Of course, nothing compares to the World Down Syndrome Day from a few years ago when we lost Joshua on The Holiday of His People.
We were on Spring Break and had gone to Orange Beach, Alabama...also known as the "Red-Neck Riviera."
We're classy like that.
At the time, we had not ever been to OB. For 15 years, we had gone to Destin on our vacations. But, we'd heard about OB and decided to give it a try on Spring Break...just to see if we'd like it.
WELL...we LOVED it. We are either more red-neck that we thought we were, or we are huge fans of TWO HOURS CLOSER than Destin.
Anyway, it was dinner-time and Jim wanted to go to this place called Wintzell's. He said that it's the one place he remembers eating with his family when he was younger. Not this exact restaurant, but I'm guessing there's one in another city. I've heard the stories...we all have...of how Jim's family would go on vacation. Jim said they would leave on a Friday and he and his brothers would sleep while his parents took turns driving through the night. They would pull into Pensacola and spend the whole day on the beach...and then spend one night in a hotel, and drive all the way home the next day. THAT was vacation.
Sound like fun?
With 3 boys in a stay-wag?
I guess they thought it was fun, because they alllll remember it fondly.
Or with horror.
Anyway, we decide to eat at Wintzell's in OB for old-time's-sake for Jim. Out front, they have a little pond with a sign that says, "Beware of the Alligators." I am certain this is purely to scare the tourists, but still.
While we are waiting to be seated. a nice hostess talks with me about our family...where we're from and all of that. She was an older lady...older than Jim and I...and she was taking quite an interest in Joshua. She was talking to me about him, and interacting with him. She seemed very comfortable around him. She pulled me aside and told me that she'd had a brother-in-law with DS and all about what a sweet man he was. I asked about him and she told me he had passed away when he was 50 and I DO NOT NEED TO KNOW THIS INFORMATION.
She got very emotional as we were seated and told me how great it was to talk with us...and how much visiting with us had BLESSED HER. What? She told me that her husband of 35 years had passed away 2 weeks ago. I just looked at her and said, "WHY are you HERE?"
I mean, if it was me and Jim had just died 2 weeks earlier, I would still be in the fetal position in my living room. Not even kidding. She said that she felt better being at work than at home in her empty house. And here she was...not just working...but reaching out to our family. It was the sweetest thing.
At some point toward the end of the meal, Joshua gets up to go to the restroom. I asked if he knew where it was and he said, "yes" and took off walking. At this point, you need to know that I am
Welcome to my warped little world...but I have a Joshua.
And he was 25 years old at the time, but CREEPY PEOPLE. Hello?
So, after a couple of minutes, I ask Clark to go check on him and he says, "MOM...he just left." Well, I kept on and on and finally Clark gets up and reluctantly goes to check on him. He comes back and goes, "he's not in there."
And that's how I died.
Seriously. All of my worst dreams and fears became real in that one moment and I went from 0 to full-out panic-mode in 2 seconds: Joshua.was.gone.
But, as I stood up, I saw the kind hostess lady come around the corner with Joshua. She said she FOUND HIM OUTSIDE.
And I'm breathing into a bag.
Apparently, he took a wrong turn on the way to the restroom, and he went through a kitchen area...and out a side door. He walked around the side of the building...BY THE ALLIGATOR POND, which, at this point, I am CONVINCED has real, live alligators in it. Hostess-lady saw him through the windows as he was walking around the building. She went out and brought him in to us.
I was shaking.
And seriously glaring at my family because THIS IS WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT WHEN I WORRY ABOUT HIM GOING TO THE BATHROOM BY HIMSELF.
And I was overwhelmed with the goodness of God...and the goodness of people...how kind the hostess-lady was to our family that day and how tender God was with the emotions of my heart.
I thought of God's words from the Bible about the Shepherd who has 99 sheep and goes after the 1.
I get it.
I had barely recovered from it all when we climbed into the Burb to head back to our condo. One of the kids said, "pretty bad to lose Joshua on The Holiday of His People."
"...may Your unfailing love and faithfulness watch over him." Psalm 61:7