Monday, May 4, 2015

A Mother Looks at Life on the Corner of Fear and Hope

I remember being normal or something related to it. I recall thinking deep tragedies happened to other people who didn't know how to take care of themselves or trust God enough.  

And then it all changed . . .

A bump.  A three-year-old son with a boo-boo in his neck.  It will be okay. Deep breaths. Chemo. Surgeries. Perhaps the radiation will zap it away.

Certainly his prayers should.  Beside the stain-glass window inside the hospital chapel knelt a little bald-headed boy with his eyes closed.

After he died, I used to check my other children to make sure nothing looked wicked, like cancer. Each fever, cough, peculiar lump, oh, yes, nothing went unnoticed.

My kids have grown, but so have my fears. Driving and owning cars are now part of our lives.  So are small accidents.  Knowing that any crash can be fatal, my prayers increase.

As Mother's Day approaches, I recall being normal once upon a time.  My kids gave me cards made of painted hand prints, signed with chunky crayons. Once I heard about the tragedies other moms experienced, and felt sadness only.  I had the luxury of being tearful for a short while when I heard of the death of someone else's loved one. There was no fear that sorrow would make her home in my parameters.

But that was then. Then I had the ability to bounce back. The agony of pain subsided. I was able to carry on doing my motherly things like looking for missing socks, buying large quantities of diapers, finding mac and cheese on sale, and explaining why we needed to share.

These bad things happen to other people.  Not me.  Not my family.

When I was 36, cancer treatments cost me a child to death.  And as I looked at a woman in the mirror whom I no longer recognized, I thought: Apparently, these kinds of things do happen to my family.

Since then I must confess that I have feared that my other children will die.

And there is nothing I can do.

At a bereaved parents conference where I spoke, one man confessed that he, too, worried.  "What's to say that another child of mine won't die? How can I protect my children from the car accident or the illness?"  

I handed him a tissue and then pulled one out of the box for me.

I have become more strange, not more adept, as the years have progressed. I am no longer a stranger to living with fear.

I often hear people, usually older women, tell me to just trust my kids to God.

"Ladies, " I want to rebuttal.  "I did.  And my Daniel died."

But usually I keep my mouth sealed.  They wouldn't understand.  Some things are not discovered unless you walk in a grieving mother's worn shoes.

Stranded, that's what I've become----somewhere between fear and hope.

"Carl says that you keep all the text messages from us and save them until you see us again," my eldest who was six when Daniel died, told me the other day.  She's twenty-four now.

"Yes. Do you know why?"

"In case something happens to us and those messages are the last correspondence you have with us?"

We both knew that the answer was yes.

Children are on loan to us from God, they say.  From the moment I held my firstborn, I never thought it was a loan. She was mine.  Mine to raise, mine to love, mine to fuss over, read to, and hold.

Every time I hear of a shooting or a car accident or an illness, I know the next time it could affect one of my children.  Random happenings, why should I feel protected or spared?

God, how can I live this way?

The question is redundant. I have, and I will.

Some seasons I am not as wracked by fear.  There are days when I am not living on the edge.   But like the monster under the bed, it is there, always present. Sometimes just a shadow; other nights I can feel the sharp claws.

I also live with hope.  Hope that my children will grow up to be lovely responsible people with hearts of gold who know that they are so loved.  

And always aware that today could be all I get.  Today in all its imperfection, beauty, strength, joy, and uncertainty------like each day, it has obvious and unearthed blessings. 

And each is always worth treasuring.

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