Everyone’s Child

nXYBZo2There are days my dalliance into social media causes heartburn. Other days it knocks me flat. Sunday was such a day, when I met ten year-old Lula in the waning moments of her life.

A friend had posted a prayer request for Lula and her family.

This was not my battle, nor my child. It was not a story in any way related to me.

I’m a mom, though, so her story yanked me in.

A quick perusal of Lulu’s mother’s Facebook page told me more than I wanted to know about a child struggling, and a family trying to cope.

There were moments of beauty and insight. She posted poems and observations. Lula clearly had a creative bent as well.  Together they shared a very personal and moving chronicle.

I felt vaguely ashamed for witnessing this. No matter how my heart was wrenched, my voyeurism seemed to diminish their plight to the level of a sappy Lifetime movie on a Sunday afternoon.

A deeper part of me sought answers. Can a family actually prepare for the impending loss of a child? How does a mom kiss away pain that isn’t knocked out by morphine?

I went to bed knowing that a family was sitting vigil while a child took shaky, sedated breaths. I found out the next day she took her last somewhere around 2 am.

Elizabeth Stone once said that making the decision to have a child is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.

When we brought home our first new baby, years ago, someone made the ill-considered decision to slip in the movie Saving Private Ryan on one of those nights when our sleep schedules were wonky and we were up together at odd hours marveling over our new little guy.

The movie kicks off with the Omaha Beach assault, probably the most horrific 20 minutes I can remember ever having seen on screen. Through a swirl of mommy hormones: the display of stark violence just above the head of a sweet, sleeping baby. I had an epiphany that left me feeling exposed and anxious.

Just then everyone’s child was once the baby I held in my arms, including the young men on the Normandy beach.

My heart was immediately so big it might burst right out of my chest without warning.

How can anyone STAND this? I thought.

Although that feeling of vulnerability never completely vanishes, it does lay blissfully dormant until I flinch again at the misfortune of someone else’s child. Not many of us will know the crush of losing a 10 year-old little girl who liked to dress like a fairy princess, but no sane parent comes away from a story like that without tamping down an anxiety that threatens to knock all the air out of her lungs.

And prayer? Will God really hear our plea? Isn’t he the same God who allowed all this to happen?

Please, God, please, please.

Please what? Drama mama? This isn’t your story. Spare me your crocodile tears.

Please give her respite. Please don’t let her be afraid.

Please take me back to where I didn’t know.

Please don’t ever let this ever …

Ever what? As if prayers can stop cancer, or someone smashing into your family on the interstate, or the course of anything ever in history?

Last week I posted a blog about Guilt being a smarmy guy with Worry as his smelly sidekick. I was wrong. Worry is a spinning vortex that pulls you in and crushes you under your own weight.

Did I feel somehow less vulnerable before parenthood? Did I worry less? Of course.

Do I regret knowing Lula’s story? Sometimes.

Does this mean I regret becoming a mom? No.

I never have regretted becoming a parent. And so today, I’ve been indulging in the occasional crying jag thinking about a little girl and her family. I hope doing so isn’t taking anything from her, someone I never met and only just recently learned about. I also guiltily hope that I’m not jinxing my own, precious progeny in wondering what if?

And I wonder that there are still moments of my day, every day, when I forget how absolutely precious some people are to me. How can I know Lula’s story, and still fail to make my kids’ favorite dinner? How can I still harp on messy rooms, or piano practice?

How can I send them off every day without a layer of bubble wrap, under a Teflon suit and surrounded by a team of armed guards?

I’d like to believe, were our situations reversed with that of Lula’s family, it might help me to know that my child’s story made such an impact.

I’d like to believe that some day it might be almost enough that I had Lula as long as I did.

I’d like to believe that somehow I could survive Lula’s leaving us.

And so, even though I’m angry, even though I wonder why and when and if, I send up a prayer as if she were my own.

Thank you, God, for Lula.

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In lieu of flowers or gifts, Lu's wish was for people to donate "even $5 or $10 to help Gideon."

In lieu of flowers or gifts, Lu’s wish was for people to donate “even $5 or $10 to help Gideon.” Click on the photo for more information.

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