"Go Royals! Go forth to serve well. Return with honor!

"Go Royals!  Go forth to serve well.  Return with honor!
This family photo is from August 2003, just before Brad left on his mission to the Philippines, but it remains a personal favorite

Monday, January 18, 2016

LOST AND FOUND! The Story of a Blue Blanket that Strengthened a Testimony

Kelli, cuddling Royal in his precious blue baby blanket shortly after his birth
       Preliminary Note: On May 25, 2014, I wrote the following essay about what I once thought was a worthless, pointless, meaningless blue baby blanket.  Through a rather grueling experience, I learned a great deal about true value.

       I recently had a rather bittersweet experience related to the loss of a baby blanket that belonged to our grandson, Royal.  The following week, we received nine baby blankets ordered via eBay during a period of panic as I hoped to find something that might serve as a suitable replacement.  The lost baby blanket, as I discovered through very sad experience, was not so replaceable.  I grossly underestimated the value of Royal’s baby blanket and, therefore, neglected to properly care for it.  The value was not fully appreciated until it was lost.  It was through the process of recovery that I learned a valuable lesson, grew closer to my sweet wife, Maralea, our wonderful daughter, Kelli, little Royal, and most importantly, to Heavenly Father.  I am a different person after this experience.  Many aware of my circumstances in this blanket search and rescue effort concluded that I was obsessing, that it was just a piece of fabric (no big deal) and that I needed to chalk it up as a loss and move on.  However, I had faith that Heavenly Father knew where the blanket was.  He knew how I could find and retrieve it.  I had faith in Him that He would open a way for me to return it to our little grandson, who was sorely troubled and distressed by its absence.  I have learned that there is nothing too great or too small for Heavenly Father to handle for us.  If the issue is of concern to us, it is of concern to Him.
Royal, November 2012, his blue blanket accompanying him on his first plane flight
            In 2 Kings 6:1-7, as Elisha was working alongside a man by the River Jordan cutting wood to build a structure, one of Elisha’s associates lost the head of his ax into the water.  The man cried: “Alas, master!”  (2 Kings 6:5.)  The man’s anguish was further explained: “for it was borrowed.”  (Id.)  So, Elisha went into action.  He asked the man to show him where it fell, then used the divine power of the priesthood to perform a recovery miracle, causing the ax to rise to the water surface, where it was then retrieved.  (2 Kings 6:6-7.)  What great relief that man must have felt when the ax was returned to him!  Surely, with God, nothing is impossible.
            When Jacob sought a blessing, he relentlessly wrestled with a heavenly messenger.  (Genesis 32:24-30.)  Consider this exchange between the angel and Jacob:
          Angel: Let me go, for the day breaketh.
          Jacob: I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.  (Genesis 32:26.)
At that moment, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, and the angel said: “as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.”  (Genesis 32:28.)  Jacob’s determination was rewarded, but only after toiling through the night.  It is often that the greatest blessings come once we have given our all in seeking them.  If we exercise faith in the Savior, and diligently seek His inspiration and influence while exhausting our mortal efforts, blessings and miracles follow. 
September 2013, the baby blanket made its way with Royal to see Aubrey
David with daughter Aubrey, with her precious pink blanket, and Royal, with his blue one, February 2014
Royal cuddles in his blue blanket with Uncle David
Royal holds both his blue blanket and his mommy in very high esteem, here in April 2014
The blue blanket has a companion, a white blanket, which is nice, but does not hold the same place in Royal's heart as the blue blanket, here in April 2014
        So, below is my account of how faith in Christ was increased during our search for a baby blanket.
Royal slumbers as we drive to go camping
         In May 2014, I decided to take our two year old grandson, Royal, on the ward father/son camp out.  It was his first time away from both his mother and home for the night.  I was a little nervous about how he would handle camping out.  The activity was held at a park in Moapa, located about 60 miles north of Las Vegas, NV.  Our daughter, Kelli, had equipped Royal with his precious blue blanket, which he has used to sleep every night since shortly after he arrived into this world.  Once we arrived at the park, Royal helped me set up our tent and camping area.  I had visions of hanging out by the tent, sitting in one of our camp chairs playing the guitar and singing with Royal.  That did not really happen.  The camp chairs were set up, but I never got to sit in them.  Royal was way too busy for that.  I spent the next six hours chasing him around the park.  It was as though his legs would not stop moving.  I occasionally tried to join groups guys seated in little circles visiting, but would wind up having to chase down Royal from one area to another.  He was so excited with the freedom of being able to run, play and not go to bed at his usual hour. 

