Absence of FearSunday, October 16, 2011
My young son went on his first overnight, scouting camp trip. My husband is with him, sharing a tent and keeping careful watch over him.
I am terrified.
Of numerous things- there are 2,000 people at this campground.
He could get lost in a crowd- he is so very small and one glance away, and my husband could lose his visual.
There are woods nearby. I imagine him shivering a cold, dark place… hungry, frightened, and lost.
At any gathering where there are a multitude of children, you run the risk of predators. Someone could lure him away from camp with a promise that his tiny little comprehension of evil finds no suspicion in.
He could become hurt, far away from the modern convenience of almost immediate emergency room care. There may not be ready access to ambulances and other emergency transport.
This is the reality of my parenting, post-loss. My expectations for safety have been shattered. Part of me doesn’t trust anyone- even my husband or children, with this smallest member of our crew. I cannot bear to have him out of my sight.
Not to be underestimated is the fear I live with for each of my older children- one of my sons, living with friends in the city. My daughter away at her freshman year of college. The other son, here in the house but traveling and growing more and more independent every day.
If I had my way, all of my children would come home. They would stay in my house, getting fat and lazy, while I braved the world to bring them food. I have no need of colleges and apartments, and steady significant others who may break their hearts, putting them in another type of danger.
This is the world that I live in each and every day.
At first, I thought that since I had faced the most fearful thing that a person could face, and lived through it, that I would be fearless. I thought that nothing could touch me. That didn’t turn out to be the case.
I don’t know if I could live through it if it happened again. I tell myself, of course I would- no one really ever dies of a broken heart! But I imagine myself falling into the breakage, and being unable to crawl out because the chasm is so large.
The fear is partly based on family history- I have an aunt who lost a baby to SIDS when I was young. A few years ago, she lost another of her children in a car accident.
Lightning does strike twice.
They died on the same day, October 25, over 20 years apart.
October doesn’t scare me because of all of the Halloween decorations everywhere- it scares me because it reminds me that it can happen again. And because I have four living children- it could conceivably happen four more times.
I have to take hold of my fear- don’t let it overwhelm me. Don’t let it swallow me.
When that doesn’t seem to be doing anything (from my end anyways), pray harder.
But I am still frightened.
I try not to let it consume me, but sometimes it almost washes me away. That is when I hold most tightly to my children. They don’t know it- how desperately I worry for them. How I have trouble sleeping at night, knowing that they are far away from me.
I have to actively distance myself from the worry. Every time that I allow my youngest son out of the house I must will myself not to follow him out the door. But I am watching like a hawk through the window.
That’s the problem with this type of loss. The type of loss that hits you like a sucker punch- babies aren’t supposed to die.
Except when they do- and who’s in control of that?
Where does prayer work in this equation?
Oh how I prayed, when I was pregnant with Beatrix- prayed for so many different things. None of the praying resulted in the answer that I wanted. None of the praying is evidenced by my baby being home. She died.
While I was writing this, I looked up the antonym of the word fear. Bravery was the most common of the choices.
But I am brave each and every time I allow one of my children to leave my side. My fear is not quelled. I think bravery is not the opposite of fear, but an appendage of it. You cannot have one without the other. Fear and Bravery are Siamese twins, joined at the core.
I am plenty brave and still afraid. It seems that the bravery required is in proportion to the fear I feel.
In dwelling on thoughts of how to conquer this fear, I turn again and again to how I am supposed to pray to a God who took my child? How am I supposed to come to Him in fearlessness?
I am afraid of Him.
I am frightened when speaking. I am humbled. I have lost control of the situation. Or rather, I have lost the illusion of self- control.
I am reminded that “every knee shall bow.”
I don’t like being in this position. I feel that not only have I been bowed at the knees, but there is a hand on my head holding me there.
I don’t like being humbled. I don’t like my life being in HIS hands
I want it in mine.
I want to be 100% certain that every time I say goodbye to one of my children, there will be a hello to follow at some point in the future- and a hello in this world, not the next. That’s one of those tricks of faithful people who don’t know this particular sorrow. It is so easy for someone who hasn’t lost to say, “you will say hello again- someday.”
I don’t like the trust that is implied in every beat of my heart. The day after day of a life slipped from my grasp. The trust that is required without my consent.
I think that trust may be the opposite of fear. And I no longer trust that my life will turn out the way I want it to. I don’t want to trust that this God who took my child has my best interests at heart.
We talk a lot about the purpose of suffering, as Christians.
We are sometimes given, as an illustration of God’s reason for suffering, the relation between gentle punishments of a parent towards a misbehaving child. If that’s the case, I feel like at some point, social services should have been called- someone else should have been involved in the decision making process. I wasn’t gently chastised and sent away to nurse my wounds, I was ripped open.
We are alternately told that suffering allows God’s glory to shine through us. Martyrdom- and make no mistake, this was a martyrdom- is seen as an admirable trait- but those old Romans were given options. I wasn’t. Well, I was, but I still would have lost my child- so I was given an option-less option. Maybe I wouldn’t have chosen to have God’s glory shine through me, if I had known that this unceasing fear would be mine.
I don’t want platitudes. I don’t want theological resonance. I want my daughter. I want my life back.
Or at least some reasonable explanation of why she’s gone. Something that I can grasp onto with a firm hold. I want the capability to nod my head, and say “a-ha- that’s what’s going on.”
I don’t want to have my choices in relation to trust forced on me. How desperately I have tried to adjust myself to this, and I just can’t.
I know that I need to trust… but with willingness.
Right now I am clinging to trust, because there really is nothing else to hold. Sometimes I don’t know if I am holding onto an anchor or a life preserver.
I only know that I am on the verge of drowning.