, I saw the other kids come in and Elijah carrying Caleb back into the house and going inside the kitchen door instead. There are two back doors on the main house only a few feet away. The kitchen has a door and so does the living room that open themselves to the back porch. The living room has a double french style type door. Elijah entered the kitchen door where my wife was still preparing dinner. The camera clearly showed this as I could see Tiffany in the footage in the kitchen. The kitchen door has a storm door so it naturally shut behind him. Elijah stood there holding Caleb in the kitchen and seemingly eventually set him down. This was about the 5:00 PM hour.

Watching this, it became exceedingly clear what happened. I went back to the front porch footage with the knowledge that Caleb was brought back into the house so it was not possible my initial understanding was correct. The footage on the front porch shows Caleb on the front porch by himself at around 5:15 PM. Keep in mind that my security cameras are set to only record motion so sometimes footage can be choppy. I initially never saw Caleb come back to the front porch in the earlier footage from where he left earlier when he first left with the other kids to play but I knew he was last seen alone on the front porch at 5:21 PM.

It was then all the pieces fell together. The kids left to go outside from our front door, my wife was out there and when she went back in, had no reason to shut the door on her other kids and including Caleb when it is 76 degrees outside. They would soon be back in as it was close to dinner. I know it can be habit to shut the door always but not in this case. I understand. A lot is going on in our house always and my parents were coming and it’s 76 degrees and the kids are already outside. My wife knew Caleb was safe with Elijah and the other kids. He always is. What went horribly wrong is that instead of the kids re-entering the front door where they came from and would have shut the door behind them, they came back in through the kitchen back door where my wife was. Elijah was taking Caleb back to my wife. Handing off responsibility, a “changing of the guard” if you will. My wife never left the kitchen, she was making dinner. Because it was windy on October 14th, a towel hanging on the wash line kept the motion camera recording. The next main footage on the back door was Elijah exiting the living room door turning toward the pond and seeing Caleb face down in the pond. He ran obviously screaming and my wife ran from the kitchen with blood curdling screams. I was in the living room as well cleaning Nutella out of the carpet. I smashed through the screen door knocking it off its tracks to meet my wife who was clearly distraught.

Though I won’t be detailing my rescue attempt and the horror that follows, It was all crystal clear how this happened. Caleb left the kitchen while my wife was preparing dinner like he normally would as he is free to roam in the house. The house to us is the safest place for him. What no one else thought or could put the pieces together was that the front door was still wide open. My wife was distracted with dinner. We were all distracted. Caleb took the invitation of a wide open door at 5:15 PM where he spent a full six minutes playing on the front porch because he absolutely loves the outdoors and was last seen walking off the porch in the direction of the pond at 5:21 PM. This is the last time we would see him alive. Watching these events all over did not make it any easier however I understand now how it happened. I can tell myself a hundred times, if we only had a storm door, fence around the pond or any other number of security devices, I am quickly reminded that parents or those who are in charge of protecting the innocent have to be perfect 100% of the time. It only takes one misstep and tragedy can strike in a moment.

I understand what happened that day.  The perfect worst storm occurred and we can’t take it back. This event in the making was a recipe made up of a several bad decisions. Seemingly innocent individual events by themselves compiled together in one mixing bowl for a full serving of misery. I absolutely do not blame my wife. We both added ingredients to the mixture. As we pick up the pieces of what could have been, I am quickly reminded how fragile life is and that God is in full control. It’s not about me and it never was. Everything is for God’s glory. This event will not be foothold for Satan to tear us apart. As I declared at the end of Caleb’s service aloud, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. My faith will not be shaken.

It does absolutely no good to dwell on the things I can’t change. This is not to say I haven’t. I would love to do things over to affect the past, but this is a travesty that can’t be rectified on this side of heaven by wanting a second chance for any one event that was in the mixing bowl. Our greatest challenge is not to examine the individual ingredients too much and have them constantly affect our daily lives by beating ourselves up for an individual bad decision wishing for a do-over. As parents, we need to understand our mistakes so they are not repeated. We have 6 other kids and as much as we try to do things right, we can’t be perfect in every respect. Hindsight is 20/20 and as much as we would love to change the past, we can only affect the present by holding every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ. Realize that this world is all for God’s glory and it’s not about me. To surrender all and one day, it will all be made right in God’s time.

