Matt and Melissa Graves, the devoted parents whose two-year-old son Lane was killed by an alligator during a family vacation at Walt Disney World, continue to inspire.
In a litigious society in which people often sue for even minor inconveniences, the Lanes have said that they will not sue Disney World after their toddler was dragged into the water by an alligator and drowned.
I told their story back in June, when unthinkable tragedy befell the Graves family as they watched an outdoor movie near Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel. The family is Catholic, and I reported that a priest had been with them during their hours of waiting for Lane’s body to be recovered.
Now the Omaha World-Herald reports that some 600 people gathered Saturday at Elkhorn South High School to remember Lane Graves on what would have been his third birthday. The crowd dressed in blue and released 5,000 blue balloons, in honor of the little boy whose endearing smile captivated hearts across America, as a ukulele version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” played over the public address system.
The World-Herald reported that Melissa Graves doesn’t like public speaking, but wanted to honor the memory of her son. “My baby — I owe it to honor him,” she said into a microphone as the crowd stood arrayed in the heart pattern. “You’ll always be Mommy’s loving, sweet, baby boy. … We miss you, buddy, and we miss those hugs and kisses.”
A neighbor of the Graves family expressed astonishment at how nobly the family has endured the unfathomable tragedy. The Graveses have said they won’t sue Disney World. They have started a foundation in their boy’s name to make donations to various charities.
Fr. Tom Fangman and Fr. John Norman, Catholic priests from the family’s parish church St. Patrick’s, hugged the family. Father Fangman told the crowd that it was a day of sorrow, gratitude, awe and hope. “Lane was full of life and an inspiration to live to the fullest,” Father Fangman remembered. He called Saturday Lane’s “first heavenly birthday.”