“Daddy, Daddy, don't leave me, Daddy!” The echo of those pitiful words still tie a knot in my stomach every time I remember that late December evening.
The Christmas pageant had probably been the best I had ever written or directed. The little children had done an adorable job on the Nativity scene, and the juniors had been fantastic in their depiction of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I was so proud of them.
But it was the ending by the youth class that really left us in awe. The teens had written their own drama with a theme of being left behind. It had a powerful effect on the whole audience, and I couldn't get the haunting last scene off my mind as I finished cleaning up the platform.
Our two older daughters helped load the car, while our 4-year-old son stuck close by his daddy and I settled into the station wagon with our 2-year-old daughter. Finally, my husband tucked Bruce, Jr. in among the costumes and props in the back of the wagon and went back to check the lights and lock the church door.
When he came back he closed the back hatch and pulled out into heavy traffic to head home after an exciting day. We had only gone about five blocks when one of the girls noticed. “Dad, where's Bruce?”
My husband took a quick glanced, remembered that open hatch that would have been too inviting to a 4-year-old, and then did what any father would do, he pulled a u-turn right in the middle of the busiest street in the city and raced back toward the church to find his son. The sight we saw as we neared the church I will never forget as long as I live. Cars were swerving this way and that as our 4-year-old son ran down the middle of the road as fast as his little legs would carry him crying, “Daddy, daddy, don't leave me daddy, don't leave me daddy!”
We skidded to a stop cross-ways in front of him, his daddy jumped out, and Bruce Jr. ran into his arms sobbing, “Daddy, Daddy, you left me, Daddy!”
I still choke up as I think of that scene: Daddy hugging his son close, saying, “I'm here now, son, and I won't leave you. But you just stay real close from now on, OK?”
Some days when I think of the words of my son, I feel like it's me out there, abandoned and alone, and I want to cry out, to my Heavenly Father, “Daddy don't leave me,” and then I feel His loving arms around me, and I hear Him whisper, “I won't leave you. Just stay real close, OK?”
Other times I think of the anguished cry of those who may some day be left behind, and it drives me to my knees.
But mostly, when I think of that terrified cry, I think of my little boy, grown up now. He's jumped out of the car again, and I wonder if, some day, he will come running down the road, ignoring all the opposing traffic, and like he did as a little child, he will cry those words once more, “Daddy, daddy, don't leave me, daddy.” I can see both his earthly and Heavenly Father stopping all the traffic and rushing to meet him with open arms, and I pray, “Dear Lord, let it happen soon.”
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