I have been sitting on this blog post in draft for some time. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share but I think parents need to understand how something like this can happen. How individual bad decisions compile or how easily distractions can affect outcomes. Tiffany and I both take some responsibility for this as we added some ingredients. Ultimately God is in control and we will continue to serve Him in everything including the size of our family. We have 6 other children that we continue to focus on. God’s will, not ours be done.

But As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord! (Joshua 24:15)

 

Author: Andrew Dubas

 

 

This security camera footage shows context. This is where Tiffany had the front door open and was relaxing with the kids. The video speaks for itself.

 

Below is the footage of Elijah bringing Caleb back into the house through the kitchen door to Tiffany. He continues to hold him after he gets into the kitchen and then sets him down. Tiffany will remain in the kitchen from this point forward until Caleb is discovered at 5:39 pm.

 

Below is the last footage of Caleb seen alive. It is hard to see because he happened to be playing with a Chinese food dish with water in it. He just wanted more water and just knew where to find some. The pond. Truly sad. He just wanted to play. Breaks my heart but is something I need to share. I miss him dearly.

 

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The Pond has to Go!

After experiencing the darkness of the pond that night Caleb passed away, I knew nothing would stop by determination to destroy it. The darkness of the pond seemed to taunt me that night to say, “I got you, I got your son” but this would not be the case. Had I had some way to use my machine in the dark, I would have destroyed it that very night. Instead, I retired to the house and would spend the rest of that night in anguish wrestling with God as depicted in “The Switch, All for His Glory.” When first light came, I approached the window in the living room that has view of the pond. I continued to stare at it once again as droplets of rain pierced its glassy surface. I looked to the right where my backhoe was parked and knew it was time. The weather was not good that morning and heavy rain was approaching. I went to my garage where I have a 2 inch water pump and drug it out to the side of the pond. I knew that what I was about to do was for Caleb. As I attached the hoses and began to thread the fittings tight, I could not help but feel the world and all its problems strip away. I had absolute focus as if I were a machine. I still hadn’t slept and though I was a bit numb emotionally, I felt I had the strength of an ox.

As my emotions were peaking, the moment to begin my assault was at hand. The pump was ready to go and it was time for me to pull the starter rope. I turned the choke wide open and began to pull with all of my might. Over and over I pulled but the pump would not start. The pond seemed to be winning but I was not about to quit. As much as I wanted to drain this pond, I did run into a disappointing issue with the pump. The pump was sitting in the garage for a couple years and I had left gas in it. The gas was stale and the spark plug was in no way able to ignite the gasoline. The rain began to come down harder. I looked around as I surveyed my options to accomplish my task. I had to remove the hoses from the pump and take it back into the garage where I would begin the task of draining the rancid gas. I am not very engine handy but did my best to drain the gas and carburetor. It was a bit frustrating but again, nothing was going to slow me down. After I drained the gas and put fresh gas in, I walked the pump back to the pond in the pouring rain. My clothes were becoming heavy and saturated with rain water.

I placed the pump back in place and reattached the hoses with great care and determination while hoping the whole time that my gasoline transfusion would be the cure for this pump to do its job. I opened the choke and began to pull the starter rope once again and the first few pulls were a bit demoralizing as there was no response. I was reminded of Caleb in that moment so close to the pond where I was desperately giving him CPR in the grass nearby. There was no response from him either. I started to question destroying the pond for a moment. Was God trying to tell me something? I decided to pull one more time and to my excitement the pump sputtered and blew out a large cloud of white smoke but did not start all the way. I eagerly pulled again and the pump sputtered some more but started! It was not strong at first but I quickly shifted gears to the siphon tube where the draining of the pond would begin. I was a little concerned because Aaron had fish in the pond. I don’t think anyone in the house knew what I was up to. I was on a mission. As the pond water began to spill out down hill into the grass, I had a great sense of relief come over me. Though I was not done, I knew I was on my way.

