Letter to the Family of Mikaela Lynch

broken heart

This is but one of many posts in the event “An Outpouring of Love for the Mikaela Lynch Family”.  

Last summer, my then 3 year old autistic son wandered out the front door of our home.  His 5 year old sister was trying to help her daddy bring in the groceries and left the front door cracked.  My husband thought our son was with me.  It took several minutes for us to realize that he wasn’t in the house.  That’s when we both looked at each other in horror and remembered the groceries being brought in.  We raced outside.  I was frantically screaming his name while reaching for my cell phone to call the police when I heard my husband call out from the back yard that he’d found him.   I have never been so grateful in my life.  The idea that someone or something that might have harmed him could have found him –instead of us– still chills me.  I’ll never forget that moment.

My husband and I are loving and responsible parents.  We have bolt locks and chain locks at the tops of our doors.  We have an alarm system we set to instant alert when we are inside our home.  We use our car’s safety child locks.  Even in the grocery store, I keep one hand on my son’s leg (sitting in the buggy) while reaching for the milk.

But he managed to walk away unnoticed anyway.

That’s because life is unpredictable.  It’s because I cannot afford a bodyguard and full time nanny.  It’s because we are just human –not computers –and our brains aren’t so good at multi-tasking.  It’s because our unique children’s minds and spirits are often drawn to the very things that can harm them.

Your loss is unspeakable.  And, yet, while you are going through the first dark days in the club that no parent ever wishes to join, you are being attacked.  Attacked by some in the media – who value contention and traffic over truth.  Attacked by average people – who do not understand autism and have never walked in your shoes.   All this while likely suffering the greatest attack of all –  the heartbroken regret of your own mind, bashing you for your lack of godly omniscience.

It’s not your fault.  Anymore than natural disasters, plane crashes, or cancer.  Those of us who have walked in your shoes – that of being a parent to an autistic child – have all experienced close calls and the subsequent emotional beating we give ourselves.  No, we don’t begin to know the pain you are in right now.  But, I assure you, we are haunted by it.  Haunted because we know that your child could so very easily have been ours.  Haunted because we know too well the giant bulls-eye an especially vulnerable child carries in life.  We are sickened by the pain insinuations of parental neglect must have on you.  We know the love you have for your daughter.  We know how hard you worked to help her meet the challenges of a very confusing world.  We know.

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When I heard of the contentious “news reports” directed at your family, it reminded me of an infamous “church” who seeks to further their own notoriety by protesting the funerals of innocent Americans.  As if, by creating a media circus of a family’s grief, they could further their own “cause” — in this case nothing more than the pennies earned on each click of the mouse.

But then I thought of the thousands of people who have made that church’s efforts futile by a simple act — a symbolic shielding of those protestors from the view of the deceased’s loved ones.  I thought of a local family targeted by that group and how they were comforted by nothing more than the presence and spare bedsheets of complete strangers.  No, I am not naïve enough to think that a flash blog will help to shoulder any of your grief or deflect the outrageous criticism directed toward you.  I know we are too late to prevent you from hearing those ugly insinuations.  But please know this post — along with hundreds of others — to be our sincere effort to try.  And though we are not likely to ever meet in person, know the collective arms of special-needs parents everywhere are wrapped around you in love and empathy.

If you have a child on the autism spectrum and would like information on autistic elopement — along with a link to a kit to assist you in a wandering crisis, visit AWAARE.

Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect. Journalists should: * Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. * Show good taste. * Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity. * Use special sensitivity when dealing with children. * Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. — (http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp)

One click on this image will send a message directly to the irresponsible publication in question — without rewarding the “reporter” with pay-per-click publicity. :)

13 thoughts on “Letter to the Family of Mikaela Lynch

  1. Cindi

    Beautifully written. Your heart is pure gold and full of wisdom. I will be doing my best to join in on this too in hopes of helping encourage the family as well.

  2. Colleen @ Mommy Panda

    Such a lovely post. I’m struggling with what to write for one of my own.

    Do you know of any others who have written similar ones? I’d love to read what others have to say on the subject.

  3. Tamie

    Thank you – you wrote this so much better than I could! I am the mom of two kids with autism…one high functioning, one more severe. Both have gone missing, both in very frightening ways which have us so, so thankful that they are safe. One got out while there were 3 (yup, 3) ABA therapists in our home (2 for her) as well as a babysitter (who also worked for an ABA company). One time my son ran into a lake when there were 5 adults standing right next to him. He also was in a private swimming lesson with a lifeguard AND a trained aide and managed to get out of the pool when they weren’t looking and try to jump back in the deep end (when he couldn’t swim). I have lots more of these instances I could list, as I am sure most autism parents can. We have so much support and yet we still have these things happen. I live in Northern California and followed the story of Mikaela with a lump in my throat for days and then tears when the sad news was announced. That COULD be one of my children, and my heart breaks for Mikaela’s family.

  4. Rachel

    We all shelter our babies, I can’t begin to estimate the pain of losing a baby who you have protected and cared for for so long. I have both a NT and autistic young children, and both have wandered at various times – it is impossible to watch children 24/7 whatever their stage of development, you still have to cook their dinner, use the bathroom, answer the phone, and it only takes those short moments for the unexpected, unanticipated, unfathomable to happen. One can only hope that wherever parents read of your story, they see the truth and bear no thought to the cynical ignorance and self-promotion that the internet unhappily fuels. Deepest condolences from one family the UK.

  5. Regina

    I wish the media would stop scrutinizing this family! A child (special needs or ‘typical’) can get away from any parent in the blink of an eye, why focus on the tragedy–focus on helping other families prevent events like this from happening! My oldest daughter is autistic, nonverbal and low functioning-she’s also part Houdini, we’ve had several close calls! We feel a loss when one of OUR children with autism dies in this tragic way-we are strangers in life, but autism connects us! Beautifully written!

  6. Sally

    This was wonderfully written-I am a parent to three boys all on the spectrum and at one time or another each and every one of them have gotten away from me even though I have had them right by my side every waking moment-and 1 of my kids I had tied his little wrist to mine while we slept because despite my efforts by screwing the windows shut and having key locks to leave my home at night he still managed to take the door apart with a butter knife to get to the neighbors yard(they had more fun toys in their yard) and 6 police cruisers returned my son at 4 am….and I was treated like a neglectful parent because I was asleep and didn’t know my kid was out of the house-was yelled at for having locks on the inside “what if there were a fire?” it was not until one of the officers needed to use my phone that they then realized what my son had gone through to get out…we all have been there and while I was very very fortunate to have my son returned to me-I KNOW it could very easily have gone a different way….mine and my husbands heart goes out to you-when a tragedy like yours occurs-it becomes all of our tragedy in the “spectrum family” xoxox

  7. Jessica

    The last thing this family needs to deal with right now is scrutiny from the media. I hope the virtual hugs help shoulder the burden just a little as they try to deal with the unimaginable grief.

  8. debi9kids

    very well said.

    Thank you for getting us all together.

    It’s a horrible reason for us to come together, but awesome that we can, as parents of children with autism, support one another especially in times like these.

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