Yesterday I aged 5 years in one day.
Daniel was missing.
He didn't come when I rang the bell for dinner, which is unusual. I realized I hadn't seen him for a long time, so I began searching the house to discover where he might be curled up with a book or asleep under a pile of blankets. A cursory glance of the house didn't yield any results, so we all began searching deeper and calling for him loudly. I checked under every bed, under every couch, in every closet, inside the dryer, even in baskets of clean laundry to see if he burrowed under the clothing. There was nothing...but it was likely he was playing outside in a far corner of the property. I checked all the barns, sheds, and chicken coop and turned up no sign of him. I had been looking for him for almost an hour. This is when I began to feel worried.
Nervously I called my neighbor on the phone. "Did Daniel by chance come over to your house to play without my permission?"
She replied, "He tried to earlier but I asked him to go home and get permission first."
He had never came to me to ask permission. The conversation between Daniel and my neighbor had happend much earlier in the afternoon. That was the last time anyone had seen him.
Our property is completely fenced in, so Daniel would have to walk along the road for a long distance before he could reach our gate and enter the yard. It would be so easy for a passer-by to pause and kidnap him. Usually I go outside and watch my children walk along the road until they reach the safety of our gate, but this time I didn't know he was out there. He was gone. Every parent thinks this will never happen to them, but suddenly it was happening to me. My mind was racing with all the terrible possibilties and I began to tremble as I dialed 911. Darkness was falling rapidly, making it hard to search outside.
I continued to search the house, the garage, the vehicles, everything I could think of where he might be while I talked with the dispatcher. They dispatched 6 deputies out to our home, but it would take a long time for them to arrive. They also said a helicopter with infrared cameras was on its way to help search in the dark. The dispatcher told me I shouldn't have waited so long to call 911....the longer Dan was missing the farther away a kidnapper could get, reducing the chances of finding him. My neighbors searched their property with flashlights in case Daniel had stayed to play in the groves of trees. When they found nothing, they volunteered to begin driving along the country roads looking for him in case he wandered off and became lost.
Inside my house was utter chaos. Children were alternating between praying for help and searching in more hiding places for Daniel. Diego was hungry and crying for food, but there was no way on earth I could handle sitting still and feeding him, so I asked Sarah to feed him pinches of bread. We knelt for a quick (but very heartfelt) prayer begging the Lord to protect Daniel and help us find him.
I called our bishop, asking him to contact local ward members to come help in the search-and-rescue efforts. A calling tree began to notify friends that we needed help, but our friends are all scattered across the countryside so they wouldn't begin arriving for another 15 minutes. I also called my mother-in-law with this quick message, "Please pray for our family! Daniel's missing and the police are looking for him, he may have been kidnapped- we don't know. Just pray for him, we need all the prayers we can!" Left with that unnerving message, she began to call all our extended family to ask for immediate prayers for Daniel. I also called Nathan on his cell phone and told him what was going on. He wouldn't arrive home for another 30 minutes.It was a living nightmare to be dealing with this situation alone...without my other half, my strength, my dear husband.
I couldn't leave my house and help search for him because officers were calling me on the phone, asking his description so it could be posted to police departments across the state. Weeping quietly I took his photo out of a frame so they could use it in identifying him. I felt numb...my actions were strangely mechanical. Daniel had been missing for several hours. My heart was full of silent prayer the entire time, begging the Lord to watch over my son.
While I updated an officer, my sister called to chat. It went something like this: "Hi Renae! Is this a good time to talk?" I spoke quickly, "Actually no. I have to go, Daniel's missing and the police are here." What a great conversation, right? She began calling more extended family to update them.
This was all happening so quickly, but it seemed to take an eternity. In this moment, I learned a powerful lesson. I realized that I would happily trade anything for my son's safety: my possessions had absolutely no value compared to him. I didn't care if I had to sell everything (even our home) and live in a tiny apartment for the rest of my life. Family matters more than anything. It's strange how crystal-clear this thought was in my mind.
Another strange occurrence was the 'movie' playing in in my mind. People speak of seeing their life flash before their eyes. Oddly I was seeing Daniel's life flashing through my mind. His fistfuls of feathers, his love of animals, his cherished rock collection, his passion for music, his gusto for life.
I was talking with an officer outside when Sarah and Matthew came running out of our home shouting, "Daniel's here! We found him! We found Daniel!" Words can't possibly describe the relief and joy that washed over me. Maybe 'washed' is too gentle of a word. It's more like I was hit by a tidal wave of relief.
We ran inside and found him inside the tiniest cupboard on one of our bookcases. I never would have thought he could possibly fit more than half of his body in there. He evidently had crammed his body in this cubby and closed the door on himself, then fallen asleep. I believe the wood muffled our calls when we were looking for him.
I learned several things in this experience. Most importantly, I was given a powerful eternal perspective. My life seemed crystal clear, with all threads of doubt or indecision wiped away. I knew that God would lift me up if this burden was too heavy for me to bear alone. Event though my heart was breaking when I thought Daniel was stolen, I knew I could rely on our Savior's atonement to heal my pain. I realized that Christ doesn't only heal the affliction resulting from sin, He has power to heal any anguish from any infliction.
I realized on a deeper level how important my children are to me. The 'stuff' we own is all icing on the cake of life, but it's all worth absolutely nothing eternally.
I also was taught a powerful lesson of peace from my sweet husband. After he arrived home, he held me close and spoke soothingly. He pointed out that even if Daniel had been kidnapped and died, our family was sealed for eternity in God's holy temple. We know we would have been with Daniel again. It's amazing how much this comforted my heart.
God lives. He hears our prayers and knows our hearts. Surprisingly, I'm thankful for this harrowing experience. The Lord has taught me so much. Most of what I learned cannot be framed in words....it was a spiritual schooling.
Your family matters. Make sure you let them know.
Cherish every moment with your loved ones. You never know when your time with them will be gone.