As the water level became too low for the pump to do its job, I entered the house and saw Elijah and asked for his help catching the fish for Aaron who was still sleeping in the basement. In that moment I was not ready to tell Aaron I was destroying his pond and with sleep so hard to come by, I did not want to wake him. As Elijah was saving the fish, I started disconnecting the siphon and drain pipes from the pump to make room for my backhoe. Elijah would then go back inside and I continued first with removing rocks that were pinning the edges of the liner down into place. As much as I wanted to just trash the pond with my digging bucket, the liner belonged to Aaron and I did not want to harm it or leave rubber in the soil. During this time my father-in-law Ken arrived at our house and approached and began pulling rocks back with me. Though we haven’t had the best relationship over the years, we continued to work without any words being said. I continued and was able to remove the liner from the hole. With my machine in place, I began to bury the hole that was currently a large source of misery.

It was raining off an on pretty good by this time and my backhoe started getting stuck. I had most of the hole covered and as much as I wanted to continue I had to call it quits. Pastor Justin Reese also showed up at that time and also saw what I was up to. I was really starting to feel good about what I just did. Through it was not as therapeutic as I had hoped it would be, I knew that this pond would not be able to harm anyone ever again. We do have visitors and friends with kids of the same ages as Caleb or younger so it was also important to protect them as well. Now I wanted to make sure Aaron knew what I did. I entered the house, removed my shoes and proceeded to his basement bedroom. I explained to him that I had to destroy the pond and I was very sorry. I explained to him that we caught his fish but for some obvious reasons, the pond had to go. He was totally OK with it and understood completely. I would later finish smoothing over the hole when the soil had time to drain as it was fairly saturated with water. I did take some short video for the record and snapped a few pictures of my mission. I don’t have a GoPro camera so I had to make due with what I had. Enjoy. On a side note, I now have a different respect for my father-in-law. I thanked him afterwords. We actually shared a hug after Caleb’s service. This never happened before so its noteworthy.

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Author: Andrew Dubas

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Darkness of the Pond

The decision to have a fish pond is not without controversy in our home. This journal entry comes with a very heavy heart as it’s so easy after the fact to enter judgement against a bad decision. Trust me, the pond will haunt me for some time and it’s not for obvious reasons. My wife and I want the best for our kids in all things and sometimes the simple things in life can bring great joy. For instance, Aaron, my second oldest son loves to be outside and loves all aspects of God’s creatures big and small. He has several fish tanks in his room right now with frogs, salamanders, worms and fish. There aren’t many times when he’s not outside turning rocks over, finding snakes, picking up caterpillars and the like. In a lot of ways Aaron is most like me. I spent much of my time growing up doing the same things.

In May 2014 we purchased our home that we had been previously rented for two years. With that came lots of changes we could not do as a “renter”. Since we all love the outdoors, one area I started to focus on was clearing trees back from the house and clearing the thick brush to give the kids area to roam. I was very worried about the towering trees so close to the house that could crush it and snuff out life. We also have chickens and some day would like to put up a fence and have livestock. In addition, we would like to have a massive vegetable garden. So many plans… Early on while we were still renting, I cleared a walking trail around the entire property and Tiffany and I many evenings after dinner would walk the property and share our dreams and ideas of how to transform this diamond in the rough property into something we could enjoy and use to provide for our family. Often the younger kids would tag long even though some nights Tiffany and I were just hoping for quiet time. We enjoy the time to debrief and talk about other things as well.

Before we settled on this house, we had talked about what we might like in a property and having water features was one of them. Mainly a creek or pond. We never did find the right property. As our two year lease was approaching, I started to consider other homes because the expense of this one was high. Yes, it’s a great “house” but it comes with big taxes and a high mortgage. With a large family, the things are many that consume cash and cause things to be tight. Honestly, I had considered moving in town where there are sidewalks, no privacy and lots of noise for the sake of saving a lot of money! We never lived in town and usually people who live in town want to get out to the quiet sticks where we are now. We did look and even bid on other houses but for one reason or another everything seemed to fall through and Tiffany did NOT want to move anyway. I say “We” looked for other houses but Tiffany was not entirely a willing partner. It would only be with kicking and screaming at best though she said she would if we found the right place. I eventually gave up my fight to move and we bought the house we are in now.

