I completely forgot this thing that happened on vacation, probably because it was purely terrifying: I lost Zoe.
For about a whole 2-3 minutes.
We were in Water Country, and Chris and Amelia were in the wave pool (with life vests of course), and I was trying with no luck to get Zoe in the water. It was SO sunny, even more than it was hot, the sun was blinding. Zoe was at my feet, playing with a very large yellow life vest. I didn’t think it was possible to miss her – she’s not small for her age, and she had on a bright pink swimsuit.
But unfortunately I blinked. I was checking out Chris and Amelia for a few seconds, and zoned out for a few seconds by the sun and when I looked down, she was gone. I spun a 360, certain she was behind me – but no. I looked on the other side of the potted plant we were standing near – no. No life vest either. Should be easy to find, right?
I couldn’t handle the thought, Chris saw me frantically screaming her name and ran out of the water in like 2 seconds. We were running up and down hollering her name. We kept looking at the shore line, terrified she would walk in and drown (which was silly, really, given her reaction to the water that day). ONE PERSON asked what she looked like, all the other parents looked bemused (I’m assuming this was another blinding sun reaction). Finally we saw her, maybe 10 or 12 beach chairs away, still playing with the life vest (it was bright yellow, remember).
I spent the entire rest of our water park visit with Zoe in my arms, hugging and loving her.
But that’s not the weird part. The weird part is how I felt. I didn’t really get overcome by panic or hysteria. Instead, I felt this uber-calm, and this incredible internal belief that this was not real, this was NOT happening, and I would wake up any second. I’ve heard of the five stages of grief, but man, I never knew it could be so potent. It was FREAKY. I cannot imagine what parents who lose their children go through.
I put the incident out of my mind until today. Where I live there was an incident where 2 police cars responding to a call went out of control and killed a 4 year old on the sidewalk. I saw the mother, about to speak on the news, and she didn’t display grief, weeping, heartbreak, or anything that looked like what you’d expect to see of a mom losing her baby.
Then I remembered my water park incident and I knew EXACTLY what she was feeling. My heart and soul go out to her, and she’s in my prayers tonight.