It was a sunny day and the children were playing on the beach. A four year old in an aquamarine tutu played in the sand. My daughter played with this girl’s older sister. I watched the kids lazily with half shut lids. It was calm and quiet, a perfect day. Suddenly there was a commotion. The child in the tutu was missing. It happened so fast. One minute she was there, the next, she was gone. The mother walked along the beach and screamed hysterically, “Where is she?”
“We’ll find her,” I said with a surety I didn’t feel. I had been in this woman’s shoes a year ago when we lost our son at Disney World. I understood the panic, the heart wrenching fear that nothing will be the same, the horrid thoughts of a mother’s worse nightmare. I ran to get help and asked everyone along the way, “Have you seen a four year old Caucasian in an aquamarine tutu?” My brother-in-law and my daughter who is a lifeguard (thank you City of Mississauga) dived into the water and searched. My husband scanned the water as he walked along the beach. Time seemed to pass slowly. Many people helped. Others stood around, shook their heads dumbly and didn’t move. I wondered about this lack of compassion. Why didn’t everyone spring into action? Perhaps they didn’t care or they had never experienced what we had, to know that time was of the essence.
Luckily the child had only wandered down the beach and realized she was lost. She told a stranger who held her hand and looked for her mother. When her mother saw her, before she could wrap her in her arms, she collapsed on the sand bawling. It ended well but as with all of life’s moments, it left its indelible mark. We watched our children more closely. We hugged them a bit tighter. We talked about what ifs and I was more grateful for life than I’ve ever been.