Late spring or early summer of 2014, my son Aaron approached my wife about perhaps having a pond here on the property. I did not like the idea because we live on a hill and there isn’t a natural water source and it would be stagnant and just breed mosquito. Several times Tiffany came to be with the idea and eventually I agreed with conditions that it would be away from the house and in my security camera view and the spot could be seen from the kitchen window. I had obvious concerns about Caleb finding it. After a spot was located I helped with my chainsaw to clear some brush. Aaron had a friend over and they would dig the outline of the pond in a area that was approved and also an area that might pick up rain runoff as well. Aaron needed to buy a liner with his own money. I was in no way going to fund any aspect of this “pond.”

At the same time Aaron was working and excited about his pond, I was Craigslist shopping for a used backhoe. Clearing brush and stumps and moving earth is very tedious and slow by hand and prohibitively expensive to hire out. Though I would not find a backhoe soon, I was continuing to clear trees. Aaron had paused on his pond as he was shopping for a pond liner. I had been clearing trees near the pond area and some came down over top the area where he was working along with tree limbs. Normally I take several trees down and then take the next few days to process them. Perhaps I bit off more than I could chew on this batch and a couple days turned into a couple weeks.

I am not sure exactly on the details but I am certain on my reaction on what would happen next. I can’t remember if Tiffany asked to move the pond to another spot closer to the house and I said no first but one day when I came home to find Tiffany, Aaron and the kids digging a big hole just 10-15 feet from the back porch. We had stumps removed a week earlier and there were some craters near the house. They decided to make use of the partially dug area to place a pond by digging out more since a hole was already basically there. I remember being furious. I said no way was there going to be a pond so close to the house. I flat out said to Tiffany in these exact words, “NO, you are not putting a pond here, it is a BABY KILLER!!! It needs to go.” I was already concerned in the first place and was fit to be tied quite honestly. I told Aaron once I had my backhoe I would help dig somewhere else and was going to fill all their work back in. No pond there, no way!!!

I don’t think anything happened that evening in regards to the pond as distractions abound and my recollection is somewhat blurry and I can’t remember if Aaron already had his new liner by that time or not but I know I came home and the liner was in with water and all. Even though I blew off steam at them, the hole they dug actually was not very big. I did see their excitement and knew that I would destroy it anyway when I got my backhoe so I thought I would let them have their fun for now and I would smash it later. After a week or so, the small pond they dug did not seem so threatening. It was not very big at all. In fact, sunny days would send the water temp super high and I began to feel bad that it wasn’t done right and I doubted any fish would survive. I continued to think it was an eyesore and I could not wait to get rid of it! Finding a backhoe in my price range was a challenge. I’m guessing at least a month would go by before I would eventually find one. During that time, Caleb really did not go near the small pond as he would instead always go to the chicken pen and we were extremely careful and watched how he reacted to it anyway. It’s not like Caleb is allowed outside by himself.

In retrospect, I think what happened after deep reflection on all of the events that took place is that the small pond they built desensitized me. The month or so it took me to get the backhoe and seeing this pathetic looking pond not as a huge threat lowered my defenses. The pond was a huge hit and the kids loved it. What parent does not like to see joy in their children? This childlike faith and fascination with God’s creation was neat to see and a bit contagious. I would eventually get my backhoe on August 14, 2014. As I write that date, I can’t help but notice it to be two months before to the day that Caleb would pass away.

When I first got the machine, I was excited and did a lot of maintenance on it and was running it almost every day learning the controls and getting work done quickly that would have taken days or weeks by hand. I started out in the open of the property around the house. There were a lot of stump holes and it was good practice. I was really becoming comfortable  running this machine. On Saturday September 6th Aaron was at flag football like he normally is on a Saturday and I was home running my new toy.  I was driving back and forth from the front of the property to the back and drove right past the pond. I remember not having a specific plan that day for the backhoe and thought to myself as I drove past,  “that thing is really ugly.” The liner was all bunched up and lame. I know the kids love it so I thought I would surprise Aaron and make it bigger so the full length of the liner could be spread out as intended but to hard to do by hand.

