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The Circle of Life Hurts Like a Sonofabitch

April 2, 2013

As parents, we want to protect our children from pain.  We diligently strap them into car seats and fasten helmets and install outlet covers.  We do everything we can to keep them safe from harm.  But inevitably we find ourselves doling out Band-Aids and kisses and comfort, because life repeatedly reminds us that there are limits on our parental powers.  Our children are going to get hurt, regardless of our baby-proofing prowess.

Sometimes the toughest boo-boos are the ones you can’t see.  When a friend rejects your child, when a pet dies, when parents get divorced…emotional wounds can sometimes be the most painful.

This past weekend our children faced, for the first time, the imminent death of a loved one.  My husband’s step-dad had a massive heart attack (the latest in a string of cardiac arrests he’s experienced) and ended up in the ICU on life support.  Doctors initially said he wouldn’t make it through the night.

My husband and I decided our five-year old daughter was too young to understand what was happening, but as my husband raced to his mom’s side, I was left to break the news to our eleven-year old son.  I truly felt like I was responsible for the moment that would define his passage from carefree childhood to adult-like awareness.  I was the one who would tell him the news that would break his heart.

And I did.

We hugged, we cried, we talked.  I prayed for guidance and I tried my best to be what he needed.  It was awful.

Incredibly, my father-in-law survived the night.  As of this writing (four days later) he is hooked up to machines that the doctors hope will buy him some time until his body can start doing what it’s supposed to again.  It’s an uphill battle; he’s fighting an infection, his diabetes has his blood sugar completely out of whack, his organs are being uncooperative.  The prognosis is grim.

On Saturday we made the decision that I would bring the children to visit their grandma, knowing that hugs from her grandbabies would be the best support we could give her.  I explained the situation in simple terms to our youngest, who responded, “I hope Grandpa doesn’t die…but you’re not dead and I love you!”  And I gave our oldest the option to see his grandpa or to stay with his grandma in the waiting room.

Our brave, sweet son chose the former.  Together we held his grandpa’s hand and told him we loved him.  We prayed.  We watched the tubes and machines and monitors and wondered if they would be enough.  And together, we faced a harsh reality:  love means loss.  When we care about someone we open ourselves up to the possibility of pain.  We allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  We set ourselves up for the inevitable:  someone has to be left behind.

I watched that realization sink in for our son.   I watched him square his shoulders and try his best to be strong.  I watched him experience pain.  It was one of the toughest moments of my life, and I’ve never been more proud.

Yes, love means loss and caring can be painful.  But my God is it worth it.





2 Comments leave one →
  1. LindseyJuly permalink
    April 6, 2013 1:46 pm

    This brought tears to my eyes. What a great post though. Not to mention you are such an excellent writer! I love that I was blessed with my math abilities, but have to admit reading your blog that I’m a bit envious I didn’t get some of your writing skills too! 🙂 Love you and my sweet cousins. Give those two a big hug for me, especially Miles who sounds like he was such a trooper and a sweetheart through all of that!

  2. April 6, 2013 4:38 pm

    We love you, too, Lindsey! Thank you so much for your kind words – you are quite the gifted writer yourself, so don’t sell yourself short. And I have ZERO math skills so there’s that;-) Hugs right back!!

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