At Christmas, my family was carefree as we celebrated the birth of Christ.
But life is unpredictable. In the blink of an eye everything can change as happened with my grandson last week.
Only a few days after Christmas, Joseph, 9 years old and a precious Down syndrome child, probably followed his basketball when it rolled down a steep hill and into the woods near his home. He got lost.
One of the most terrifying things that can happen to a parent is not to be able to find their child. Thankfully, most are quickly found.
But others are not. That was the case when his parents, my son Joel and his wife Anne, could not find Joseph.
Anne had seen him playing in the backyard a few minutes earlier. When she looked again he was not there.
At first she was not too concerned. She and big sister Grace looked in all the usual places in and around the house, but they still could not find him.
Joe and Laura Lassiter, Anne’s parents, live up the driveway. Joseph is not allowed to go there without telling his mom or dad. They then call his grandparents to let them know he is on his way and they watch him until he goes into his grandparents’ house.
Joseph was not there either. Now frightened, Anne called Joel. Since 30 minutes had passed, they called the deputy sheriff who heads Project Lifesaver in their south Alabama area. As he drove to their house he was also notifying others to response to the call.
Since the nearby woods are thick, they knew it was likely Joseph was lost in them.
Joel is a veterinarian who specializes in avian medicine. A few months earlier he had spoken at a poultry convention in Chicago. Anne, Grace and Joseph went with him.
Naturally, there were concerns about the possibility of Joseph getting separated from them in Chicago. However, their fears were lessened when Joseph was outfitted by Project Lifesaver with an ankle bracelet that could be used to locate him wherever he was.
For some reason, on the day he was lost, the locator did not work.
Forty law enforcement and emergency service people joined in the search. Officers with search dogs and a sheriff’s posse of horse-mounted officers were summoned. Two helicopters equipped with heat sensors were en route.
A deputy spotted Joseph’s ball in a creek. Since Joseph can barely swim, that could have signaled tragedy. He could easily have drowned in one of the streams on the property.
It was a cold day. Things grew more intense when it started raining and it was getting dark.
Searchers heard a dog barking and followed the sound. Grace was the first one there. There was Joseph. He was wet up to his chest, cold, dirty and frightened. When the other searchers reached them, the children were hugging one another.
Our precious Joseph had been lost in the woods for two hours.
After he warmed up in a tub of warm water, Joseph was fine. Because of his limited verbal skills, he was unable to tell what had happened to him. He did say several times that he had heard a crocodile!
Joseph had no idea of the severity of what had happened. When he saw all the vehicles and people at their house, he asked if they were having a party.
Hopefully, he was frightened enough that he will not follow anything or anyone into those woods again.
There are times when there is no perfect solution to a problem. Just as it is with any child, keeping Joseph safe at all times is one of them.
He is an active little boy who loves being outside riding his bicycle, going with his sister to get the eggs from “Grace’s Hens” and loves everyone.
I think it would be cruel to totally confine Joseph. Yet, Joel and Anne know that, like any other child, in the blink of an eye he could be gone.
So, what will Joel and Anne do to insure Joseph is always safe?
Even though they are loving and protective parents that is not possible. No parents can guarantee the safety of their children.
So, like the rest of us they must pray, “… Lord for my sake, help me to take, one day at a time.”
Marguerite Cline is former mayor of Waleska.