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The Backpack: A story of faith and prayer

This is the story of an experience Raya and I had while traveling for out-of-state medical testing in December 2014.

Aside from not being prepared for the rain that had instantly soaked us to the skin, I couldn't believe how smoothly everything was going. We had made it to the airport in plenty of time to catch our 6 am flight. Airport security had been a breeze in spite of all of our medical liquids and equipment. The airline staff had made boarding the plane worry-free, even with all of our carry-on bags and the cumbersome medical stroller Raya was riding in. The flight had gone by quickly and we had watched a beautiful sunrise from above the clouds. We had found our bus with no trouble, and the bus driver was kind enough to make sure we knew where to go and what to do when we got off the bus at the train station. A sweet woman who had overheard my conversation with the bus driver went so far as to escort us from the cold, rainy bus stop down to the subway platform and onto the train. We were making great time and had even gotten a phone call that the hospital already had a room waiting for us. Everything was going great!

Raya was chattering away, enjoying the new experience of riding on a subway train, and I was enjoying a chance to sit down and relax for a few minutes. And then halfway between the train station and the hospital, it hit me. We were missing a bag. A wave of panic came over me and I counted our bags again. 1-2-3... Where was number 4?? Frantically, I tried to remember what had happened to it. Tracing our steps in my mind, I realized that in the chaos of everyone getting off the bus, trying to get Raya back into her stroller in the pouring rain, and finding where we needed to go, I had left it on the sidewalk at the bus stop. I could picture in my mind the bus driver pulling the black rolling backpack out of the luggage compartment under the bus, and I could remember seeing it lying face down on the wet sidewalk as the rain poured down, but I hadn't recognized it. I could even remember the driver saying something like, "Let me get that out of the water for you," but I had been distracted by the sweet woman who was trying to help me get out of the rain and find the right train, and I didn't realize he was talking to me. I. Had. Forgotten. It. I had left it there and now it was surely gone.

How could I forget it?! That was so out of character for me! It had so many important things in it! As I waited for what seemed like forever for the train to get to the next stop, I tried to remember what I had packed in that bag. "My clothes. My electric breast pump. My glasses. My favorite pair of jeans. Oh no, was the iPad in there?! Whew, it's in the other backpack. Raya's prescription medications and extra formula. My makeup. My shoes. $40. The new shirt I got for my birthday a week ago. My pajamas. At least I have my manual pump in the other backpack and thank heavens my wallet is in the other backpack too. Raya's clothes are in her backpack. But all of MY stuff is in that bag. AND THE BACKPACK. I'm going to have to buy Donny a new backpack. Why am I not crying? I should be crying. This really sucks. I can't believe I did that. Everything was going so well! What do I do now?" I felt terrible and powerless. Right at that moment, I was stuck on the train and there was nothing I could do about it. I started talking out loud to myself. "I can't believe I did that. How could I have forgotten that bag?" Raya, who had been singing softly to herself, looked up at me and said, "What are you talking about, Mommy? What bag? Are you upset, Mommy? Why are you upset?" I lifted my head and told her, "I left our other bag on the sidewalk and I don't think we will ever get it back now."

Being in between stops in a subway car that smelled like rain and a bit like urine, there was very little I could do about the predicament I found myself in. Except for pray. That was the one thing I could do. I prayed my little heart out. I felt terrible that I had lost Donny's backpack. He had been kind enough to let me use it, even though it's his martial arts bag and he uses it all the time, and I had lost it. I knew I had made a foolish mistake by allowing myself to be distracted, and I wanted nothing more than to take it back but I couldn't. I don't remember everything I said in that prayer, but I felt depths of humility that I had not felt in a long time and pleaded with God to bring me peace and clarity of mind so that I would know what to do. I prayed that if it was God's will, that I could get the backpack back.  And then I knew that I had an opportunity and a responsibility to teach my daughter one of the most valuable lessons she will ever learn. 

"Raya, we need to say a prayer. We still have most of our important things, but all of my clothes and lots of my things are in that bag and I would really like to have it back, so we need to say a prayer that Heavenly Father will help us get it back." With a smile, she folded her arms and bowed her head and we said a prayer together right there in that subway car. Then I went back to my thoughts and she went back to hers. I was lost in myself when I realized she was singing again, and that she was singing about Jesus. Tears filled my eyes as I listened to the words she was singing. "Jesus, can you see our suitcase? We're in California. Can you help us find it? Jesus, Jesus, where is our suitcase?" And on she went in her sweet, innocent little voice. A scripture that I had memorized in high school came into my mind: "For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads." (Doctrine & Covenants 25:12

 My prayer changed. At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to be able to show her that when we pray, God hears us and He answers us. For a little girl who was on her way to ANOTHER hospital stay for ANOTHER round of testing that would involve more needle pokes, more scary procedures, more nights away from home in an uncomfortable bed, more discomfort, and more traumatic memories, I wanted nothing more than for her to KNOW that God was aware of her and could hear her. At that point, it was no longer about the backpack or its contents, it was about the faith of a little girl. I wasn't sure if my faith was strong enough, but I prayed that hers would be, and pleaded with God to please hear her and not let her down.

