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Friday, July 16, 2010

Heartache

In retrospect, I remember this remark made by my uncle when I was pregnant, "You won't believe how much you will be affected by what happens to children after you have your own child."
So, I suppose, in fairness I had been warned. But I don't think anything could have prepared me for the intensity of the sadness he described at the stories of children being hurt or lost.

And to say my heart aches and that I can't breathe when I learn that some of our new, dear friends down here lost their first son to SIDS at six months old, or when I hear about this little girl, back in my home town, only begins to describe an emotion that as a mother, and as one small member of this large human family, I have no words for.
I didn't know the parents of this little girl well, though I grew up in the same town as that little girl's mother. My mom is friends with the grandparents that were watching her when she fell into the canal. I knew her uncle very well, he is my age and we debated together all through high school. So I guess it would be easy to say that this story affects me so much because I have some tenuous ties to these people.
But, I think I have cried more tonight for this family and for this little girl because her eyes were the exact same shade of blue as my child's.
Or maybe it is because after you feed, clean and care for someone so tiny and tender, you only just begin to realize how fragile and precious and pure they really are. When you watch them stare with intent interest at their tiny hands, opening and closing their fingers as if trying to comprehend how they work, maybe you just begin to get a slight idea of how much life they have to live. And when something terrible happens to one of them, it doesn't seem fair. And the seemingly injustice of it all strikes something painful deep down inside of you.
Or perhaps as a parent you imagine, and fear, the pain those parents must experience. You see someone else live your nightmare and it reminds you that bad things happen to good people, and sometimes the most awful things happen to the most innocent of all of us. And it is terrifying, and, for a moment, immobilizing, to know that no matter what you do, there are things you cannot protect your child from.
One summer my family went to Lake Powell. My siblings and I climbed up some small cliffs to jump into the water. We screamed in delight and terror, and my mother wouldn't watch. I think I am beginning to understand why.
What is harder for me to understand and reconcile, is that she let us climb, she let us jump. I have thought much about the Sullengers and about our friends down here over the last two weeks. And I hold my little girl, I rub lotion on her brand-new skin, I sing to her and make her laugh hysterically by playing peek-a-boo, not because I think she loves it - but because I cannot get enough of her tiny squeals. I lay her in her cradle and stand back to watch her sleeping and feel like my heart is beating outside of my body, snuggled up in a paisley print blanket. And I say to Trevor, "How can we keep her safe? Can we just lock her away somewhere that she can't be hurt."
And because sometimes he is the more grown-up of the two of us, he tells me we can't. That we will have to let her go.
But I still ask him, "What if something happens to her? What if we lose her?"
He says back, "We just have to love her everyday as much as we can."
And I know that is the right answer. But sometimes it doesn't seem like enough.
It doesn't make the fear go away, or the hurt inside of me as I think of another family, back where I grew up mourning the loss of their little girl who won't get to grow up.
(Ivie at the Grand Canyon)