Friday, May 13, 2005
Everything comes to a grinding and sudden halt. Smells and tastes vanish. Sounds become only empty echoes in your mind. Regardless of the pace of the world around you, you come to a complete standstill... in a kneeling position. You hurt so bad that you feel nothing; the continued struggle between the franticness to do anything and the helplessness to do something. All the energy drains out of your body and the only relief is the mental and physical numbness that eventually creeps over you like a haze. The overwhelming tide of sorrow continues to rise and subside, rise and subside... you are abandoned, alone, amidst an ocean of sadness...
I remember writing these mournful words a month after my father's death in 1986. And on this past Monday morning, I sought them out in my journal again. But I didn't have to dwell on the words again to know the pain. It was the same pain my wife Di and I felt on Monday when we heard our colleagues lost their 11-year-old daughter Emily to leukemia. It was a 2 1/2 year struggle with this disease and one that has led Emily to her eternal peace and one that leads her family across this ocean of sadness...
As a parent of a seven-year-old boy and infant triplets, the very thought of such a journey as the one this family is presently on, terrifies me. Life never meant for a parent to see their child die before them. At the very core of my understanding, it just feels wrong, unfair and unjust. They are feelings we, as parents, will experience throughout our life with our children.
The proposition and journey of being a caring parent is an unsure one, fraught with both a tremendous amount of joy and a tremendous amount of worry... sometimes, at the same time. We never know what we will be called to address and endure, but we do it out of love and we do it willingly. We secret pray that we will be "okay" parents at the very least and we dare not consider the possible journey of one such as Emily occurring on our watch as a parent. To Emily's parents, my sincerest sympathy and deepest pain felt for you and the days that lie ahead. And to all of you who are parents, my warmest prayers of support for the days that also lie ahead for you. In that spirit, I share with you a reflection sent to me just last week entitled "Just For Today."
Just for this morning, I am going to smile when I see your face and laugh when I feel like crying.
Just for this morning, I will let you choose what you want to wear, and smile and say how perfect it is.
Just for this morning, I am going to step over the laundry, and pick you up and take you to the park to play.
Just for this morning, I will leave the dishes in the sink, and let you teach me how to put that puzzle of yours together.
Just for this afternoon, I will unplug the telephone and keep the computer off, and sit with you in the backyard and blow bubbles.
Just for this afternoon, I will not yell once, not even a tiny grumble when you scream and whine for the ice cream truck, and I will buy you one if he comes by.
Just for this afternoon, I won't worry about what you are going to be when you grow up, or second guess every decision I have made where you are concerned.
Just for this afternoon, I will let you help me bake cookies, and I won't stand over you trying to fix them.
Just for this afternoon, I will take us to McDonald's and buy us both a Happy Meal so you can have both toys.
Just for this evening, I will hold you in my arms and tell you a story about how you were born and how much I love you.
Just for this evening, I will let you splash in the tub and not get angry.
Just for this evening, I will let you stay up late while we sit on the porch and count all the stars.
Just for this evening, I will snuggle beside you for hours, and miss my favorite TV shows.
Just for this evening when I run my finger through your hair as you pray, I will simply be grateful that God has given me the greatest gift ever given.
I will think about the mothers and fathers who are searching for their missing children, the mothers and fathers who are visiting their children's graves instead of their bedrooms, and mothers and fathers who are in hospital rooms watching their children suffer senselessly, and screaming inside that they can't handle it anymore.
And when I kiss you good night I will hold you a little tighter, a little longer. It is then, that I will thank God for you, and ask him for nothing, except one more day.
I truly believe Emily would not have wanted anyone cowering from the subtle dangers and perils of Life, but to celebrate and hold tight to that which is certain and true and noble and real: the love of each other in this Life and the hope and faith of that Greater Life.
No one can or will avoid the casting of their ship on that great ocean of pain and sadness. It is the eventuality that comes with holding to that which is certain and true and noble. But when the massive waves of sorrow and loss eventually subside (and they will), it's then that we will realize that it is our loved one's spirit in the wind that created the waves, guided our ship and eventually cooled our aching spirit.
Godspeed, Emily. I hardly knew you but your presence will be certainly felt in the hugs I give my children this week and the days to follow.
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