I recently responded to a form that posed the question What three things scare you?
I am afraid of: 3. fire 2. losing Sheepdog 1. something bad happening to my children
Answer number three is easily traced back to five or six-year-old me watching in the pitch dark of a moonless night as a house just down the street from mine burned to the ground. Monstrous, black and gray clouds of dense smoke poured out of the window openings like sand flowing out of a beach bucket that, instead of traveling down to a pile on the ground as sand should, defied gravity and floated up toward the heavens. I remember standing amongst my neighbors and thinking about the family that lived inside that house, wondering if they had been asleep like I was when the fire started. Did anyone get hurt? No matter the answer, their lives would be forever changed.
Losing my spouse, whether to death or divorce, scares me too. Sheepdog may drive me crazy on a regular basis, but that is mostly because he challenges me. He doesn’t accept my bologna, no matter how confidently I may present it. He is my stabilizer and my sounding board. He encourages and inspires me to be a better person. He also makes me laugh. He is my teammate in this crazy relay race. He is my best friend. I may get sick of hearing even more than I can imagine about bikes and/or guns, but isn’t that better than the alternative?
As far as my babies are concerned, I worry about any and every one of the following… cuts and bruises, broken bones, heartbreak, wounds suffered at the hands of a bully, sickness, suffering of any kind, emotional scars, terminal illness, death. And then some. I don’t worry about them hourly – or even daily – most of the time, but they are there festering in the part of my brain that recalls the smoke and the smell of burning things. It is the same part of me that is scared to navigate life alone, without someone who gets me like Sheepdog does.
The community where I grew up was turned upside down on Saturday by fatal accidents. The community where my kids are growing up has been devastated over this past year by more than one unthinkable loss. And the ones who died were all children. It is my greatest fear.
My mind is twisted and tangled with thoughts. I wake in the middle of the night, wondering. How do the families affected by these tragedies go forward? Death happens every day, but some deaths affect us more powerfully. How do you get through the day when you send your child out the door and he doesn’t come home? Will something bad happen to my children? How can things like this be prevented? Do I have enough faith? Why, just why?
Words like fate, luck, misfortune and happenstance all come to mind. The struggling part of me sheds tears for the ones who lived lives that were just beginning, that didn’t get to experience enough of anything. Moreover, I feel an immobilizing and chest-crushing pain for those who must live the daily struggles that occur in the wake of these incidents… friends, teachers, coaches, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. They are the ones who must overcome and live through my greatest fear.
Rest in peace, young ones. May God watch over you.
Live in peace, family and friends. May God and angels watch over you as well.
Sometimes bad things happen. It is a fact of life. Neither you nor I have any control over it. We are defined by how we react to the things that life throws at us. So speak more kindly, love with more passion. Be grateful for what you have and the life you live today. Forgive and have patience. Leave each place better than it was when you got there.
Doing these things will not exempt you from tragedy. But you will live a life that means something, and that seems to be the best way to pay tribute to those children who were taken from us too soon, before their lives really even got started.
My deepest sympathies go out to the Mainland community.