The Day I Realized it Could Happen to Us

It was a hot, humid summer day last year when we decided to take our family to the local fair. The sky seemed as if it might rain, but the forecast was calling for rain a little later that day. We expected we would be on our way home by the time it would begin.

We arrived at the fair, put Hudson and Addie in their two-seater Radio Flyer wagon, and little Amos cruised in the stroller. The kids were having a blast! They rode pretty much every kiddie ride there and Hudson especially enjoyed the race cars. He belly-laughed every time his yellow car wheeled around the two left turns on the oval track – the centrifugal force pushing him to the outside, sandwiching him between his little sister and the side of the car.

We were down to our last couple of tickets and it looked as if it might begin to rain at any moment. Right next to the race cars that Hudson and Addie had just ridden twice was one of those funhouse mazes (which I have always loathed). But it seemed like a good activity to end our time at the fair.  So, Adam took each of their hands and they headed into the funhouse.

By that time, it was beginning to drizzle, so Amos and I parked underneath the ledge of a food trailer directly across from the funhouse as I waited for Adam and the kids to come into view. Adam emerged at the top and as I was making my way over to the funhouse, he was making his way over to the slide. There was a wall at the top that made it impossible to see the kids. By the time I got over to the slide, Addie was coming down, so I assumed Hudson would come next. Hudson didn’t come next. He had already come down the slide.

My heart raced as Adam and I looked to the right and to the left, hoping that he hadn’t gone far. He was nowhere in sight. Adam swept Addie up and ran one way, while Amos and I prepared to sprint in the opposite direction. All the while, 20 of the worst case scenarios were streaming through my mind. Before I bolted off, a gentleman grabbed my shoulder and pointed in the direction of the funhouse. I looked. There was Hudson trying to figure out how to get back into the funhouse to go down the slide again. I ran over to him and pulled him close to me. Completely unaware of what had just transpired and the years that had just been shaven off of my total lifespan as a result, he began throwing a fit at the prospect of getting back into the wagon and leaving the funhouse. Nevertheless, he was strapped into the wagon and we headed straight for the exit.

I am so thankful that there were good people there who were able to put two and two together as they observed two parents losing their minds over their lost child and a lone little boy pushing past person after person in a line of about 15 people.

When we got back into the van, Adam looked over at me and said, “I think we need to consider one of those bracelets”.

He was talking about Project Lifesaver. I had heard about Project Lifesaver a few times before from different employees of the county school system. Now I understood the puzzled looks I received when I declined Hudson’s participation in the program.

Before that summer day at the fair, the idea of my son wearing a bracelet that could be used to locate him seemed nothing short of sketchy to me. After all, Hudson wasn’t a runner. And there would never be a time in public when his hand would not be in mine. There would be no chance at all that he would ever leave my sight. There’s a reason why I’m exhausted after being in public with him. All five of my senses are hyper-alert. There was no need for a Project Lifesaver bracelet.

Do you ever notice how parents (mostly before they have kids) make haughty declarations about all the things they and their kids will never do? Then they have kids. They learn that they are not perfect and their kids are no better than anyone else’s kids.

That hot, summer day was a reminder to me of the simple and obvious fact that I am not perfect.  No matter how alert I am, my senses will fail me. There will be lapses in communication. The Lord was good and gracious to reveal that to me in an effective way. The panic lasted only about a minute, but I will never, ever forget it. It is burned into my subconscious and materializes in my worst nightmares. It’s always scary when any child goes missing. But when a child has limited ability to verbally express himself, no concept of danger, and other unique concerns, it becomes even more difficult to recover him before it’s too late.

Needless to say, Hudson now wears a Project Lifesaver bracelet. Should he go missing, the chances of him being recovered alive and well are very, very good if authorities are notified in a timely manner. In fact, the average recovery time for clients of Project Lifesaver is 30 minutes.  That’s 95% less time than recovery operations without the bracelet. The Project Lifesaver bracelet does not use GPS. It locates an individual by using radio technology that transmits a client’s assigned individual frequency.

If you have a loved one with cognitive limitations or one prone to wandering, check with your local sheriff’s department for details regarding the Project Lifesaver program. If you are able, consider donating to your local agency through your local sheriff’s department. For more information, visit

The Word that Changed Our Lives

Autism. The word reverberated off of the pale yellow walls of the pediatrician’s office and settled on my stomach like bad Chinese. I knew Hudson’s development was atypical. I was aware of the impending result of the 23-point questionnaire I had completed because I had marked the wrong answer more times than not.

Deep down, I knew. But nothing could have prepared me to hear that word out loud at that moment and in that room. I hated how much weight the suggestion carried coming out of the mouth of a professional. Her tone was even, cool, and matter-of-fact. I stood across the room in stark contrast—agitated, hot, and emotional.

I somehow managed to hold it together until we made it out to the car. As I secured my beautiful 18 month old son in his car seat, I could feel that dreaded lump begin to form in my throat. At that point, the flood gates opened and unleashed a torrent of tears. I cried all the way home. I cried off and on the rest of that day. I cried myself to sleep that night and many nights after.

On one particular day, as I sat in my self-imposed isolation and darkness mindlessly weeping, I came to the realization that the emotion I was experiencing wasn’t simply sadness. It was grief. But why was I grieving? What was I grieving? The doctor said my son might be autistic. If so, he would struggle in ways that would make life—put simply—very difficult for him. Shedding tears for my son and his plight would’ve been appropriate. But this? It was as if I was experiencing a loss—a death.

I looked down from my place in the recliner to spot my son playing on the floor. He was alive and well. Nothing about him had changed since before the word “autism” was spoken into our lives. Hudson was fine. But my hopes, dreams, and plans for him—for us—were dead. I had built our lives, our future, and the future of our home on the assumption that I would have a typical son. There would be makeshift forts, lightsaber duels, baseball practices, and sleepovers with his little buddies. There would be graduation, maybe college, then a wife and a family.

That small six letter word cast everything I thought would come to be into the darkness of the unknown. I had assumed he would have a circle of friends. Now I wondered if he would ever be able to make just one. Would he ever become independent enough to move out, much less, take on the responsibility of a husband and father? Would he ever say my name? Would he ever verbalize what those bright blue eyes communicated whenever his gaze met mine—I love you? I didn’t know. And it was killing me.

I always believed the mercy of God to be soft and gentle like the salty streams running down my cheeks. But here it felt like a raging sea—waves crashing against all that I thought was certain and an unrelenting current pulling me back toward the Rock of Ages. I had constructed idols out of normalcy, comfort, and the good life according to the world. I had placed my hope and joy in the temporal stuff of this life, as if Eden hadn’t happened. As if our world hadn’t been tainted and broken. God in His infinite mercy abruptly reminded me that only He is truly good and perfect. Always. Constant. Unchanging. Hope and joy found in One like Him is all-satisfying and eternal.

I do not know the purpose of Hudson’s autism. I don’t understand why he must struggle in areas that come easily to his peers. Or why our family must consider and wrestle with things other families will never work through.

I do know that God is good and, by extension, His purposes are good. Because I am finite, my scope of vision is severely limited. I can’t see entirely all the ways in which God, according to His good purposes, is working in and through our daily struggles for our good and His glory. But I do see how every morning brings with it a new set of opportunities to grow in Christlikeness. There is strength to triumph. There is grace for failure. I look back over the past 5 years and I can see God’s hands providing and His arms sustaining. He is good. And I am thankful.

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