I caught his eye, and before I let the words out, his eyes told me to stop. Stop. Don’t say what you’re going to say. But I said it anyway. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for your loss.
The words brought exasperation to his face — as if he had so much to explain about this death. Not I’m sorry — this was a celebration! I suddenly felt like I was wearing work boots at a black-tie affair with my sorrowful, mournful expression. My words, meant to be offered in comfort, brought darkness.
Maybe, he should have said “sorry” to me… because I wasn’t quite at the joyful, celebration-of life-stage that he was at… yet.
That was years ago…
Since then, I’ve been so warily careful of what to say to the bereaved.
Sometimes, we have our own grief to deal with — and then we feel compelled to try to comfort the others. Maybe we have no place to do such things; maybe we should just be in the moment, with them, and let life unfold.
Since the night I read the words “brain damage,” the world has felt slightly ajar, something out of place. I needed balance — and I found it simply by crying into my husband’s chest; standing up. As if by letting the tears out while standing, I would somehow grow new roots, and I needed to pull in some of the strength he had stored up in his arms.
I remembered fleeting moments of the past, when Seth was a little boy — the way I remember him — trying to re-carve moments in the past; to help myself understand, in retrospect, what a gift it was to have such a brief time with him. Now, I realize, we just brushed our sleeves with him — life is so quick. Did I, his preschool teachers, his classmates — did any of us realize who we were with?
And, thinking about how other-worldly wise he always seemed… His 4th birthday party was at Grater’s Ice Cream, and the little man handled himself so well, that I asked his mom to check his birth certificate — that maybe they were wrong — maybe he really was 5, and they missed a year. And he grew into such a cool dude.
I am bursting at the seams to say so much right now, and I’ve held back writing this because I care so deeply about the family. I fear I will say that just-off wrong phrase that will send their world off-kilter, and have to explain the way they see it, all over to me, draining their energy. I have much to say about a child taken. A child living with cancer. Parents left without their child. Baby sisters missing their big brother. His fight. His fierce courage. His beauty. Their strength. Their courage. Their grace. Their honesty. My sadness. My awe.
I can’t say anymore about the beautiful life of this little boy’s fight against cancer than his parents have already lovingly revealed to us here . This journey has transformed her into a courageous, heart-felt writer, as her world poured out onto the page, as we waited anxiously for her updates — living for them, in the end, by the minutes. Nor can I add to the wonderful expressions of support for the family that have appeared here.
Life upside down. The mother and father living life, again, without the presence of the child. How different each day will be for them, forever. And how, they will do their best to ensure that each day remains a blessing, with perfect grace.