Nearly every time I took my kids out in public when they were little a sentimental senior would remind me to enjoy them or tell me how quickly they would grow– how precious these days were. Sometimes they would offer their well-meaning advice when the kids were holding hands and happy and no one had fought over anything in 32.5 seconds. But sometimes it was while I was wrestling a wriggling kid under my arm, carrying bags under my eyes and a heavy side of grief.
There was a long answer I want to give them but I never offered it. I’d smile and say “I do” or “I know” or offer a “yes, this is amazing” through gritted teeth as I peeled a planking child off a germ-infested floor.
But when I had time, when I could sit and take a breath for a second, I wanted to go back and tell them I really do know. Losing a baby whose life I never dreamed would be so short taught me how fragile small hands are– how lucky we are when our children breath in the next breath after breathing out the last.
I wanted to tell them I enjoy them on the good days and when they’re moody and miserable I let myself wallow a little but I am still just as grateful to be the one they need. At the end of every day, easy or insanely hard, there is always a moment where I step back and know how easily it could be gone, how small a heartbeat I was away from empty arms.
Grief and loss changed me in a million small and giant ways but they aren’t all for the worse. I’m afraid my kids will remember me sad and distant sometimes, but I hope they will also remember me grateful and present.
Their sister taught me things about motherhood I thought I already knew.
I thought I knew the comfort of rocking a baby until I understood that some rocking chairs get returned.
I thought I felt the surprise of first steps until I watched one take her first steps without a sister following behind.
I thought I appreciated the sweet gesture of sticky cards and backward handwriting until I saw a stick figure drawn with a halo.
I thought I realized the pride of watching the first two wheel bike ride until I met a family who couldn’t look at their child’s unused bike anymore.
If you are reading this as the parent of living children I promise you there is a parent out there who envies your Sunday night battle over that long-put-off science fair project.
There is a momma who would love to have to find that lost homework assignment just one more time.
There’s a daddy somewhere wishing he could grip the dashboard while his daughter decides between the gas and the break.
And somewhere there are two parents regretting every night they fought over who was going to take the late night feeding, not knowing that one was the last.
I’m not sharing any of this to make you feel guilty, we all press more than enough guilt on ourselves. I’m sharing this to say that on the other side of grief is deep gratitude.
What we’ve lost pushes us to love what we have that much more. Loss reminds us that every moment has some piece of grace for the mere fact it’s happening, the good fortune it’s here.
If you look closely you can spot a grieving family by their love. They love hard what they still have. Their growing teens grimace over hugs and too many I love yous. They drop work and time commitments for coaching games and insanely loud carpools.
Senior citizens on park benches don’t need to remind them that it all goes by too fast.
They’ve already learned that sometimes, it doesn’t go by at all.
Thank you for being here. If you’d like more words on grief you can find them here or just head right to The Stone if that’s what led you here.
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This Side Of Typical says
Meredith Spidel says
Oh Jess, this is gorgeous. Thank you for sharing this. Such an important perspective to share…xoxo