Amongst the joy of having a new little one in our family, I am constantly reminded of how lucky we are. My last job, working with disabled teens, always made me feel so grateful that my children were healthy, that we'd missed that misfortune at least, for now. But recently, through the network of friends and family (and ubiquitous Facebook) I've heard the tales of three separate, little children who recently, and sometimes suddenly, passed away.
These lost kids are in my daily thoughts. I carry them with me while I sweep the floor. I think about them when I hold my baby and kiss my older boy to sleep. I can't help but wonder...will that ever happen to us? To me?
As parents, maybe we all do this. I know my husband says that it's a part of having children, this fear of the worst possible thing happening. Do we have to imagine losing something to really love it? This fear sneaks in at the happiest moments in my kids' lives; I always stop and wonder why I'm thinking such dire thoughts when I should be happy.
How can we come to terms with this fear? The saying that fear is the opposite of love (even Yoda says it) isn't true, I don't think, because fear is tied up with love. I both love and fear my children--fear because I'm kind of terrified of what their existence means to me. My love for them makes me vulnerable. Breakable.
People always say that this is what makes life so beautiful, the temporary quality. Every moment matters, tell your kids you love them because...it could all be over any second. I don't think it's really beautiful though, frankly, I think it sucks.
I don't believe in any kind of afterlife, so there's no consolation there. I envy those with a faith that gives them that hope, it's a beautiful idea. I guess my belief of a universal soul, the exchange of energy, doesn't mean an end, with death, but my belief that once we die we lose our uniqueness (soul) doesn't allow for a lost child that I will see again. Life would have to just go on, without them, irrevocably.
I have this rule where every time I have a thought of something terrible happening to one of my boys I have to imagine three great things happening to them. I remind myself that not only are these more positive thoughts to have, they are more likely. I remind myself, quietly, not to chase my fears. Yoga helps. Acknowledging the fear and escorting it out is a good strategy too. But the thoughts are no less frequent, and perhaps this is one of the hardest parts of being a parent.
I signed up to take dinner to one of the families of one of the lost children. I wanted them to know that they are being thought of, that a whole community feels some of the loss that they feel so acutely, essentially, that they are not alone. But I suspect that there is also a part of me that wants to see them, like I seek the reassurance that people do recover from things like this. Perhaps I too, could recover.
For now, I will try my darnedest to live in the moment and enjoy my kids and our life, because no matter what one believes, this is good advice. Maybe the non-permanence teaches us to have more meaningful lives. Maybe tomorrow I'll leave the dishes and play with my son the first time he asks me.