MOTHERLESS

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 (Alex 7, Ana 3)

Dear Ana,

This summer, I returned to the car after pumping gas and found you in tears.  I asked what had happened and Alex explained, “I told Ana that someday she’s going to have to learn to pump gas.  She said, ‘But Mommy will do it for me.’  So I reminded her you will die eventually and so she’ll have to learn to do it herself.”

At this point you were bawling.  “I will miss you every yeeeeear of my whooooole life.”

The week before I’d been listening to Wild while driving.  I had wanted to read it since its release and another mom had recommended the audio version saying her kids had been good about letting her listen to it in the car.  They happened to have it at the library, so I thought I’d give it a try.  It went along fine at first but then we hit a passage with some choice words.  I quickly turned it off even though Alex said he wanted to hear more.  We tried it again but when we reached the part with the multiple f-bombs, I decided to call it quits even though I was enjoying it.

Thankfully, the cursing didn’t stick with you but the passages about her mother dying did.  It had never occurred to you until hearing about a mother dying that I could and will die.  You did not seem ready for this knowledge and I was equally unprepared.

“I don’t want you to be dead,” you said to me recently in tears as if I had already died.

“I’m not dying right now,” I answered.

“Are you going to die?” you asked.

“Hopefully not for a long, long time.”

This didn’t reassure you.  “But I don’t ever want to be away from you.”

I explained that even when we die, our spirits live on—only our bodies die.  This concerned you more.

“Then we won’t be able to poop and pee,” you said.

I didn’t have a response for that.

“Will we walk to heaven?” you wanted to know.

“I don’t know.  Maybe we’ll fly,” I said thinking of a passage from Proof of Heaven where the author enters a part of heaven flying on the wings of a butterfly.

“I don’t want you to leave before I get my shoes on,” you said.

“Okay.  I’ll wait for you,” I answered.

“Can you play in heaven?  Do they have restaurants?”

This reminded me of the kinds of questions Alex asked me years ago.  He was very concerned about whether or not heaven would have a Chik-fil-A.  I told him what he wanted to hear then and I did the same for you.  “Of course you can play in heaven.  And they have restaurants.  With ice cream.”

“Yes!” you exclaimed knowingly.  “They have lots of desserts.”

Later that day you asked, “So you’ll wait for me to get my shoes on?”

“When?” I asked wondering where you thought we were heading.

“When we go to heaven.”

“Of course,” I said biting my lip.  “I’ll wait for you to get your shoes on.”

You’ve never liked the thought of being left behind.  From a young age, you were always the first one to the door to get your shoes on when you noticed we were getting ready to leave.  Alex never has a sense of urgency about getting anywhere except for where he is.  Even the threat of being left behind doesn’t motivate him to move or put his shoes on quickly.  So you worry for him.  I’ll tell Alex that you and I are leaving and will step out the door to the garage and you’ll start screaming, “No!  Don’t leave him.  Don’t leave Alex.  Alex come!”

So it breaks my heart knowing that when I die, you will feel left behind and that this is the best I can hope for since it will mean I will die first.  I don’t like the thought of being apart from you and I can only hope that as we both grow older we’ll be more ready for that separation.

But I’ve lived long enough to know that life does not always unfold so neatly.  Loss does not always wait for us to be prepared.  I’ve known of too many mothers and children who have gone too soon, leaving their loved ones searching for a way to live with the biggest pieces of their hearts missing.

In the end, I hope I do go first and as such leave you behind.  And I hope your strong spirit and sense of place in this world will buoy you.  But you don’t need to hurry to get your shoes on because you can bet wherever I am, I’ll be waiting for you.

 


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