Monday, July 25, 2011

Treasure in Paradise

Eighteen years ago today I was a mom with two precious little boys. One about 6 months old, the other would turn 2 years the next day. My husband had to work that day; he was scheduled for guard duty, a 24 hour job. We picked up my car and he followed me to church where he said goodbye and went on to work. I was going to stay for the dinner and go home with the boys afterward. The next day, Chris's birthday, we'd go to the park and have a picnic, get the boys' picture taken. 
  Worship went as it normally does. One of the teenagers took Chris to his class for me and I took J to the nursery and sat with him. The teenagers had asked earlier if Chris could eat with them later and i said it was okay.
  Being summer, several families were out on vacation. Very few younger kids were there that day, especially any Chris's age. One of the older men, who was like a grandfather to my boys, offered to hold J after service was over. That way I could get plates fixed and keep an eye on Chris, who played beside me.
  It was a small congregation but there was much action going on as the final preparations were being made for dinner. When it was time to get the food, Chris was beside me. I turned to fix his plate. When I turned around, maybe a minute or two later, he was gone. At first I didn't worry. The teens had already said they wanted him to be with them, so I figured they had come to get him. Another parent said no, she had just seen the teenagers and Chris wasn't with them. 
  My heart stopped. I put down the plate and we all began looking. Both back doors were open. Could he have gone outside? We searched everywhere, inside and out. All I could do was cry. We searched up and down the road.Others, (not me) looked in the baptistry area. No sign of him.
  The men of the congregation convinced me to call my husband at work. He didn't think he would be let off work so the men talked to the sargent or whoever it was in charge of the shift, and Jim was sent home. The men called the police and search and rescue. No stone was left unturned. 
  As they often do, a local news team heard what was going on and came in. I allowed myself to be filmed because I had no idea where my boy was. He was a friendly soul who did not know a stranger.
  Several hours later i went outside because i thought I heard Chris. I was outside the door by the baptistry area. I heard one of the women wail OH NO! and i rushed back inside. One of the men had gone back to check again and found my little boy.
  During that time, work was being done in the baptistry area. The lighting was dim back there, and wooden boards were on one side of the pool. Only a plastic sheet of bubble wrap covered the water to keep any bugs out. He probably had wanted to simply go and stand where he could see everyone. He did not know the bubble wrap would give way. They think he somehow was under the boards or in a shadow and that was why they didn't see him other times when they looked.
   Chris was life flighted to the hospital but he was never revived. 

  The church had been there many years. No one thought there was any danger because nothing had ever happened like this before. Afterward, however, among all the things the congregation did , doors were put in place at the baptistry and they were kept locked, with only a few having access to the key. Other churches across the country heard what happened and they too took a closer look to see that their buildings were safe for little ones. 
  I still do not know how this ever could have happened, or why I or someone else didn't hear anything when the baptistry was maybe 5 feet from where dinner was set up. I've wished that I'd stayed home that day, others said they wished they'd offered to tend Chris for me while i got his plate. 
  Although its been many years, it still hurts, some days are just better than others. The comfort i have in this is my baby boy is in paradise. He doesn't have to worry about whether or not he will make it to heaven. He is secure. He is one of my treasures in heaven. I want to be able to see him again. I love God enough to want to do His will and live right. One of the rewards of living right is seeing loved ones who have gone on before. I'm not perfect nor will I ever be here on earth, but I can live the best I can.
  I tell J about his brother all the time. I wonder what he would have looked like growing up, how he would have turned out, if J would be the way he is now had his brother lived. Yes, I think things like that. The only answer I have and hold on to is he is in paradise with Jesus. That's all that matters. I'm sad for me still some, because i can't hold him here. But he doesn't have to deal with the things of this world.

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