I must've looked insane.

It was a HUGE crowd, and all I could do was weave in and out of it, sobbing and screaming my daughters name frantically. 

Yep, I must've looked insane. And in that sixty seconds, which seemed like a million.....I think I actually was.

We were at a Realtor picnic party, where they had set up jumping castles and clowns, rock climbing and face painting, all for our little ones. They had food and treats, and cotton candy. Everything kids dream of. All free. And as much as they wanted. Hundreds of people showed up with their families to enjoy the carefree Saturday afternoon.

Dan and I were watching Emma jump happily in one of the castles. Rowie was munching on cotton candy in his stroller, smiling and grunting at anything walking by. And my sweet husband was slurping down a snow cone. A little girl had fallen while jumping, so I told Dan to watch the kids while I followed her to make sure she made it safely to her family. When I came back, Dan and Rowen were there, but Emma was not. I looked in the castle, but she was gone. "Dan, she's not here". I looked in the other castle just a few feet away, and I didn't see her there either. 

Now, several things can happen at this point. For a NORMAL person. They (a) stay calm & look for their child, or (b) retrace steps and call people for help. For a crazy person, there is only one thing to do.
And you can imagine which category I fall into.

So there I was sobbing, my face in my hands, screaming Emma's name. People were staring at me, and I remember wondering how crazy I looked to them. And then a man appeared before me, took my shoulder, and said "I know what she looks like, I'll go look for her". I realized he was the man in charge of the castle she'd disappeared from. I nodded, literally feeling myself slipping into shock. I've never felt that before...it was horrible.  
It's amazing the things you remember in a moment like this. I remember my body shaking uncontrollably, my mind whirling endlessly, and a feeling of complete and utter fear settling quickly in my gut. I looked at the faces staring at me and I wondered  how everyone could be so calm.

But what I remember the most, as I searched through the crowd, was thinking Emma is not safe. Have you ever had that moment as a parent? It was the scariest moment of my life. I thought to myself, tonight my three year old is going to be alone. And if she was taken, who took her? What monster would she be facing tonight? And the saddest thought- she is going to grow up always wondering why her mother left her. I almost couldn't breathe.

I lost her.

I don't remember many details between the time I lost my insanity to the time I saw Emma again, but I do remember at one point spotting my husband trying to call someone on his phone. I held my breath, hoping he was trying to call me to tell me she was found. It wasn't until he looked up & saw me & signaled me over that I could breathe again. As we made eye contact I instantly knew Emma was found. His expression spoke volumes.

I rushed to him, asking frantically where she was. He pointed to the second castle (yes, I did check it, but obviously she is the world's greatest hider), and indeed, there she was.
Jumping and sliding to her heart's content.

I hugged Dan, who seemed way too calm for my taste, and left to find the guy who was still looking for our daughter. But not before I shook my husband about twelve times and made him vow he wouldn't take his eyes off her this time.

Through the crowd I found the stranger and thanked him, hugging him tight. I know he was just a guy, a bystander, a man I will never see again. But I have to say that the love I felt for him was overwhelming. I cried as I thanked him for the fifth time and he humbly smiled and told me not to worry about it.
I'll always be grateful for him.
Later, as Dan and I stood watching our daughter having the time of her life, I realized something. We were lucky. There are hundreds of parents who lose their children and never find them. Our Emma was safe. She was unharmed, and completely unaware of what had just happened. I don't think anything could have brought me down in that moment. And that night you better believe I hugged her a million times and kissed her until she scrunched her face. And I just kept thanking Heavenly Father. Over and over and over again. 

I hadn't lost her after all. 
But boy, I'll never forget the pain I felt when I thought I had.

And although that scary day is a bit of a distant thought now, I'm still reminded how blessed we are- every time she hugs me tight and kisses my cheek. I'm reminded when I hear her laughing in the background. I'm reminded when I hear her little feet coming down the hallway.
And oh, how I love those reminders. 

Oh, and in case you were wondering what my sweet husband was doing when he temporarily "lost" our daughter......I asked him the same thing. "I was looking up something really important on my phone," he told me. 
"Oh yeah?" I asked. "What was that?" 

"How to get rid of ice cream headaches," he said.
"That snow cone was really cold!"






It's our cemetery. Our "special cruising place", as we call it. The huge and very beautiful cemetery near our home. We frequently drive through it really slow and I let the kids look out and see the colorful flowers, the plastic decorations stuck in the ground that spin when the wind blows, and the American flags placed on Military headstones. And yesterday, she finally talked me into letting her get out. "Are we going to investigate?!" she asked so excitedly. She was so happy at the thought, that I could NOT turn her down. So I promised in the morning we could go and she'd actually be able to get out and "investigate".

I was really nervous about letting her get out of the car. Not because cemeteries are supposed to be spooky and creepy. But because I didn't want her to run around like a crazed maniac child, kicking headstones over and yelling and pulling out the cute balloons placed near the graves that read "Happy Birthday" to the deceased. Especially the green ones. Her favorite color. 
I could see it ending quickly, full of tears and angry looks from the back seat.

So there we were, Rowen in the stroller, brave mommy watching a very excited Emma jump out of the car. I cringed. She took off, no, she ran. Like a gazelle running for it's life from a cheetah. From one headstone to another, calling out colors and shapes and pointing at flags and beautiful statues. I was wondering if this was seriously a bad idea. And it must've looked like I had no control over my child. 
Then something happened. 

She wasn't a crazed child. She wasn't running around messing up graves, destroying hallowed ground, or kicking headstones. 

She was fixing their flowers. 

As I watched my little girl run to each grave whose flowers had been carelessly knocked over or tossed aside from the wind, I realized what I was witnessing. A little girl, servicing others. She wasn't seeking thanks or a choir of angels singing her praise. She definitely wasn't going to get that from those she was eagerly helping. And she knew that. That isn't why she was doing it. My eyes were not dry as I watched her bending and replacing each flower. She'd dust them off, tell me how beautiful they were, and then I'd tell her the name of the person on the headstone.

I told her I was sure they appreciated her.

The rest of the time there at our special cruising place was almost magical, and sweet. We watched a woman visit a grave and  place a flower on it. And then we watched as she softly kissed the headstone. We looked at the pictures of the deceased, etched permanently on certain stones. 
When it was time to leave she didn't cry. She didn't complain. She pointed out the window and urged me to stop so she could fix the flowers on someone's grave that we had missed. And when I kept driving she seemed sincerely sad. 
I underestimated her. I saw her heart today, and I saw her love. I saw Emma, in all her perfect glory. 

I know they say we aren't held accountable until we are a certain age. But I know it was written in the book today, somewhere high in the Heaven's. A little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes...full of compassion...stopped to fix someone's flowers.

I'm sure to someone watching nearby, she was just a silly girl, living in her silly little world.

But to those whose names were engraved on those headstones......it was priceless.