September 20, 2008

Mother's Fear

*Note: I'm finished with this post and have come back to the top to say this: I'm not melancholy, depressed, or unhappy. I'm simply expressing one of those forbidden topics for mothers. The fear of losing your child. If this topic seems taboo, steer clear now. Others, brave on ahead through my ramblings...

Some of you may already know this - but I grew up around death. Not the before - but the after. My father spent his life as a funeral director and mortician. Trust me when I tell you, that anyone who does this for a living knows a few things. One, that someone's got to do it. Two, that the job doesn't end at 5pm. It's a seven day a week, 24 hour a day gig. Death is no respecter of time, person, or circumstance. And three, that you sincerely must have both a sensitive heart and way with people, and yet a deep sense of humor to survive (no pun intended) this line of work. Imagine dealing with the families of the deceased day in and day out - being surrounded by those who are at some of their deepest moments of shock and grief. Sometimes shrouded in the darkest most unexpected passings you can imagine.

So this is the premise for my post. That I grew up around death. It wasn't a stranger to my family. We lived it - or in its "after affect" for many, many years, around our home. I've seen (by way of living in the funeral home in which my Dad worked when we were little, or by virtue of working with my Dad when I became an adult) many, many deceased people. I've attended and worked on the sidelines of many funerals. I'm well acquainted with what it looks like (surreal and false) and how it smells (strange, sickly sweet, and cold) and what it sounds like...impossibly still and empty. Though we've been blessed to have almost all of our family present and accounted for - we've buried two grandparents, and a great-grandfather in the past three years.

Even still, it didn't bother me - death. It's always sad - but I felt I understood it, in a way. Understood that it happens. That people are born and people die. That people get sick, and some get better and some do not. That accidents happen, and that people are fallable and human and that mistakes are made, crimes are commited and that it doesn't always make sense why. I thought I had a pretty good handle on all of this.

Until I became a mom.

In lots of ways, parenting is not what I had expected. It's more difficult, more rewarding, more impossible, more exhilarating, more exhausting, and more wonderful than I thought it would be. But the strangest phenomenon has taken place since we added Quint to our family - I am more afraid of death or harm than I ever, ever have been in my life.

For years, after being so desensitized to death and dying - I made peace with the fact that we're all in the process of dying - every day. From the day we're born. My dad always said, "we all have to go sometime", and he's right. We do. And I firmly believe our days are numbered out before we draw our first breath. I have great confidence that in the same way that God has every hair on my head counted, He also has every day of my life, beginning to end, accounted for.

But my friends - I cannot on many levels accept that same thought process for Quint. Never in my life have I feared death as I do now. Not for me...but...well, you know. I can't even type it out - wow. It creeps into my thoughts. What if...

I'm holding him and walking down a set of stairs and I think "God, please don't let me fall with him", and in my mind I'm seeing myself falling and what might happen to him. I'm driving and someone blows a stoplight in front of me and my adrenaline is racing and I'm thinking "OMG! That could have been fatal two seconds earlier!!" I'm watching the baby video monitor and I'm saying "Is he breathing? I can't tell! Should I go in and wake him up to make sure? Is his chest moving up and down?" Call me crazy, but I KNOW I'm not alone.

I find blogs of parents who have lost or are losing their children. I burst into tears. I can't go there in my head. I have to literally change the "station". I know it's every parent's worst nightmare. And I'm starting to grasp how deep and wide that fear can be.

Tonight we watched the season premier of "Hous*e" and he said something that completely resonated with me.

"When somebody 'almost' dies, nothing changes. But when someone dies, everything changes".

It makes me physically sick to entertain the possibility of anything happening to him. Sickness, malady, accident, or otherwise. The fact I'm even typing it down right now is proving to be a very big challenge. I keep stopping and saying "you should delete this post!!"

But I'm pressing on - in the hopes of this:

Acknowledging my fear will somehow give me a greater acceptance and handle on it. I am certainly not going to accept living in fear of "what if" and it's exhausting to even consider it. But I'm learning that part of being Quint's mom, also means accepting that in doing so, I am made completely vulnerable to his life and well-being.

The other day, I had lunch with a dear friend who lost her son four years ago to a car accident. As we sat outside playing with Quint - I asked her how she did she managed that level of grief every day. I told her how I have been afraid, and how motherhood in all it's wonder has also brought about this indelible sense of vulnerability. Of course, she understood. But she reminded me how important the living is. How important the memories are, and the life you live each day. She gave me this story and I'm sharing it more for myself than anything - I hope you will appreciate it, like I did.

She said...

