Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Take what ye can, Give nothin' back!"

This post unintentionally expands on my last, though the two were written weeks apart. That's because an interesting theme has cropped up for me lately.

It started one Sunday in the mother's room at church. A 30-ish young widow was changing her one-year old's diaper. She was back in town to move her things out of the home she shared with her husband to the home she now shares with his parents. Her husband died young and I wondered whether he ever hesitated about getting married or having a child given his medical challenges. She confirmed what I suspected: he did not live his life in fear of what might happen. He lived it fully.

As did M's mentor, old scoutmaster and friend, who recently passed at the age of 64. We sat at his funeral last week and were amazed by the man he was and the life he lived. What a powerful example of the blessings of service - he received the crowning blessings of having each of his children marry in the temple, of seeing while still in this life the fruition of the lasting legacy he left them with. At his "celebration," his bishop said something that has echoed in my mind ever since. He said "grief is the natural byproduct of love."

I was afraid of that.

I recently found myself weeping at the story of a woman who was paralyzed in the same car accident that killed her 4 month old son. C is just about 4 months, so it hit home. Sometimes, it scares me how much I love my boy. I felt the same way after M and I were first married. It seemed unfathomable that I should be able to draw breath if ever "something should happen" and M died. I imagined myself having an utter collapse - mental, emotional, physical - quitting work, moving in with his parents, taking on his field of study, becoming a martyr to seeing his dreams and hopes realized.

My widowed friend, so stalwart and so strong, showed me that life is, of course, not this way.

And still, it is now unfathomable to me that any parent can continue to live after a child is taken from them.

I've tried to protect myself against what I cannot fathom, to reserve a piece of my heart so that it won't hurt as much if ever I lose this boy in this life. Mostly, I just try not to think of it. But every time he naps, it nags at me so that I check on him more often than is needful. It makes me cry on days when I am away from him and smother him with affection upon reuniting after being apart. It makes me catch my breath when I see programs like the one with the paralyzed mother who said that for 4 amazing months she got to be that little boy's mom and how lucky that made her feel. Even now, my eyes are blurred with tears against these words, against the thought.

I had an allergy doctor once tell me "we cannot live inside a bubble". Indeed, we cannot. We also cannot reserve a part of ourselves in a vain attempt to avoid the grief should the unimaginable happen.

Life is meant to be lived. And in living, we are meant to love and be loved. There's nothing for it. We can't hold back.

I am a wife. Body and soul.

I am a mother. Body and soul.

I am a latter-day saint. Body and soul.

"Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people." (Genesis 25:8).

Gathered to his people.

I too have the promise of being gathered to my people after this life, no matter what it may hold. Body and soul. Forever.

[Title quote is from "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl"]

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