The train lurched to a stop. I didn't know what to do and we were almost to the hospital, so we got off. We found the elevator, plugged our noses, and surfaced to find that the rain had slowed, but we were in the wrong place. In my distracted state, I had gotten off one stop too early. We rode the elevator back down, purchased another fare, and went back to the platform. As we waited for a train, I fought an internal battle with myself. Do I go back to the bus stop and hope that it's there, or do we call it a loss and just go to the hospital since the chances of getting it back are probably slim to none? I knew the hospital was waiting for us and it was almost the time when I told them we would be there to check in. I also knew that I had to at least TRY to get the bag. I wouldn't feel good about myself if I didn't do everything I could to get it back. 

With new resolve, I walked across the platform and we boarded the train back to the station. The closer we got, the more my heart pounded. As we got off the train, I walked as fast as my aching body would carry me to get back to the series of elevators that would take us back to the ground level. I waited in line at the bus ticket booth to ask if they had my bag. My heart sank when the ticket agent told me there were no bags in the booth waiting to be claimed, and that he couldn't call the driver to ask about it because their phones weren't working in the bad weather. He wrote down the name and phone number of the woman who would be on shift when the driver made it back to the train station on his next drop-off, told me what time I should call her, and took down my contact information and a description of the bag.

With that task finished, I called Donny to tell him what happened before we went back down to get on the train and lost cell reception. After shedding a few tears over the phone, I trudged back to the elevator to return to the train. I felt as dark and gloomy inside as the clouds that threatened to dump more rain on me. I felt defeated and just wanted to curl up in a corner somewhere, but it was time to check in to the hospital, put on my game face, and get this pivotal round of medical testing done. We got off the train, this time at the correct stop, made our way up to the sidewalk, and crossed the street to the hospital's main entrance. We found the admitting desk, signed in on the clipboard, and waited for our name to be called. Every so often while we were waiting, I would remember another item that was in my lost backpack and disappointment would hit me all over again. I knew everything in the bag could be replaced, but it would cost hundreds of dollars to replace it all. Christmas was one week away and we had just spent $600 on car repairs, so the thought of replacing everything I had lost made me heartsick. 

I tried to push those thoughts aside as I answered questions and signed forms. My phone rang while we were sitting at the admitting desk. It was the nurse from the 6th floor of the hospital calling to find out if we were still coming. I told her we would be up in a few minutes and we finished the check-in process. The corridors of the hospital were decked out in holiday decorations, but even an elegant 15 foot tall Christmas tree couldn't cheer me up. I just wanted my bag.

We found the room we had been assigned to and were told upon entering that Santa had just visited. Tears again filled my eyes as I saw a Hello Kitty bracelet kit sitting on the bed. It had a sticky note with Raya's name on it. She squealed with delight when she saw it and wanted to open it right away and make bracelets for herself and her sisters. That was the first of many moments where I knew that God had not forgotten us. Sure, there was a huge stack of the same bracelet kit on the cart outside our room, and every other girl on our floor was probably getting that same gift, and yes, Hello Kitty is a safe bet for any girl her age, but that didn't matter to me. I walked into that room feeling low. Seeing that someone had left a Hello Kitty bracelet kit to brighten the day one of the world's biggest Hello Kitty fans instantly made me feel loved. I knew that it was a small message from heaven, telling me that He was still watching over us and to just be patient. 

I had a small meltdown to the nurse and tearfully explained what had happened with my backpack. While I told her the story, we got Raya changed into her "hospital jammies" and took her first set of vitals, and then got her all settled into her bed. She watched a movie while the nurse and I went over her medical history and all of the important information they needed to know, and then the nurse told me she would see about arranging for me to use one of the hospital's breast pumps and would talk to the social worker about what else they could do for me. The staff was kind and sympathetic, and I again felt as though I was being sent a message that everything was going to work out fine; that we would be taken care of whether I got my bag back or not. This was meant to be a learning experience for me, and I needed to do what we had come there to do, and to be patient.

The minutes ticked by slowly as I waited for the hour to arrive that I had been instructed to call the bus ticket booth and ask about my bag. As I went over everything in my head, I tried to resign myself to the idea that I probably would not be getting my things back. It would be expensive to replace everything, but it wasn't the end of the world. I actually felt proud of myself for taking it so well. The nurse had reassured me that they would make sure we had enough formula to travel home with. There was a store nearby where I could replace my toiletry items and a Goodwill where I could get a cheap bag to travel back home with. Losing the bag was a mistake that anyone could have easily made, and I really tried to be okay with the situation as I came up with a "plan B" in my head.

