I ran a 10k on Saturday. The weather was crummy and I was recovering from a cold, but somehow I ended up feeling great and finishing with a personal best time. The best part was when I was about halfway through the race and spotted Mr. Roller Coaster and my kids on the sidewalk cheering me on. Big C was supposed to have a baseball game so I wasn’t expecting my family to come. But thanks to that crummy weather, the game was canceled, and the Roller Coaster clan was able to meet me at the finish line.
After the race, I waited in line with Little C to accept some free runners’ goodies while Mr. Roller Coaster and Big C entertained themselves. I was almost to the front of the line when my cell phone rang. “You need to get over here now,” Mr. Roller Coaster said. “I can’t find Big C.” Long story short, Big C wandered off. A kind stranger saw him crying, asked if he was lost, and brought him to an ambulance where he sat next to another lost child and where Mr. Roller Coaster found him about 15 minutes later.
Those 15 minutes were gut-wrenching as I thought of all the horrible things that could have happened to my 7-year-old son. I stood at the location of separation in case Big C wandered back, while my husband ran around looking for a little boy in a crowd of thousands and thousands of people. I tried to contain my emotions as I held Little C’s hand tighter and tighter the longer her big brother was missing. But I couldn’t help but think, “What would I do if something happened to my baby boy?”
But Big C was fine. Shaken up, but otherwise fine. We were lucky, and I think it was a good lesson for all of us. As the day went on, I thought about how blessed I am to have two healthy, happy, intelligent, sweet, beautiful, funny, huggable children. I have a lot to be thankful for. I know many other people who are either struggling to become parents or are parents struggling with their children’s various health problems. I’ve recently gotten to know one mother in particular who is coping with her daughter’s cancer. Her daughter is a student of mine, an amazing 5-year-old little girl who is fighting a fierce battle against leukemia.
This little girl doesn’t come to school every day. She doesn’t always make it through an entire day of school when she does attend. She doesn’t go outside for recess. And she doesn’t have any hair. But this little girl is beautiful. And she has a smile that brightens an entire room. And she is a wise old soul. And she is one great big fighter.
This weekend the entire Roller Coaster family is participating in a fundraising walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of my student who is fighting for her life. We are participating because this child holds a special place in my heart. We are participating because this is a fellow military family whose lives have been turned upside down by a diagnosis. We are participating because no child should have to endure what my little friend has had to endure. We are participating because my daughter is the same age this child was when she was diagnosed, and I would hope that if the roles were reversed, our family would receive the same level of support from loved ones.
So while my own children are healthy and happy and willing to be hugged, I’ll hold them close and remember how truly blessed I am.