I can’t find my daughter. I can’t find my daughter! I can’t find my DAUGHTER!
At some point, every parent experiences the horrible, gut-punching terror of looking around for their child only to find that he or she is nowhere to be seen. What might start out as a relatively calm search can quickly escalate into a frenetic free-for-all as fear sets in, and the mind starts concocting worst case scenarios pieced together from national news stories and true crime TV shows. I have a vivid recollection of this feeling, as it just happened to me again recently.
Last Wednesday, I lost Katie.
We were at church and the adult class, a great textual study of the Sermon on the Mount, had been dismissed. Paul went to pick up Caleb at his class, and I noticed that the older kids were streaming up from their classrooms downstairs. Usually, Katie arrives with them and comes to find us, so I wasn’t paying too much attention while I enjoyed a conversation with a friend. Eventually, Paul appeared with Caleb, my friend made her way to the door to leave, and I looked around to tell Katie that we were going home.
I didn’t see her.
I called to her, but there was no answer. I asked a few people if they had seen her, but no one had. I thrust Caleb at Paul and ran into the large auditorium, calling her name again. No one was in there. I checked the bathroom at the top of the ramp, and the one at the bottom. Empty.
By this time, the panic was setting in. My heart was palpitating, I was short of breath, and I felt a scream wanting to claw its way up out of my throat, choking me. I began sprinting through the building, out to the parking lot, into the church office, shouting “Katie! KATIE!” at the top of my lungs and breathlessly shrieking to anyone I came across, “We can’t find Katie!”
Soon several people were helping us look for her. Paul found me and, by way of calming me down, asked me to take Caleb so he could search. But I didn’t stop. Holding Caleb firmly by the hand, I dragged him up and down the building, continuing my frenzied exploration.
Finally, Paul saw Mason and Isaac, two of Katie’s friends, straggling up from downstairs. He stopped them to ask them if they knew where Katie was. “Yeah,” said Mason, pointing. “She’s still back there, in the classroom.”
Paul ran down and found her exactly where we had dropped her off. In her classroom. The class activity had just taken a bit longer than expected, and the teacher had let them out a little late. Paul called to me that he’d found her, and in seconds I was there. Charging into the room, I saw immediately that she was all right, that everything was well, and that all my panic had been for nothing. Then I burst into tears.
Sure, I felt silly. But when someone you love is lost, a lot of things suddenly don’t matter. You don’t care how crazy you sound as you run around, waving your arms and screaming her name. You don’t worry about what people think of you as you frantically yell for help, doing whatever it takes to pull her back into the circle of safety. Priorities shift like tectonic plates, and what was important five minutes ago is swallowed up in the clamorous urgency of finding the lost one and bringing her home.
But, oh, the relief of holding that one safely in your arms again!
Feeling silly is a small price to pay.