Royal met a Gopher snake            
Royal was just revved up all night long, exploring
everything the playground had to offer


Royal and his blanket on their first camp out

            Finally, after midnight, I figured it was late enough for both of us.  When I told Royal it was time for bed, he began to cry and sorely protested.  As I changed his diaper and got him ready for bed, Royal grabbed his blue blanket, bundled it up, and buried his face in it as he whimpered and cried.  Royal fell asleep a few minutes later as I played the guitar and quietly sang for him.  Royal had supplanted his Sesame Street pillow with the blue blanket, which he had placed securely under his head.  To my surprise, that little guy slept great through the night.  He woke up a couple times, sat up and seemed a little disoriented.  But, after some brief assurance, Royal would cuddle up with his blue blanket and go back to sleep.
Royal and the blanket made it through
the night!
            The next morning, as Royal slept, I quietly started packing things up.  I had everything in the back of my pickup but the tent, the blue blanket, and the Sesame Street pillow as Royal slept.  (I had even removed the sleeping bag he was in without waking him.)  Shortly thereafter, I woke Royal up and changed his diaper.  He clung to his blue blanket as he woke up and realized he was still not at home.  I let him wander towards the area where breakfast was being prepared by ward members as I broke down the tent, while keeping an eye on him.  
Royal and blanket, ready for some action
after a good night's camp out sleep
              I finished packing up the truck so we were ready to leave shortly after getting some breakfast.  I sat with Royal briefly for some pancakes and orange juice, then let him play a little bit with the other kids before leaving.  We had lost a flashlight the night before, so the two of us walked around looking for it in vain.  I wrote that off as a loss.  It was easily replaceable.  On the drive home, I called Bishop Flagg, who was still at the camp site, and requested that he keep an eye out for the lost flashlight and a 49ers football, both of which were later found and returned.  When we arrived home, the experience of Royal’s first camp out was a major triumph.  Everything had gone great.  I unpacked, worked in the yard, and went about my usual Saturday business.
49ers football left behind: check
Flashlight left behind: check
      Later in the afternoon, Kelli asked about the blue blanket.  I didn't really think much of it.  I was sure that I had carefully packed everything so I knew it must have been somewhere in our things.  I went to the garage, retrieved the tent from the shelf, and unpacked it completely to check for the blanket.  Nothing.  We then pulled out the sleeping bags to check them.  Nothing.  We went through the truck and everything else in the house several times.  Nothing.  By Saturday evening, I started to become a little concerned, so I sent an email to ward members advising of the lost blanket.  I was sure it would turn up at church the next day, so I was not panicked.  What I did not appreciate at the time was just how important that blue blanket was to Royal.  To me, it was just a replaceable item, like the flashlight, no big deal.  But, to Royal (and Kelli), it was something of great worth.  Maralea and I spoke in sacrament meeting the next day (Mother's Day), and I made reference to the blanket in a little story I related about the camp out.  Following the meeting, one brother who was among the last to leave the park area said he specifically recalled seeing the blue blanket on a picnic table and left it, thinking that perhaps it belonged to a homeless person.  The second he told me that, the panic began to set in.  There had been a huge windstorm the previous night (the evening following the camp out) and I pictured the blanket blown away somewhere into oblivion, or perhaps being tossed in the garbage. 
Breakfast, blanket is now misplaced . . . and
I had no idea (ugh)
            I stressed about the blue blanket over Mother's Day dinner with my parents.  In fact, during dinner, I got on eBay and was already searching for a replacement blanket.  I then discovered, to my horror, that the manufacturer no longer makes that specific blanket and I could not find an exact replica online.  (Kelli had given Royal a substitute blanket that was a look alike from a different manufacturer which she purchased a while ago in the event of such an emergency.  However, Royal would not have anything to do with it.  He would just look at the replacement blanket and toss it aside, assuring us that he could not be fooled so easily.  I was amazed that he knew the difference.  I came to then realize that Royal had a relationship with his blanket that was special.  I had to find it!)
            Mom could see that I was sorely stressing over the situation and volunteered to make the 120 mile round trip to Moapa with me after dinner so we could search the area for the blanket.  So, Mom and I took a rather long Sunday drive, her chosen way of spending time on Mother's Day 2014.  When we arrived at the park where Royal and I had camped a couple days earlier, I saw that the grass had been recently cut, the garbage cans had all been emptied and I feared that the blue blanked had been thrown away.  I saw a dumpster completely full of garbage bags.  I thought that might be a great blessing, that the blanket was most likely somewhere in that garbage heap.  So, I emptied the entire dumpster.  I got inside and searched, then went through every bag.  It was a rather messy and unpleasant task.  However, I was focused on retrieving that precious blanket.  In fact, I was kind of excited to dumpster dive.  I could already imagine the great joy we would have when the blanket was found, as Mom cheered me on from the car.  (Mom thought I was going crazy, I’m sure.  She just would never say something like that because, well, she’s my mom.)  Unfortunately, the blanket was nowhere to be found.  I walked the grounds, surveyed the elementary school playground next door, a desert area to the north, and an LDS chapel to the east.  Still, there was no sign of the precious blue blanket.  At best, we verified that it was not thrown away at the park.  So, I thought there might be a chance that it was found and placed in a lost and found with the county parks department.  My stress level increased as Mom and I drove home empty handed. 
The park where the Royal blanket story occurred
We searched all through the baseball field area
I think the blanket was probably left in this pavilion area during breakfast
Royal spent a lot of time in this playground area the night before - loved it
Royal wasn't big enough to swing by himself, but that didn't keep him away from that area.  I had chased him around all night long.

