Tweet There are anywhere from 5 to 7 to 10 stages of grief and loss depending on who you ask and what website you click on. There's denial and anger and bargaining and depression and all sorts of terms that range from makes sense to coldly technical. And, overlapping all that grief and loss, is the normal emotions that any normal person experiences on any given day: hunger, love, sadness, happiness, stress, confusion, frustration, giddiness, goofiness, and, well, I could go on and on. I guess I tell you this because I need you to know I feel like a fish playing a crazy game of Emotional Twister.
Imagine, if you will, a floor of painted circles, each labeled with a different emotion. Now, go grab a carp from the lake and plop him down in the middle of the playing field. That fish is going to flop this way and that way (and never in any logical direction). Just when you think it's headed towards happiness it flips on over to anger. In the blink of an eye it has flopped on over to hope. On and on it flips and flops. It's exhausting to watch.
It is exhausting to live.
Yesterday I was driving along, doing fine, when I saw two kids walking down the street. From the back the girl looked just like Avery. I found myself so excited! So hungry to see her face - even though I logically knew there was no possible way it could be her. The disappointment and let down I felt when I saw that girl's face; a face that was not Avery. I sobbed driving, my heart caught in my throat making it impossible to breathe. And yet, thirty minutes later I'm explaining my words, "I don't like that this happened, but I like where it has taken me." How do you explain this hope that exists amongst such sorrow?
I want to scream at people: LOOK AT YOUR KIDS! Really look at them! Look inside to their hearts and their souls. Stop huffing and puffing because they don't act exactly the way you want them to. I want to tell parents to line their children up, side by side. Look into their smiles, feel their love for you. Now, imagine one gone. Imagine one of your beautiful, precious children 100% absolutely gone, never, ever to return to you. Never to again speak your name or hold your hand. Never to pout or stomp a foot. Never to sing or play or skip or smile ever, ever again.
Can you imagine? I mean. can you even begin to fathom what that means? What that feels like?
Because if you can, you will never take for granted your child again. Because if you can imagine the hurt and crippling angst of losing a child you won't care if their hair isn't laying in a perfect braid tied with ribbon or if their socks don't match and are totally different sizes.
You won't care if they want to play basketball or chess or if they want to be a doctor or a gardener or a jazz singer.
You won't want to use them to compare with the neighbor kid or criticize for not being more like the valedictorian.
You will only want them to be happy and healthy. You will only want to see smiles on their faces.
You will only want to be able to wrap your arms around them and hold them tight from time to time.
Too many parents forget this; this threat of in the blink of an eye. They forget because they want to. No, because they need to. The thought alone is so paralyzing and cruel it is best to push it away and forget it even exists. The problem is, when we forget how fragile life is, we forget how to properly appreciate it.
How does one properly appreciate life? Love it. Cherish it. Take care of it. Enjoy it. And say thank you.
How do we know when we have given someone a gift and they truly, truly like it? They thank us. Usually more than once. They remind us of it over and over. "Remember that awesome pen you gave me when I got my first real job? I felt so grown up!"
Thank your children. Thank your husband. Thank your God. Because this life you have been given, with all the people and places and experiences - this is a gift to you. Cherish it. Love it. Enjoy everything in it! Because it is oh, so fleeting.
The Principal of Avery's school told me that a young girl in Avery's class had come to him upset, crying. She could no longer see Avery's face, she sobbed. He smiled at this young girl and told her not to try to picture Avery's face but rather to remember something they did together, an experience they shared. The young girl thought about the times she and Avery had together and soon the girl's face lit up. "I can see her face! I can see her smile!"
It is what I see most: Avery's smile. Her goofy, all joy smile. The way she skipped through a room singing, the way she mimicked opera singers and rock stars. The way she couldn't get enough happiness in a single setting. As if she knew, somehow, that joy is there for the taking - all you have to do is never stop trying to reach for it... like grabbing hold of a fish out of water.