"I remember thinking, 'Soak up this moment because it's not going to last forever,'" the country singer says.
It's been two weeks since country singer Granger Smith and his family lost their three-year-old son in a tragic drowning accident, and they're still working through how to pick up the pieces and move on.
In a touching new video, Granger and his wife Amber Bartlett thanked their fans for the outpouring of love and support they've received, and shared more details of River Kelly's death, as well as his heartbreaking final moments. And yet, the message of the video is both positive and uplifting.
The couple was often in tears as they talked about the loss of their youngest child, recalling the details of his final moments and how the family has come together in the subsequent days and weeks to try and find the meaning in this loss.
Granger recalled that night, spending it with River and his older siblings, seven-year-old London and five-year-old Lincoln. "We were doing gymnastics in the yard and the boys were playing a water gun fight," Granger said in the video. "I remember thinking, I was looking at London, as she was doing gymnastics and I thought, 'Soak up this moment because it's not going to last forever.'"
But those prescient words don't haunt the singer, even as he said that "somewhere between 30 seconds and three minutes Amber and I are inside our pool gate doing CPR on our son." They were unable to revive their son, who passed away two days later in a hospital.
But that last thought has resonated with him in a more positive and uplifting way, and it's a message of love and presence the family wants to share. "I think the platform that we immediately stand for is love those close to you, soak up those moments, live for today, live in the present because we're not guaranteed tomorrow," he said.
And as for River, rather than lament the time they won't have with him, Granger and his family have decided to cherish each of the days they did get. When his daughter asked how long River lived, Granger told him it was just over a thousand days.
"What if you were given a gift to live 1000 days?" he said he wondered. "If you could live those days barefoot, red hair flying back on your tractor full speed ahead, if you could do that with your family around you, with no real care in the world — that's a good way to live."
The family further is leaning on their faith at this difficult time, believing that this was perhaps God's plan all along. "We believe that God gave us River for three years and that was his mission. I don't believe that God takes anyone too soon," Granger said.
"I'm not going to play around in my mind that there's this fictitious timeline of River graduating from college or high school or playing football because I believe that he was put on this Earth for that exact amount of time."
And they've made sure River's passing gave something to the community around him, too. He was an organ donor upon his death and raised more than $100,000 for the hospital that treated him through sales of a t-shirt made in tribute to their son.
"We've gotten so close and we are going to constantly search for the meaning behind all of this," Granger said of his family. "Not the reason -- not going to get caught up in the reason because we will never know -- but we will find the good."
"Don't feel sorry for us because we feel very blessed we had an incredible little boy for three years," Granger said. The couple concluded their message with the video tribute they played at River's funeral, asking that their fans not be sad, but smile when they think of him. "Live like Riv," the parents said.
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