This picture haunted me.  There is was, the blue blanket.
How could have I left it behind???
            After we arrived home from our Sunday afternoon drive to Moapa, I sent emails to the Clark County Parks and Recreation Department, the next door elementary school principal, and the bishops of wards meeting in the LDS chapel next door to the park area.  The following day, I spoke with the director of the Moapa park area where we had camped.  She and I visited a few times on that Monday.  She reported that she had diligently searched the area, checked lost and found, and had spoken with the maintenance woman who I had seen caring for the grounds the morning Royal and I had left the park the previous Saturday morning, all with negative results.  I checked back during the week and had no good news.  My hope for a joyous grandson/blanket reunion had diminished substantially.
Another picture that haunted me, Royal
emerging triumphantly from the tent, blanket in hand
            That Sunday evening, I turned to Heavenly Father and began praying that the blue blanket would somehow be returned.  I actually apologized for troubling Him with such a trivial matter.  However, I knew the blanket meant a lot to my little grandson and felt terrible that it had been lost on my watch.  My prayers went something like this:
      Heavenly Father, I know you have much better things to do.  But, this is so important to my little grandson.  It is far more important to the family than I ever imagined.  I was negligent and dumb.  I need to find that blanket.  If at all possible, Heavenly Father, please bless me with whatever inspiration and tools I need to find that blanket.  If it is in someone’s possession, please bless them to take action that will help me return it to Royal. 
I repeated that prayer daily, with ever increasing conviction and desperation.  But, with each passing day, my faith wavered a little bit. 
            My sister, Allison, related the story of "The Brave Little Toaster", which assigns human emotions to inanimate objects, like little boy blankets, that desperately try to find their loving owners.  Great.  The picture in my mind of the precious blue blanket suffering in grief for being separated from Royal only added to my personal grief and distress.  I spent over $250 on eBay purchases trying to find a replacement.  (By the way, we now have nine extra baby blankets of the same manufacturer, all of different colors than the one special lost blue blanket.)
The image of the crying blanket from "The Brave Little Toaster" (as he holds a picture of the little boy who left him behind) was a great motivator for me
            The following Saturday morning (a week after we had discovered the blanket was missing), Maralea and I found ourselves with nothing important to do.  We were babysitting Royal and, after I finished some early morning yard work, I asked Maralea if we could take another trip to Moapa.  Maralea, ever supportive, agreed.  I have no doubt that she did not accompany me with much faith for success; however, Maralea knew I was grieving and struggling to atone for my mistake.  So, we packed up Royal and drove to Moapa with no plans other than to just look around.  I continued offering up my prayer to Heavenly Father that if there was a way He could open for us to find the blanket, that He provide it.  I felt I had kept my end of the bargain for a miracle to occur.  I had exhausted every available means to recover it.  It would not happen without His help.
This is the kind of Royal/blanket picture I hoped we would take again!
This provides some perspective of the 250 miles collectively driven to and from Moapa in our efforts to find Royal's missing blanket
            As we drove north on I-15 towards the Moapa exit, I started feeling excited.  Somehow, some way, I began to believe we were actually going to recover the blanket.  I thought of some important parables/parallels presented by the Savior, such as the Parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-9), Parable of the Lost Sheep (Matt. 18:12-13), and the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-24), among others.  In each case, the Savior described the great joy experienced by those who had found what was lost.  I was looking forward to experiencing that.  As we neared the Moapa exit, my heart began to pound.  I sensed that we were on the verge of something very exciting.  As we drove into Moapa, I was searching the landscape for the blue blanket.  I thought I might just randomly see it in the sagebrush or a tree near the park.  As we arrived at the park, my plan was to just walk around the entire area, survey the surrounding desert, and then call it a day.  I then would have satisfied myself that I did all I could to make up for the loss, and we would have to make due with one of the overly priced eBay blanket rejects now rather uselessly piled in our house.