It was only about an hour after we checked in, but finally, the clock reached the time when the driver was due to be back at the bus stop. I called the number I had been given, and to my great relief, the woman on the other end of the line told me that they had a bag in the ticket booth that matched the description of mine. I may have actually jumped for joy. I was about to hang up when the thought popped into my head that I should ask her to look inside the pocket to verify that the bag really was mine before I got back on the subway and went all the way back to the train station. I really didn't think the odds of there being ANOTHER lost black Jansport rolling backpack were too high, but before I could reason with myself, the words were coming out of my mouth. I said, "Could you do me one favor? Before I leave my daughter alone at the hospital to go all the way back there, could you just check to see if my black glasses case from Target is in the front pocket of the bag?" While I waited for her response, I wondered what had possessed me to ask her to look for my glasses. Why not ask her to look and see if there was a quart sized bag of hotel-sized shampoo and 2 packets of Chick-Fil-A sauce in the front pocket? Surely there weren't many people traveling with Chick-Fil-A sauce in their carry-on luggage. She quickly replied that my glasses case was there, and said that the bag would be waiting for me. I grabbed some change for the subway and my wallet, gave Raya strict orders to sit on her bed and watch Frozen and not move a muscle until I got back, and stopped by the nurses' station to let them know where I was going.

The train ride back to the bus stop was much more pleasant than my earlier rides had been. I chatted with a nice lady who was heading home from an appointment at the hospital with her daughter. It helped pass the time and I appreciated having a kind face to talk to amongst the train full of strangers. When the train reached the station, I walked as fast as I could to the bus stop. I have never been so happy to see a backpack in all of my life! I thanked the woman profusely, and asked her to please tell the bus driver how deeply grateful I was to him for getting my bag back to me. Feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted off of me, I took my bag and headed back to the hospital. I stepped out of the elevator on the 6th floor with a spring in my step and thought, "Okay, NOW I'm ready to do this." 

The first thing I did when I got back to her room was explain to Raya that Heavenly Father had been listening to our prayers and to her beautiful song that she sang on the train, and that He had helped us get our bag back. She smiled, giggled a little, and hugged me the way that she does when she's happy but doesn't know what to say. I told her that we needed to say another prayer to thank Heavenly Father for answering our prayers and for helping us get our bag, and so we did just that.

The blessings continued to pour out on us like the rain that had soaked us that morning. For the first time in her entire 5 years and dozens of IVs, her IV was started in one poke. Her anxiety level was lower than I've ever seen it during a hospital stay and her spirits were high. They let us use her home medications that we had brought with us so that she didn't have to use the comparable substitutes on their formulary. We had an incredible view from our room, and we had a wonderful nurse. With our little backpack ordeal behind us, my head was clear and I could focus on the medical testing that had brought us there to begin with.

Later that evening after Raya had fallen asleep for the night, I decided to take out my contact lenses and put my glasses on. I opened the front pocket of the backpack, pulled out my glasses case and opened it, and then my heart sank. The $40 I had stashed there on a whim while I was packing had been stolen. I tried to stifle the feelings of disappointment and betrayal that were welling up inside of
me. I found myself once again praying. This time, my prayer was that God would bless whoever had felt that they needed that $40 badly enough to steal it from me. At the end of the day, I was so grateful to have my bag back, with or without the money. I prayed that I would be able to just let it go, and I made the decision to do exactly that. I had my things back, nothing irreplaceable had been lost, we had made it to where we needed to be, and the $40 did not matter. 

It's interesting how challenges that we face in life are not always about us. I knew that although it was MY bag that got left on the sidewalk, MY prayers for its safe return that had been answered, and I had gotten all of MY things back, there was very little about the situation that was about ME. Yes, there were lessons learned and I was tested. There was the momentary internal conflict over whether I should even bother trying to get the bag back or not, and how I would react to finding that the money had been stolen. And whether or not I could be gentle on myself for making the mistake of forgetting the bag. I think that behind the scenes while the bag was not in my possession, the temptation of money in my bag was also a test for someone else. But really, even though the whole experience was emotionally trying for me, it was not about me. There was a greater purpose in all of it. The real reason for the outcome of the situation was to show a little 5 year old girl that no matter where she is or what she's doing, God can see her. He is mindful of her wherever she goes and whatever she does, and hears her when she prays. He cares about her just as He cares about each of His children.

The prayers of our family and friends on our behalf during our trip were felt, and were deeply appreciated. I have no doubt that we were watched over while we were away, and I will never forget the emotions I felt throughout our little experience. Above all, I hope that Raya will be able to remember the day that she said a prayer with Mommy in the subway and sang a song to Jesus, and He heard and answered her sweet, humble request. I know it's something I will never forget.


  1. Thank you for sharing this. Beautiful. It reminded me of a passage from Matthew 10, "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." If a sparrow, such a tiny bird, is so important to Him that He knows even it's falling, how much more important are we, even our backpacks, even our sweet children who pray in earnest for our Heavenly Father to help them.

    I am also glad His mighty hand was over your entire visit. From one feeding tube Mom to another, those days are a treasure.


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