I met a mom yesterday who has had to experience the unimaginable. It is that thing that every one of us moms has flashed to in an instant, and then, if we are lucky, we shiver and brush the thought away like shaking off a nightmare upon first waking. But, there are some, like this mom…for whom it is not just an instant of worry, or a remnant of a dream to be soothed away with sun and morning noises. She found out last year that her daughter had a rare type of brain tumor, and she was suddenly faced with the unimaginable. Her story and information about her campaign to raise funds for pediatric cancer research can be found at www.unravelpediatriccancer.org. She tells her story far better than I could, and with such bravery and honesty, that I hope you all will visit the site.
It just got me thinking how often we live in our own little bubbles. Floating along, sometimes consumed by our own problems or our own pain, and it is so easy to forget to really look at the people that we pass by on the street, and in our neighborhood. Everyone is dealing with something. Some of those things are so heavy that it takes a village to lift them from a person’s shoulders and hearts. The rummage sale where I met this mom (after staying up most of the night reading her blog and crying) seemed to be financially successful, but more than that, you could tell she had a village of people helping her. I was happy to see all those helpers, and I bought a shirt, a magnet, a bracelet, and CD’s that I knew I shouldn’t be buying when we are trying to downsize, but, when I met her I fumbled over my words. It is so hard to form the right words when your heart is so full of pure raw emotion. I was just so touched by her story. Everything I said came out wrong. I just wanted her to know that I thought she had an amazing family, and that her honesty and bravery were inspiring. And that I was sorry, so sorry that she was that mom…when it could have been any of us. It could have been me.
After we left, Sam and Zach (Alex was home with Chris) were trying to wrap themselves around the fact that I was so emotional over some lady’s little girl dying. It’s not that they were callous, in fact, Sam was really quiet and asked a lot of questions, but I was still crying a bit in the car, and I just couldn’t explain it exactly. I tried by telling them that of course it is sad for me if anyone dies, but there is something especially heartbreaking about a child dying. My guys have not really experienced a peer dying. All but one great-grandparent has died, but we believe in heaven and even though they were sad, they understood that they had lived long, full lives. But there is no long, full, life with the death of a child. There is no completed bucket list, because surely prom, wedding, and road trips could not happen at age 6. So I told them I supposed it was just the unfairness of it. I tried to explain in terms that would make sense. Since the guys are nearly two years apart, each of them is constantly looking at the lead dog in front of him not only for guidance, but also for all the cool activities and toys that will be within his grasp within a few short years…so it is within this context that I spoke.
Sam is 7 and the youngest, so I started with him. “So, Sam, you know how you always look to Alex or Zach to see what cool things you will be getting to do next?” I see Sam’s head nod in the rearview, but his voice is high pitched as he says, “Yes.” because it is actually the small stuffed beaver puppet that we got at the rummage sale that is replying to me. I don’t bat an eye, but continue on trying to make my point. “Well, we do that to give you guys something to look forward to, and also as incentive to behave in all the right ways to earn the same privileges that your brothers have at their ages.
It was the lady that I was talking with at the rummage sale whose daughter died. Her little girl’s name was Jennifer, and she was only 6 years old when she died, just a year younger than you. She will never be able to do 7-year old things or look forward to doing 8-year old things. Do you understand how unfair it is that she doesn’t get to grow up and fill up all those years with life and love the way that Nonie and Grama Aleene did? Does that make sense? So that’s why I think I feel really sad for that mom, in particular, and any time a child dies. I know how amazing heaven will be, and the joy and light that any child will bring there is tremendous, but the unfairness of what they miss and what their families miss is heartbreaking.
We have all lost someone. Many of us have lost someone so close that it has left a space deep enough and wide enough that no amount of time will heal. I, for one, have learned that it is not really a wound to be healed anymore, but simply a part of my landscape. It is just as much a part of my topography as my elbow or the veins on the back of my hands. Now with some time, I see I have been filling that space with all their time, their stories, their voices, their love, filling that infinite deep space that I use to call pain with something more. It hurts to remember them still, but I close my eyes and let it wash over me until it doesn’t…and then I am left with so much gratitude for having them at all.
Much love to all…
And wishing peace in your hearts and blessings in your world to those of you who have had to say goodbye to someone far too soon.