An aerial shot of the Moapa park and surrounding area.  I just knew Royal's blanket was there somewhere waiting for us to find it.  (We have since established a no blanket left behind policy.)
            When we arrived at the park area, there was a woman working on the grounds.  I decided to stop and speak with her.  I thought that perhaps she may be able to give us access to a lost and found area that had not been checked yet.  As I introduced myself and related my plight, the woman seemed surprised, almost startled.  She responded: "Oh, I have your blanket.  It's at my house.  I took it home and washed it.  I'll call my son and he'll have it here in fifteen minutes."  I was in shock.  I was not expecting that kind of a response - not at all.  On my last desperate attempt to find the blanket, I happened to present myself to the right person, in the right place, at the right moment to get Royal’s precious blue blanket back.  It was, without question, a very DIRECT answer to prayer.  I assured the maintenance woman that she was part of a miracle in our lives.  I was overjoyed.
What an incredible reunion, Royal and blue blanket!!
            When the woman delivered Royal’s precious blue blanket to him few minutes later, he got a HUGE smile on his face.  Royal grabbed the blanket, bundled it up and just buried his face in it as he had the last time he slept with it in the tent.  It was so cute.  That moment will forever remain etched in my mind.  I felt so much love for Royal, so much love for Maralea (for believing in me and going along with all my craziness to retrieve the blanket), for Kelli (for not getting mad at me for losing it in the first place), and most of all, to my Heavenly Father (who heard and answered the desperate prayers from a negligent grandpa).  It meant so much to me to be there in that same park one week later, to experience the blanket/child reunion that I had so longingly imagined.  That kind maintenance worker had served as a ministering angel, having taken the blanket, kept it safe, and returned it to us.  She was truly an instrument in the Lord's hands. (The woman said she worked four hours on Saturdays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.  We just happened to approach her during that four hour window of time during the week.  It truly was amazing.)
Royal was clearly happy to have his blue blanket back
I will never again underestimate the worth of a blanket to a little child
As Allison later said, "The blanket found Royal" and was just as happy to be back with him
            As we drove home, I related our very happy news to the family.  Everyone knew I was suffering (especially my mother), because Royal was very distressed.  On the way home, our little grandson hugged the blue blanket as he sat in his car seat.  Kelli was so happy that she started crying upon receiving the news.  (She later told me that Royal was waking up at night during the prior week and whining: "Bwue bwankie.")  Really, as insignificant as this would seem to most on the outside, this was a big event in our family.  It was a very real dilemma and we all joined together in prayer for a resolution.  We feel so relieved, so blessed.  That night, as Royal laid on the couch, curled up with his precious blue blanket, I thanked my wonderful, all powerful Heavenly Father, who cared enough to bless me with sufficient direction and inspiration to find this important item.
Blue and white blankets reunited with Royal, as he revels in having these all important
pieces of his world back together
            Someday, our little grandson will have to be weaned from his precious blue blanket.  However, if I can help it, we will never lose it again.  It will remain an ever present reminder to us that by small means great things are brought to pass.  I have a strengthened testimony of prayer and that miracles are available to us as we seek them, work for them, and expect to receive them.  I also know, without a doubt, that as much as I love my grandson and wanted him to be comforted, happy and whole, my Savior likewise loves me and wants me to be comforted, happy and whole.  All things are possible with God at the helm.  We are blessed to know He lives, that He knows us, that He loves us, that He cares about the righteous things that are important to us and will guide and direct us as we seek direction from Him.

