By Valerie Abbott

I recently attended an event for families of children who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. Nearly 60 people were coming for this ice cream social on a hot summer day at a park in Roanoke, Virginia. A small army of volunteers had gathered there early to help set up while their children ran freely in the large fields of grass surrounding the picnic area.

It was while one of us was unwrapping the bottles of bubbles that a four-year old little girl ran across the field toward her mother. I watched from across the concrete pad. Clearly something was wrong. The little girl’s eyes were wide with panic, her little hand feeling the side of her head and searching through her blonde hair.

“Her cochlear implant is gone!” her mother said. “It’s missing!”

The small army put everything down and began rattling off questions. Where was she playing? How long has it been missing? The little girl looked at the fields, then back at her mother. There was no telling where it could be – she had been running through the freshly cut grass for nearly an hour.

We methodically scoured the park, walking in straight lines and circles. Swapping sides. Enlisting more help. Even the workers behind the concession stand stopped to help us search for the small, expensive piece of equipment. Without success.

As I drove away from the event, I couldn’t help but wonder what life is like for this little girl. My child is not deaf, she is hard-of-hearing. Although she has enough residual hearing to get by in a pinch, losing a hearing aid has been a fear of ours for more than 10 years. The idea of this beautiful little girl returning home without ‘her ear’ made me feel queasy, and guilty for not staying longer to continue the search.

A few hours later, I received a message from the girl’s mother. The cochlear implant had been found – in the bag of Oreos she had brought to the event.

It made me wonder – when we lose something of value, whether it is a friendship or our faith or hope, how often is it right there under our nose waiting to be found? How often do we give up when our heart’s desire is within reach, but hidden from view? What might have happened if we’d only kept searching, started praying or asked for help? How many lost treasures might have been found if we’d only continued to try?

The missing cochlear implant, and this mother’s loving focus on finding it, has made me more determined to perfect my own searching skills. To be more patient and persistent, to consider looking in unusual places and to ask for help more often. Because in this case, the implant itself didn’t travel far, we all did. Sometimes all we need to do is return to the place where the loss began to find what has been missing.

**Valerie Abbott is a 1-3-6 Family Educator and Learning Community Coordinator for the Center for Family Involvement at VCU. In this dual role, Valerie works closely with parents of deaf and hard-of-hearing children and professionals to help reduce loss to follow up. A graduate of Hollins University, she lives in Henrico County with her husband and two daughters, one of whom is hard-of-hearing. **


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