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.
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.