Many times, in my darkest hours of grieving I have wondered why we couldn't know that it was coming. That his days were numbered. On the day he was born - to know that he only had seventeen years and a few days. So that we could do more together...prepare for it somehow...know how to appreciate what we life more. But the truth is - it wouldn't have helped to know. God has given me such peace in understanding that knowing the end would have oversshadowed the living. We would be so bogged down in our grief of knowing the ending, that we would never get around to the real living. We would waste so much time fighting the end - that we would never be able to live unhindered by the todays. We wouldn't have enjoyed him - because we would have only seen and been utterly grieved by his untimely exit. So looking back, we did live. And we did laugh, and enjoy him, and make memories with him, and love him sweetly...that's what matters.

I know my fear is not my own. It's the fear of every mother. It's the fear that somehow you might not be able to control the outcome - that you won't always being able to kiss it and make it better.

But she's right, we must live and laugh and enjoy each other - make memories and appreciate all the good and the bad, and the in between. The hectic and the sweet. The terrible and the marvelous. The precious and the not so precious moments.

It's ok to be afraid of the unknown - I'm learning. It's ok to understand the gift that you have in your babies and to protect it with all you have.

I'm learning how to apprecaite this heightened awareness I now have for another human being. To truly understand the expression of having your heart walk around outside your the form of a little tiny person.

It's scary to love someone this much. Anton just said it after dinner last night while snuggling with Quint - "it's scary how much love I have in my heart for you, son". And why is it scary? Because you start to realize that your lifeblood is flowing outside of your own heart into another. And should anything happen to that person...well...

We must live, and love, and enjoy each other every day. Life is fragile and beautiful...

By loving another person as much as we love Quint, we are truly living after all - aren't we...


Briana's Mom said...

This post was truly amazing. I feel the fear too. I waited so long for Bri and I am so in love with her - I can't even fathom something happening to her. At times I think to myself, if something happened her, I don't think I'll survive it. Believe me, you are definitely not alone in your fear. Your friend's advice was perfect - just live everyday to the fullest.

Kim said...

Great post.. and I think you have it...
Live life to the fullest.. sometimes we forget this..
Thanks for the reminder..
Hugs to you my friend..
Have a Great Week..

Kayce said...

Such a great post. Every day of my son's life, I fear loosing him because A is right, how can you love someone SO much. Your friend said the perfect words for us mothers and fathers too. Life is so wonderful and should be lived fully.

Stacey said...

Truth, and so well written. There are many times I still place my hand on my son (7) to check his breathing, and many times my heart will stop when I percieve even the smallest hint of danger to my children. This is a fear I have too and becuse it is always there in the back of my mind I too try to live life with them to the fullest. With lots of prayer and a watchful eye we take it one day at a time. Thank you for a great post. as we know it. said...

You are certainly not the only one whho thinks like this, I'm not sure how I could go on if something happened to my kids.
Live each day to the max.

Norma said...

I just don't go there. Nope.

Christy said...

I am not a worry wort or an overprotective mom-- I think kids learn best by failing and if it means they are going to get a scrape or a bruise from falling off the wall they were told not to walk on, then so be it-- they will learn. BUT, when it comes to losing a child I can hardly catch my breath. A few times in your post I had to take a deep breath becuase I could hardly stand the thought of losing one of my kids. It is every mom and dads worst nightmare and I have to remind myself that God has it under control and that we need to live each day as if this were the last. I love your friends story-- if we know it is coming we would be so tortured by the thought of the end that we would not live for today. I need to remember that with each of my kids. When I want to take them straight to their death (just kidding) becnuase they are driving me crazy, I need to think about life without them. That really can give us prospective on the whole thing.

Great post and thanks for sharing.

Christy :)

Anonymous said...

This November 28th, our oldest daughter would have been turning 23 years old, had she not passed away at a very young age. She is missed every single day. I have no regrets, as we lived every moment to the fullest. No regrets. We danced, we sang, we laughed. We napped, we cooked, we crafted. We recycled. I urge you to do these things with the ones around you, especially your children. Spread joy. When the clerk at the store says to you, “Have a nice day.” Do it! Love! Laugh!

The good news, after losing a child? Nothing that horrible will ever happen to you!
It takes a long time to form a new life, a different life, a purposeful life.
For today laugh, dance, spread joy, love the ones around you.

Ani said...

You voiced my worst fears perfectly. My son is my life, my joy, my reason for living... I have never loved like I love that child. It scares the world out of me that something can happen to him. But, your friend said it best - live every day and love every day to the fullest, that is our job.

J said...

Great post, thanks for sharing. Once I became a mom I had a very hard time listening to anything on the news dealing with children dying. Once you become responsible for someone else's life, you life is changed forever.