I lost my son this weekend.
My little son. The one with the contagious smile and the winking eyes. My fierce protector; my miniature knight in shining armor. The child that can make me laugh no matter the weight of pain or grief that rests on my heart. That son. The most precious gift of a little boy that shows me, without a doubt, that God is indeed creative and good.
My little man. I lost him.
He was there one moment, under the lighthouse, picking up fistfuls of beach sand in his chubby hands. Letting it run through his fingers, transporting sand from here to there, from there to here. Occupied. Mesmerized. And the group, the big group with all the children, walked away. I walked away.
I left him. Unknowingly, preoccupied with children running wild in the breeze, turning circles in the sand, arms spread wide as if to embrace the vast shores of God's creation. Sandy legs climbing distant dunes, breathless voices yelling "Look at me, Mom! Watch me!" from the top of the world. Senses struck in awe of the lake stretched out in all directions before me, waves lapping the rhythm of the earth, gulls cackling overhead. I was lost in myself, in the place where beauty and joy and laughter and worship mingle together and become one. I forgot about him.
And then I remembered. And then I looked. And he was gone.
The mother-bear panic set in. 'Where is my son? Have you seen my little son? Is he with my husband? No. His arms are empty. He doesn't know where he is. Did he climb the dune with you? No, Mom. He's not with us.' I scanned the beach, hoping desperately for a glimpse of him. And my anxious gaze fell for a moment on the lake beyond the sand. The giant, foaming lake that has claimed the lives of other mothers' little sons, I know. Curious, adventurous little sons. Like mine.
Oh, Lord, not my son. Not my baby.
Please, God, give me back my son.
My heart was dying. I yelled for my son, and the baby, strapped to my chest, squalled his protest. 'Can he tell I've stopped breathing? Can he feel the sporadic beating in my chest beneath him?' His squalling added to my panic, and together we released our fearful cries to the wind.
'Where are you, my precious little man? I've felt this same agony before, when you were born three years ago. Born blue. Lifeless. And then, just like now, I knew I could not survive those two hour-long minutes until I saw your chest rise and fall. Until I heard your cry. Oh, my little love, where have you gone?'
We separated, all looking, all calling. I retraced my steps, back up the beach, back to the lighthouse. I knew I would see him at its base, transporting handfuls of sand from here to there, from there to here. I ran. Heavy footsteps through heavy sand with heavy baby and heart.
He was not there.
My little son was gone.
There were people. Maybe they had seen him? I ran to ask, and before I could, he appeared from behind the lighthouse. My little son, with fists full of sand. Transporting it from here to there, where he was lost, and from there to here, in my arms.
We walked away. We did not stop. His little sand-paper hand in mine, we walked away from the beach, to the parking lot, to the van, where I cried the cries of a mother's relief. The tears would not stop. 'Why are you crying, Mama? Because I lost you. And I found you. And I love you so much, my little son, though really not my son but God's. What a gift you are. A blessing. And God has given you back to me. Again.'
"You love me, Mama?"
"Yes, I love you, Little Man."
"And that makes you sad? That you love me?"
I laugh. Always, he makes me laugh.