One of my favorite family pics of almost all of us a few years ago!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fear and Reason

At 9:39 p.m. last night a stranger passed away, leaving behind her husband and three children.  Only she didn’t feel like a stranger to me.  Her name was Laura Black and she felt like a friend who had shared her struggles with me personally. I cried.

I cried for someone I had never met.  I cried because she was living and dying one of my greatest fears -- that something would happen to me and I would leave my children without a mother.  Again.

On both a physical and spiritual level, I have no particular reason to fear death soon.  But today I had to admit that I am fearfully living, in part because of some experiences. When I left town in January 2011, my 18-year-old was killed in a car accident.  Last week, we left our youngest children at home with family and friends to take our middle kids to a national leadership conference.  While we were away something terrible happened to one of my pre-school children and the youngest had a new outbreak of staph that required round-the-clock care.

I think of myself as a rational person, but there is no logic to my fear.  Even living, I know that I can’t be with my children every moment to protect them from harm. I like to think that when I am here, they are safe.  But hard things happen even when I’m here.

I think I’m afraid that my children need me too much. So many of them have already lost one mom and it would be so unfair for them to lose me too. I think I feel that without me their life would be incomplete.  That perhaps God isn’t enough for them without me to show them the way.  That somehow, I’m so important that my absence would matter. 

And the reality is it would matter in so many ways. I know that.  But ultimately, my presence or absence in the lives of my children does not determine their eternal destiny. They aren’t mine.  They are gifts from him.  I have to remind myself of that on a daily basis. I have to relinquish control – or more accurately – the idea that I ever had control in the first place – more times than I care to count.  I have to remember that I am only one of many earthly guardians trying to lead them on a path toward God. And that he is the only certain promise in this life.

I was introduced to Laura through her CaringBridge site where she posted information about her battle with cancer.  I knew one of her friends who shared the link to her page. Laura was a local lawyer.  Like me.  She was a mom.  Like me.  She was a writer and a Christian struggling to reconcile her faith to her situation.  Like me.  And she openly expressed her thoughts and fears and emotions to strangers.  Like me. 

I began reading her entries just a month ago when she began writing, “What I want you to know about life” letters to her very young children.  I have been trying to write those very letters to my children for at least 10 years, but something else always takes priority and I have done little to meet that goal.  At least on paper.

Like tonight.  I left the kitchen immediately after cooking dinner and told my husband, “I have to go write.”  He was confused.   I don’t usually say that.  But I had learned about Laura dying right before dinner and I had so many words in my head that I needed to get on paper. So I went to my room and closed my door. 

I had written two sentences when my 1-year-old came knocking on my door with his distinctive little knock saying “Nanna.  Nanna?  I need you.” He has been struggling with a serious staph infection for about 8 months and he wants me all the time.  I thought about telling him to go away so I could write and then the irony struck me.  I am living.  I am available.  I want to write, but he wants me in person.  So I let him in and cuddled with him, then changed his clothes and got him ready for bed.

Almost on cue, as I sat down to write again, my 4-year-old boys came running in and jumped on my bed (I hadn’t bothered to close my door this time.)  One wanted me to read him a book.  The other wanted me to wrestle with him.  Both announced that they were afraid to go to bed in their own room because there might be monsters.  They suggested sleeping in my room!

Again, I thought of how badly I wanted to reflect on the meaning of Laura’s death and why it affected me so profoundly.  But the irony was not lost.  I closed my computer again and read a silly Chic-Fil-A book about a Cliff Hanger that happened to be sitting on my bedside table.   And when I asked the boys about their monsters, they asked me about coyotes.  We talked for a while about the sounds they hear at night in the mountains surrounding our home.  They wanted to know what coyotes eat.  So I opened my computer to find out.  We looked up the answer and before it was over, we had watched the lioness at our local zoo deliver a cub, another lioness get eaten by hyenas (who sound like they are laughing according to one son), and a pack of elephants taking care of a newborn.

I enjoyed the time with them, imagining what memory they might take with them of that few minutes with Nanna. 

I was able to write about 3 more sentences before my 22-year-old daughter called from her full-time, live-in job in Tennessee where she is learning what it takes to be the leader in charge, a mentor, and a co-worker with her peers.  We caught up a little on life at home and spent a good deal of time talking about leadership and mentoring and what that looks like. In the end, she laughed as she realized our jobs were remarkably similar.  She laughed at me, saying that she really understood my emotions and issues – because they were hers.  I think she understood me in a way that she had not fully grasped before that moment.  For a moment I was both her leader and her peer.  It was a nice moment. 

And I could have missed it.  I could have been busy writing what I wanted them to know rather than sharing with her in the moment.  As much value as writing , it became blatantly obvious that I can’t let my desire to write override the time I spend in direct contact with my children. Yes, I need balance for sanity.  But if what I really want is strong, loving, loved children, then my presence while living is more powerful than my words after I am gone.

Ultimately, I realized that some of the “letters to my children” won’t be written on paper.  Rather, they will be written on their hearts through my daily and routine interactions with them.  I may have to remind myself of that frequently because sometimes it is easier to hide behind my computer than to interact with real people. And I am also blessed to have so many older children who can pass along what I have taught them to their younger siblings.   

And come to think of it... I guess I just wrote a letter to my children telling them what I want them to know!

Postscript: Duh Moment! What I sat down to write was directly affected by the three interruptions of my children.  Ironically, the interruptions are what God used to teach me what he really wanted me understood about my relationship with my children.  Of course, this didn’t occur to me until I finished writing this and was in the shower.  I’m a little slow.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE YOU! Everytime I read your posts, I smile and cry!