I’ve been a little quiet on here lately. I’ve been wiped out physically and emotionally with life. I don’t really know how to tell this story because it’s not mine to tell without making it “all about me” which it is not but I need to write it out because that’s how I process emotions. This is just me feeling the ripples on the peripheral and it’s been enough to knock me on my ass. This is life, try as we may to resist, we personalize and internalize all tragedy that touches us; no matter in how small or large a way.
We received a passing text that a young girl, a cousin’s 16-year-old daughter, had been in an accident involving a vehicle. It did not seem life threatening. It seemed like a courtesy call, just to let us know. We prayed for her. We prayed for her parents because that is what we do. When family is in need, you suit up, you play, you fight and you pray.
A day later, the innocuous “accident” necessitated an induced coma. We prayed harder. A couple days later, we found out that everything was going well but she would need surgery. No big deal. We prayed harder still.
I started to get twinges of residual fear of loss. Everything was “fine” but for me, I’m always afraid of losing those I love. I’ve experienced loss before. I’ve experienced the overwhelming fear that engulfs you during near loss. Losing a 9-year-old student to meningitis, in the matter of a weekend, changed my perspective on life. I KNOW the fleetingness and fragility of life. These experiences, they are what have shaped me and made me the mother that I am today. Losing children is different than losing grown ups because it is so unexpected. I am terrified of losing my children. That’s why a cold is never just a cold. It’s the reason why I still wake up to check that they are breathing in the middle of the night. I am painfully aware that every single moment could be our last together. I hate that I know this. I envy those who do not.
Then last week, my husband texted me to look up to the sky. It was once more filled with paper lanterns, ascending to heaven. I ran outside in my nightgown to stare, silently and reverently at those beautiful lanterns ascending higher and higher into the night sky, disappearing among the stars. My heart stops every time I see this sight but tonight, it was almost too much to bear because you see, just prior to this, I had gotten the text and nothing more.
“They are taking her off of life support” all the air left my body and the scar tissue that covers my heart slowly started to tear away and then was suddenly and violently ripped open. In that moment, I knew that even our emotions have a never-ending echo in this world. Even those wounds that we thought have long healed have only scabbed over and the slightest pull at the wound can refresh those terrible pains.
My heart broke for her parents and everyone whose life she had ever touched, who’d heard her laughter or seen her smile for the friends and family who were left behind to mourn the devastating loss; to feel that unfillable void that never leaves, especially a parent.
The day of the wake, I was nervous. Terrified to face the pain, to see another parent experience that all consuming, never recovering, life changing, spirit crushing, faith testing pain of losing a child. I immediately recognized it on the faces of the parents, the blank stare of heartbreak so complete that if someone touches you, you might literally crumble to the ground. If you’ve ever felt it, you recognize it in others.It’s like being a head to toe exposed nerve, everything hurts; even the air you breathe. Just existing is almost too painful to tolerate.
I KNEW there was nothing I could say to make it better and after my own emotional break down 2 weeks ago on stage, I knew my own wounds were still healing. I KNEW what that mother was feeling; I’ve felt it myself. I KNOW there is no comfort to be had. I KNOW that THAT pain is inconsolable and there is no recovery. I lost my child before I ever got to hold him in my arms, I can’t even imagine the pain it is to lose a child that you held and loved for 16 years. But I wanted her to know that I understood, that we loved them and that we are here for them in any way we can to help them survive this because that’s what happens when you lose a child, or a pregnancy, you survive it. I would not try to tell her that it gets better, or that it ever stops hurting. I would not tell her those lies.
She asked me in her exhausted, numb, wanting to die state if she would ever feel better. I hugged her tighter and told her that I loved her. I did not answer because her wounds are still too raw for the truth.
The truth is this, you just keep living until you feel alive again but you will never be the same ever again and the honest answer is that eventually you will feel better than you do at this moment but every moment will be tinged by the loss of something that you loved more than life itself; something you will never get to hold or look upon again and that is almost unbearable if you think about it too much. You slowly have to let it go. You have to forgive yourself for living and you go on, with the hope that one day, you will hold them again, even if it’s just in your mind and only for a little while.
So, as this beautiful young girl’s mother told me through her sobs, I am telling you,
“Hold on tight to those babies of yours because you never know which moment is the last.”
If you are the praying type, please keep these parents in your prayers. They need them. They will for a long time.