28 August 2017

I Thought I LOST You

It's been eleven days...

Our last visit to the beach will not be soon forgotten.  It started out like a typical beach day for us, pack the snack bags, pack the towels, bring the buckets and water bottles, don't forget Micah's shark or the organic sunblock, and the puddle jumpers (life jackets) for Micah and Mia, and cash for admission and parking.

We got there without any traffic, and arrived around 9:30 a.m.  First family by the life guards our usual spot.  One thing was very different about this trip, Micah was in a zone.  He was collecting sea shells and rocks and he was so focused.  I've honestly never seen him so intensely into a task.  He was so excited with each find and would run over to me and made me keep all his treasures safe by my beach chair.  He even found a snail that he was begging me to let him bring home and keep as a pet.

At 10 a.m. on the dot I looked up at the life guard gave him a thumbs up and he gave me the signal back saying it was ok for the kids to now enter the water.  I took a few pics on my phone and carefully put it away and kept my eyes on all the kids as they played by the waves.  Around 10:30 a.m. lots of other families started filling in the beach landscape.  More kids in the water always makes it harder to see where your kids are but I have it down to a science with bathing suit colors and hand signals to Julia who swims out the farthest.

Around 11 a.m. Julia made a friend in the ocean, another girl named Julia.  Me and her mom got to talking and even put our beach chairs together as we kept an eye on all the kids.  She had two girls and kept commenting on how much Mark looked like a neighborhood kid she knew.  Me and this woman had a lot in common with being teachers, and having two daughters, and loving the beach so we hit it off right away.  Come to find out she was also Irish and Italian like John so we were laughing about how some of our kids tan and the more Irish ones don't.

Once Trish and I started talking Micah and Mark started getting on each other's nerves.  Mark kept taking Micah's rocks, Micah kept splashing him.  It went back and forth.  Then Mark found something in the ocean (a big foam ball) that Micah wanted.  They kept at it with each other.  I told Mark to go play and stop teasing his brother.  Trish and I stood up to talk as we kept an eye on the girls in the ocean.  Amelia was happily playing at my feet with a bucket.  Then the big girls came out of the ocean.  And the next thing I knew I didn't see or hear Micah or Mark.

Even now as I type those words I feel the panic fill my chest and dry out my mouth the way I felt at that moment.  As I looked out onto the beach filled with all the people and the noises all I could keep hearing over and over in my head is, "I lost my boys...I lost my boys." I gave Amelia to Julia and told her to sit in my chair and not to move and to keep Amelia in her lap.  I went straight to the life guard and told him what happened.  You never think this will happen to you.  And I never ever thought this would happen to me.  The life guard was calm and cool and said, "This happens all of the time, kids often follow the shore line and go with the wind.  What was he wearing? What was his name?  What do they look like?"  I gave as many details as I could.  Mark was wearing a spider man shirt he's 8 and has red hair.  Micah is 4 and has blondish brown hair and he's wearing a red rash guard."  "Don't worry he told me, I'm going to page every life guard on this beach."

Don't worry?  The life guard actually said that to me, the mom, the worrier of all worriers.

Don't worry.  I looked out again on the beach at the waves, did they drown?  How could they drown? How could I lose them?  Why isn't anyone wearing red?  Why can't I find them?  How could I lose them?  I lost our boys.  I lost our boys...

Julia saw the utter fear in my eyes.  "Mom it's going to be okay."  I walked along the beach saying their names, calling them praying they would answer me.  All I kept thinking was how would I tell John they were both gone?  This is my only job.  To watch my children.  I failed.

I went in the opposite direction and started calling their names, and then...I saw him!  "Micah!!!!!"  I collapsed.  I literally dropped to my knees and just cried.  "Buddy where were you?  I couldn't find you.  You were lost!  Where were you?  What happened?"  Micah looked at me as though I completely lost my mind.  (He didn't think he was lost at all.  He was on a running adventure with Mark and to him it was all fun and games.  He never saw me this upset crying like this and he had no idea what the fuss was all about.)

Then a second or two after that, a lifeguard came with Mark.  We grabbed each other and cried together.  "I'm so sorry buddy.  Were you so scared?  What happened?"  You think in that moment you might be angry or yell or get mad.  All I could do was hold him and cry.  Later, Mark asked me, "Mom were you embarrassed that the lifeguard and everyone on the beach saw you crying?"  I told him, "Mark, all I cared about was you boys and finding you, I don't care who saw me cry."

We all sat by my beach chair and Mark explained that Micah started to run in the opposite direction with the foam ball.  Micah thought it was a game, but Mark saw that he was running too far away and Mark was trying to get him to stop running away but it all happened so fast and then he couldn't find me.  And when he realized he was lost the life guard came and found him.

The whole ordeal was probably 3-5 minutes.  But to me and Mark it felt like an eternity.  Time completely stood still.  We didn't stay at the beach much longer.  I drank some much needed water.  We hugged Trish and the girls goodbye.  We thanked the life guards.  We packed up our stuff.  And we headed to the showers, and the playground.  At the showers I watched the four kids get all their sand off and I called John.  I called John and just sobbed.  It was literally the scariest feeling knowing that you almost lost your kids.  I hugged everyone a little tighter that day.

Driving home from the beach I realized two things:

1. I don't want to ever have that feeling again.

2. I now understand the story of the Prodigal Son so much better.

You know the scene in the Prodigal Son where the son returns home after spending all of his inheritance on partying and living the "good life" in a short time?  And he realizes how good he had it in the safety and comfort of his own home with his family?  So he returns home and even while he is a long way off his father runs to him, embraces him, gives him a ring and throws him a huge feast.  I always used to be so baffled, like how could the father just forgive him so easily and take him back??? He didn't get a lecture...he didn't get a list of rules to follow...he didn't get an I told you so...all he got was a warm greeting, a huge hug, some bling and a fancy feast!!! So confusing.

But when you are the parent, and your child is lost, all you care about is them being back in your arms.  You don't need an apology.  You don't want to give a lecture.  You don't want to say I told you so.  You are just so thankful they are alive, that they are breathing, that you get to go home with them, and that they are yours.

I have thanked God a million times for that experience because it has taught me to love my kids better.  It has taught me that moms are not super heroes.  It has taught me that losing a child can take a second.  It has taught me that my kids are always my number one priority, and no distraction should ever take my eyes off of them.  It taught me and reminded me of my great need for God.  I need God so much and I'm so thankful for his care and provision for us and for me that day.  I absolutely cannot raise my kids without God's help at every single turn.  My kids saw me at my worst that day, the panic, the fear, the crying.  But tears and all,  I think my sons saw how much I love them that day.  They saw how worried I was, how scared I was, and how happy I was when I saw them.

We still talk about our last trip to the beach.  I didn't want to tell anyone about it.  But I realize it can honestly happen to anyone and I'm very thankful God was so gracious to us and that I (thanks to all those hard working, amazing lifeguards) found the boys so quickly after losing them.


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