When my oldest had just turned two and I’d given birth to my second daughter, who was four weeks old, my little toddler decided to go see her daddy at a manufacturing plant less than a block away. She was a smart little girl who could put her shoes on the right feet and partially dress herself. She had her pants and her shoes on, but no shirt; although she had the good sense to place around her shoulders a baby quilt one of my friends had made for her.
You see, it was December, just the week after her 2nd birthday. It was cold, raining, and dark at 7:30 pm. She said, “Bye mom, I’m going to see dad.” I replied, “Bye, Jess,” thinking she was playing a game or pretending. I had no idea she could unlock the front door and head outside. I was a sleep deprived new mom and a full time college student, peeling potatoes for dinner. I had ten different things on my mind.
I didn’t even realize she had left the house until I heard my neighbor down the street calling from the living room. “Is anyone here?” Confused, I went to the room to see my frightened neighbor, followed by a complete stranger holding my little daughter in her protective arms. The look of horror and fear on her sweet face spoke volumes to me as she held my daughter in her tight embrace. “How could you? What kind of mother are you?…..were the unspoken accusations that crossed her face.” My neighbor said, “This couple found this little baby wandering across 2nd street in the rain, they didn’t want her to get hit by a car so they stopped and picked her up. They brought her to my house and asked who she belonged to.”
As the realization of what just happened began to sink in with each word she spoke, my heart sank deep into my stomach and a grief like I had never experienced gripped me. The big brown eyes of my little girl were frightened and the lady holding her was reluctant to let her go. I’m sure I tried to explain myself, stuttering some unremembered excuse as I held my sweet girl ever so tightly and poured over that aching regret of not being more careful or more cognizant of her whereabouts, in my mind.
They left us alone at that point; left to tell everyone they knew about the horrible mother down the street, who doesn’t watch her kids. That’s what we do, right? We call everyone we know and tell them what happened. I sure did. I called my faithful sister, sobbing the story out between gasps and begging her to go to the store and buy me a chain lock for the upper part of our front door. She gladly complied and the lock was installed that evening.
Those pointing fingers may think about the incident briefly and go on about their day. Their head hits the pillow at night and they sleep peacefully. The mom doesn’t, she relives the moment over and over in her mind. It’s months, maybe years before she comes to terms with what did happen and what could have happened to her baby.
As I watched my daughter grow, I was so grateful for every moment and every stage of development. I held her more, I was more vigilant around strangers, encouraged her intelligence, and never took for granted her health, her smile, or her ability to get into trouble. I know she had an angel looking over her. I know God protected her from danger and brought her home to me. I am so very grateful to Him that it was not her time to leave me and go to Him.
I wish I could see that woman again and tell her how much I appreciate her concern for my daughter. I ache for the moms who don’t have that privilege. The mom who’s child did not return home but went to be with our Lord. I only felt their pain in an obscure, brief, gut wrenching way; but I did feel it and I do understand.
We don’t always understand God’s purpose right away. Years of maturity, experiences and living life doesn’t always give us insight either; it just prepares us for a time of peace and comfort in knowing He has them in the palm of His hand. For those moms whose child has gone to be with Him, the hope of a reunion and greater joy than they can imagine in heaven. For moms like me, still watching our wayward children grow and develop, greater joy than we’ve ever known on earth.