            Epilogue: As noted above, I spent over $250 on eBay trying to buy the perfect replacement blanket, just in case our little blanket miracle did not pan out.  We kept them all as a monument to the worth of a little boy's blanket.  (Plus, if another one is lost, we'll have a spare - although we've already discovered that Royal absolutely knows the difference.) 
These Tiddliwinks blankets are no longer manufactured.  They cost about $20 retail back in the day, but anywhere from $40-$90 on eBay for desperate people like me

This was the back up blanket Kelli had purchased for Royal, just in case of such an emergency.  When she offered it to Royal, he surveyed it briefly then tossed it aside.  He knew the difference.
My new blanket collection from eBay.  Isn't it lovely?  By the way, we could not find the right matching color, so I was going to have to somehow work through that issue of the original had not been located.
One of my all time favorite pictures!!!!  Here, Royal is reunited with his best  friend ever blue blanket surrounded by evidence of Grandpa's eBay baby blanket bingo. 
         Additional Perspective: I should probably provide a few more blanket pictures which, once I found them, motivated me to do everything possible to reunite Royal with his little blanket.  The two of them have been together since Royal's beginning of time.  Also, less than a year after I initially wrote this story, my dear mother passed away.  Our hearts remain forever intertwined by a little baby blanket story, where Mom was moved with compassion to help ease my suffering heart by providing comfort to a son on her last Mother's Day in mortality.  (Mom passed away on May 8, 2015, two days before Mother's Day.  We celebrated Mother's Day with her five days earlier.  We love you, Mom!)
Royal was not even one day old before he and
his Bwue Bwankee were introduced
Royal, already praying for BYU wins, here less than one week old
Royal with his Great Grandpa Royal while attending his first Eagle Scout Court of Honor on
March 25, 2012
Royal headed with his mommy, Nanny and blanket for his fist Kelly Family Reunion in Reno in June 2012, the last such reunion we would have before his Great Grandfather Kelly passed away
Royal and his Papa relaxing on the shore of Lake Tahoe in June 2012
Royal wrapped in the warmth and love of his buddy blanket in September 2012
Royal's blue blanket accompanied him back to Reno in November 2012 to attend the funeral of his Great Grandfather Kelly
Royal as he often napped, with both his white and blue blanket, here in his crib in July 2013
Kelli with Royal and his great grandparents on Royal's birthday.  Royal would later come to appreciate the love of his great grandmother, who gave up her time on Mother's Day 2014, the last one she would have in mortality (as it turned out), to comfort me as I desperately searched for his lost blue blanket.
This depicts me seated at the table where so fretted about Royal's blanket on Mother's Day 2014 as we had Mom and Dad over for dinner, when Mom volunteered to drive with me to Moapa because she knew it was eating at me.  This picture was taken on the evening of February 9, 2015, marking the last occasion in which Mom would enter our home prior to her passing three months later.  One week prior to this photo, Mom was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer.  We  have had many difficult days since, but each time I see Royal with his blue blanket wrapped in his arms, I vividly recall the image of Mom patiently watching me dumpster dive in Moapa as she sat in the car smiling, cheering my every effort . . . and in between reading a book.
Mom and Dad, Valentine's Day 2015, which was probably the last "normal" evening were were able to enjoy with Mom before the horrific combined effects of cancer and chemo took away all the good things in her life
With Mom in the hospital, late February 2015, when all the cancer stuff started to get real
Three generations of the most beautiful, wonderful Royal women anyone could ever have in their life
This is the last picture of Mom and me, March 2015.  She just did not look good after this.  But, I so loved our mother.  Her love for me and my love for Royal and his baby blanket are closely tied together.
Royal and his cousin Beckham together with their Great Royal Grandparents, February 2012
March, 2014.  We are grateful that we will have future similar pictures of Royal and his blanket
thanks to our thrilling recovery