My hands approach the keyboard with a caution unfamiliar to them. I often write about personal things involving only me. To write about something that involves the lives of others adds a layer of responsibility that I’ve not had before. I find myself reticent. Careful. But writing is how I express myself. It is how I make sense of the world, and sometimes the horrible things that happen.
Village is a theme that has occupied my thoughts over the past few years. Prior to children, I flitted between countries, crowds, and jobs staying long enough to become disinterested. But things changed when I gave birth. While I still enjoy a good adventure, I put a higher value on friendship. Relationships. Other women. Mothers.
My village is like most: We look after one another. We celebrate birthdays, milestones, and anniversaries together. Kids of similar ages develop friendships. Motherhood is the essence that unites us. We laugh about our kids’ fussy eating habits. We cry together when they don’t fit in. We are a network of unique shared experiences. Someone knows someone who’s going through something similar. You are never alone. Even if you feel it. That’s the beauty of a village.
And so when death strikes, the pain is shared. It burrows into the hearts of all those who call that village home. Especially when it’s a child. We are left trying to make sense of misery. We cling to one another as we are forced to accept the harshest of truths: we cannot always protect our children, and not everything is in our control.
I was at a friend’s house for a playdate. Our youngest ones were playing separately, but together in the same room. Our eldest children were putting on a concert. My friend’s daughter had a red guitar with rockstar sunglasses that had an attached microphone, and she was pumping up the crowd (me) for a once-in-a-lifetime performance. My daughter was handling stage props.
Then my phone rang.
Watching a child slip away is excruciating for the mind to process. It tears at the primal part of you, a place where logic cannot abide. And it must be cataclysmic when that child is yours.
Thank god for our villages. It is the strength and support of those around us that get us through these times. I never felt more connected to humanity than at the moment I watched a woman perform CPR for over ten minutes. Or how a neighbor shored up her resolve and assigned us useful tasks while we waited for the ambulance.
I never felt more grief than when I looked at the mom. It is not her son’s body that I remember as if staring at a photograph. Instead it is her eyes that refuse to release me. They went from pleading to emptiness, and then back again. In that moment I wanted to say something that would return the smile to her face that I saw not thirty minutes prior.
I never felt more inadequate.
Another mom organized a memorial the following day. We held hands. There was a box of tissues. The mom who found him made his favorite bowl of porridge.
My village has been irreparably changed. The memorial provided the first step to recovery for some of us, but for a select few the memorial marked the beginning of a dark road. We know it will not be easy. We can never forget.
The following day the sky was cloudless. There was even a breeze. I wondered on the unfairness of it all. It felt unseemly that the heavens were not raging.
I thought of her. If she had noticed the sky.
Words still fail me.