This past weekend, we celebrated Emma’s fourth birthday. There were cupcakes, balloons, and a water slide! As I listened to a room full of people who love her sing Happy Birthday, I was filled with joy for the life and love we share.
Emma is a sassy, fiercely independent girl. Even when she is driving me crazy, my heart is full for the miracle that she is. She reminds me each day to celebrate the small things and to cherish each moment with those we love. The moments she still lets me snuggle with her are the best!
Today we celebrated Josh’s tenth birthday. And while it looked much different than Emma’s birthday, it was no less joyful or full of love. Courtney and I spent the day fishing the Stillwater.
It was a day to simply be together remembering the day Joshua joined us:
Driving like crazy to get to the clinic
Having to wait for a parking space
Visiting with the woman ahead of us in line who clearly was not having the time of her life
Calling our family to say he was officially on the way
Courtney calling back an hour and a half later to say he was here
The trips back and forth to the NCIU from first the maternity wing and then our home
Road construction bumps exaggerated by crash c-section scars
The days we spent desperately wanting to take him home, but the doctors knowing something wasn’t quite right.
An April Fools joke that wasn’t a joke, and another day of together, but not.
Although the first few weeks were not a standard delivery story, they were some of the most joyous days of my life because I was able to hold him in my arms. I remember thinking I just wanted to take him home so the scary part of his story could be over and we could just be together.
Ten years ago, I did not know life or loss the way I know it today. Yet, it is because of this knowledge that today we held each other a little tighter.
One of my favorite poems is “On Turning Ten” by Billy Collins. Every time I read the final stanza it causes me to pause and consider a paraphrased version of Rumsfeld’s quote:
we do not know
what we do not know
until we know it
This week I visited with a colleague who I have not see for a year. She is one of the most vibrant, strong, and authentic teachers I have worked with. She shared with me that her mother had recently passed and that this year has been especially tragic. I resisted my sympathetic urge to say I understood assuming if I explained I knew loss it would make her grief less. Instead, I tried to convey how sorry I was for her loss and that even when we know someone is no longer in pain, we must still give ourselves grace to suffer from the absence of those we love.
We discussed how as teachers we need to share both our uplifting and vulnerable moments with our students. This year, especially, we need to model what it is to be human. As Collins writes the moments “I fall upon the sidewalks of life / I skin my knees. I bleed.” As I connect this to my life outside of the classroom, I realize it is not only my students who need to be reminded of this, but myself as well.
Emily, on her last trip home, shared her mantra of “not perfect, but better”. I find myself too often caught in the anxiety of attempting to fix things, when instead, I need to accept most things are outside of my ability and find peace knowing I have helped make them better. I also am learning that better can simply be the best I can be in the moment. I know there are moments where I could be a better mom, wife, daughter, sister and teacher; yet, I also have to accept the best version of me is all I can offer.
My sister, like my mom, always finds the good in a situation. She always looks for the best in people. She makes so many of our lives better.
Life, love, and loss are all moments of vulnerability. By having one, we also experience the others. Sometimes, even when those we love are still with us, we lose pieces of them. It is this slow crumbling which still aches deeply when I think of my days with Josh. We held onto each sunrise we were given, knowing fully, we were losing him a little each day. Even on the days we fell upon “the sidewalks of life”, joy and love gave us comfort.
“It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light
if you cut me
I would shine”
Today I am reminded that some cuts can both shine and bleed.