We spend a lot of time trying to control for risks in the lives of our children. We feed them right, we teach them to look both ways, we try devilishly hard to balance exercise and play with rest and work. But sometimes, despite our careful planning and watching and guiding, things just happen.
Three weeks ago, my 9-year-old daughter collapsed and died, in the space of less than three minutes, from a cardiomyopathy so rare that she was twice as likely to have been struck by lightning. She was ice skating, and having the time of her life. She never knew what happened and she was gone before I could skate the 20 yards to lift her from the ice. I’m not telling you this so your readers will all go out and have EKG’s for their kids. Probably couldn’t detect it if they did, to be candid.
This is, instead, about her life and what it meant. My father made a remark, while we were still in the hospital and the grief was devastatingly raw. But it’s sticking with me, and I am finding some solace in it: “She might only have been nine years old, but she lived 20 years in those nine.” What he meant was that she had done a lot, experienced a lot and just..LIVED…while she was here. She rode horses. She rode motorcycles with her dad (always with proper safety equipment). She went to old-fashioned church camps where they played in mud pits and made their own slip-n-slides and jumped in the lake and roasted marshmallows on fires with sticks. She played competitive hockey. She practiced Karate and Jujitsu. She rode her bike to her friend’s house, a mile away. By herself.
Did these activities carry risks? Absolutely. Calculated ones. Ones we could account for and try to control. Was I worried about her? Every day. Every time. Did I let her do these things anyway? Yes.
Am I glad I did? More than you can possibly imagine.
A friend asked me if I had any “unfinished business” with my daughter when she died. I pondered that question. Did she know every day, without doubt, that she was loved unconditionally? I know in my heart she would answer an unequivocal “yes.” Did she leave this earth, far too soon, but having actually LIVED while she was here? Yes. Yes she did. So no; there was nothing I saw in her life that I regretted for even a moment, save that I didn’t get nearly enough moments with her. If she hadn’t lived every moment of her life to the fullest, she might have been here longer. The nature of the disease is that it takes the lives of the active and the athletic faster than otherwise. But if she’d been here, safe and sheltered, for 20 years, I doubt she would LIVED more than she did in these nine.
This act of living, of raising our children, of balancing risk and reward, is not easy. And it is, I have learned in the most painful way possible, filled with uncertainty. But we owe it to our children to teach them to live like every moment is precious.
Because it is.
Keep spreading your message, Lenore. It’s the most important thing you can do. –