As Will and Melissa Graves mourn the loss of their 2-year-old year old son, Lane Graves, who was snatched by an alligator while vacationing at a Disney resort, a family who experienced a similar tragedy revealed it was God, their family, and friends who served as the ultimate source of comfort.
As earlier reported, Lane was wading in shallow water close to a Walt Disney World resort hotel in Orlando on Tuesday night when an alligator grabbed him and pulled him into the water.
His father made a desperate attempt to save him but he was unable to free Lane from the gator. The child's body was found intact in the water on Wednesday, close to where he had been snatched.
According to CNN, a priest accompanied the authorities when they broke the news of the discovery to his Catholic parents who were on vacation from Nebraska.
Donna and Gary Weidenhamer are among thousands who have offered their sympathy to the Graves family: they know all too well what the Graves are going through, as their ten-year-old son, Bradley, was killed in a similar fashion back in 1993.
The family told CNN they were making a canoe trip down the Loxahatchee River in Martin County with other children from Bradley's Little League team when the young boy was snatched and dragged into the river. While they were able to pry Bradley from the gator's jaws, he tragically died as a result of massive head injuries.
"Obviously it's a horrible situation," Gary said of the Graves' tragedy. "It brings back memories of the horrible situation we went through."
"Losing a child is never easy, but when it's such a public way, it's even harder," he added.
When asked how he and his wife coped with the loss of their son, Gary credited his faith in God and the support of family and friends.
"For us, faith in God and our church and friends and relatives helped us get through that," he said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family. You don't get over it. You learn how to deal with it."
Donna added: "It makes you realize how important your family is. It puts it in perspective. How important it is to share your faith with people so they can be strong through challenging things in life."
WPSD Local reports that on Thursday, the Graves family will hold a special service for their late son at St. Patrick's Church in Nebraska.
Reads a statement on the church website: "It is with a heavy heart that we inform you of a tragic loss in one of our parish families. As many of you have heard from national and local media outlets, there was a child deemed missing at one of the Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando, Florida. The family of Matt and Melissa Graves have lost their two year old son, Lane. The Graves are members of St. Patrick's Parish, and their daughter, Ella, attends our school. Please honor their privacy at this time and keep them in your prayers."
According to the wildlife commission's website, at least 23 people have been killed by Florida alligators since 1973.
A GoFundMe account created for the Graves family raised $50,240 - more than $20,000 over its goal - in just five days.
"Absolutely 100% of the money donated will be received as Matt & Melissa the designated beneficiaries," reads the page. "Please continue to pray for the Graves during this time. Thank you and love to you all."