Honestly, I did not even think once about moving it or of my previous concerns. I thought all I had to do was pull the liner to the side and use by bucket to dig and then just unfold the liner. So I started. Things did not go exactly as planned. Elijah heard the heavy machine and came outside to see what I was up to. He would end up helping me and also took part in joy of making a “proper” fish pond. When Aaron got home, I could see his excitement. We still had a lot of work to do and Aaron was already trying to imagine how he would add habitat for his creatures. It was neat to see. The other kids were excited too. Some even said they wanted to ice skate on it when it was winter. How cute is that right? Below is what the pond looked like on September 9, 2014. The spot being filled was the deeper side at about 18″ inches and the opposite side was fairly shallow.

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As time would go on, Aaron and the family would continue to work on it. Even up to a few days before Caleb would enter this pond, Tiffany and I had been adding boulders down into the pond. She did not like seeing the liner. It needed to be perfect. This was still an ongoing project. Aaron did have a giant log in the middle and we already had boulders on the shallow side completed.

I titled this blog entry “Darkness of the Pond” because it would be the same night that Caleb drown in it that I would find myself sitting by myself in the pitch black kneeling beside it with it’s steely black waters staring back at me and hands touching the cold rocks where Caleb seemingly stumbled over. It wasn’t just the “darkness” of the water but what the pond now represented. I Wondered how it was possible. Was it real or could I be dreaming? How did this happen? I said to myself, “Please Lord, let me wake up from this nightmare. I have to be dreaming. Please tell me this isn’t real.” I continued to gaze into the pond as to search for a way out from my misery. Shimmers of light reflecting back at me on the pond’s surface from the interior lights of the house continued jolting me back to reality as I looked over to see it filled with so many people. Why were they here? I had no where to go and would they notice I was gone or what I was doing? What WAS I doing? I just wanted to be with Caleb. I desperately wanted a do-over. I was faced then with a very horrible reality. As I continued to stare at the dark glassy waters they seemed to laugh at me and say, “I got you. I got your son.”  Anger began to build.  This pond that I did not want, I ended up making LARGER. I can’t help but wonder how this happened in the way that it did. I knew right then and there, the pond has to go. It now represented something evil as it attempted to taunt me.

As, I reflect back on my life as a Christian, I can’t help but see other times where I compromised or became desensitized  by little things or allowed certain things in my life that should not have been there and later wonder how my adversary had gained a foothold. It happened. Whether its the choice of TV shows and movies or what games I allow my kids to play on the game consoles and the list goes on and on. There is no doubt that Satan puts many shiny distractions in this world and as the bible says in 1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.(KJV)” This verse could not be more clear.

I have no doubt that my adversary wants me. He has been trying for years. When Tiffany finally made her way to the hospital that night after learning Caleb would not be coming home with us, I met her just outside where we would say our final goodbyes at his bedside. Tiffany was sobbing, her spirit obviously crushed and broken. The first thing she did  as we embraced was profusely apologize and cried out, “don’t be mad at me, you said it was a BABY KILLER, I’m sooo sorry please forgive me.”

I was not even thinking that way and I tried to comfort Tiffany as best I could. After leaving the hospital, my main concern now was how this would affect my son Aaron. This was “his” pond after all right?. He wanted it. No, Aaron is in NO WAY responsible for Caleb’s death and I continue to affirm this with him. There is nothing wrong with desiring a pond. I want Aaron to have many joyful experiences in life and this was MY decision. Though the location changed, I am the leader of my house. The buck stops with me as they say and just as I would lay down my life for Caleb as a replacement, Aaron needs to know that the pond was my responsibility. I CHOSE to make it bigger. The smaller version was quite harmless in retrospect. I should have left well enough alone but I have the ultimate responsibility in my home and I made it bigger without consulting anyone. Caleb’s safety is my responsibility and I failed in that respect concerning the pond.

As I try to keep our family in tact and focused on God, there is no doubt that the “Darkness of the Pond” continues to haunt me in some respects. This is one area that my adversary continues to attack me over and over. So it is important that I seek your prayers. The “what-ifs” generally start here but the list goes on how many other decisions would have affected this event like even why I never thought to put up a fence. It seems when I let my guard down with the small pond, my adversary devoured me in a sense. I am ever reminded now of this verse 2 Corinthians 10:5 where it sates we should “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.(NIV)”

Putting God first in all things is my sole priority right now. It’s not about me and never was. It is all for His glory. Please continue to pray.

Author: Andrew Dubas