Yesterday, I lost something precious.
I took the chickadees to the beach, in a state park on the Chesapeake Bay. I met my brother and his wife and two little beans and some friends and their mite. We had a lovely time -- had lunch (pb&j with sand, grapes with sand, potato chips with sand, you get the picture), built sand castles, splashed in the very mild waves. All was great under the very intense sun.
Chickadee #1 had gotten up enough courage to actually want to get into the water and go out into the waves. But I had to be there and had to be LOOKING as she cavorted. Chickadee #2 was content to play at the water's edge. I had my brother's oldest bean with me -- a real daredevil whom I had to watch like a hawk to prevent her from swimming out to meet the passing speedboats.
Chickadee # 2, as I said, was content to play in the sand at the water's edge. She had been running between our blanket, where my sister-in-law and friend were hanging out with their year-old-ish babies, and the pile of sand she'd been working on. I saw her running toward the blanket and let her go. A few minutes later, I couldn't see her with the adults on the blanket, so decided to go up to them to see what she was doing behind them.
She was not there.
She had not been there.
I immediately panicked, though I unsuccessfully tried to hide it. Thinking -- I DON'T KNOW WHERE MY BABY IS!!! IT'S A FRICKIN' BEACH. THERE ARE BAD PEOPLE AND CARS AND WATER AND OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD."
My brother took off running to the south, my friend's husband to the north, and I, screaming my chickadee's name as loud as I could, ran inland, towards the spot where I'd seen park rangers earlier. I ran into the concession stand when I couldn't see them, then ran out again, screaming her name all the while.
As I approached the beach again, a beautiful young woman came up to me and asked me what Chickadee #2 looked like. She said, "I'm going to help you find her. I have a two year old too." She took off running towards the playground. She had an air of confidence -- not, "I'll try to help you find her." No, "I'm going to help you find her." A few seconds later, another, older, black woman came up to me and told me, "He's got her. She's all right, she's all right," and gave me a hug. I am so grateful to these women. So grateful for the kindness of these strangers. They took the time to help me and comfort me. They were ministers of God to me. I'm sorry to say that I was too panic stricken to even pray throughout the whole ordeal. But God heard the inarticulate cry of my heart and send these women to help me. I wish I could thank them in person, but I hope they know how incredibly thankful I am.
When I saw my brother carrying a crying Chickadee #2 towards me, everything clicked back into place. The possibility of our lives tilting irrevocably out of kilter receded back to the other side of the veil.
Chickadee #2 had been about 100 yards to the south, sitting on the sand, crying. When my brother found her, she clutched at him and cried harder. When he put her in my arms, she clung to me like a monkey, wrapping her arms and legs about my body and crying into my neck. That's okay -- I would have done the same to her if I could have. My baby. Restored to me.
Shortly after this adventure, we left -- too much excitement for one day. As I was walking through the parking lot, chickadees in tow, I saw my first angel, smiling so beautifully at me as she and her husband and children drove past. It was the final surreal touch -- I wasn't sure at first that it was her, because I only saw her face for a few seconds when she approached me on the beach -- I didn't have the opportunity to really form an impression of what she looked like except to note that she was beautiful. But I am convinced that it was her. Thank you.
Later, after the chickadees were asleep and my husband and I had gone to bed, I was jolted back to wakefulness by thinking of all the horrible possibilities. I was overcome with such a sense of gratitude and joy, such thankfulness to God above. I could barely contain it -- I wanted to get up and get dressed and go and pray before Jesus in the 24 hour Eucharistic Chapel our parish has, but I didn't want to wake my husband up by getting out of bed. I thought about waiting a while, then getting up and prostrating my trembling self before the Infant (Jesus) of Prague statue I have, but thought that would too weird.
I contented myself by praying a heartfelt Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. The last joyful mystery, "They Find Jesus Preaching in the Temple" blew me away. I understood viscerally, emotionally, in a newfound way how Mary and Joseph must have felt. God had entrusted them with this marvellous child, this gift, and He was missing. I cannot even imagine the emotions they must have felt -- they didn't lose their child on the beach for three minutes. They lost him in a huge city for three days. My joy on finding Chickadee #2 mirrors that of the Blessed Mother on finding her child.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.