I have been thinking a lot about lasts the past few days. The last thing I said to my son and daughter as they left for preschool and first grade in the morning. The last time I yelled at them, which was probably a half hour before they left for school. The last joke I heard them tell, and whether or not I can remember it. The last dinner we ate together and what we talked about. The last really long cuddle, and how much I truly took in. The last time I smelled their hair after bath, which may or may not have reminded me of melons and berries. The last time I combed through my daughter’s thick curly mane, so much like mine. The last time my son did his monkey dance, which always makes me laugh, hoping I displayed and felt enough enthusiasm at seeing it again.
All these lasts, they happen all the time. We go through them every day without thought or question that we will do them again. That is what has been an anvil on my heart since I heard the news last Friday. All these motions through our lives, as days and weeks and months pass, did I pay enough attention? Did I give thanks, and enjoy it? Even the most frustrating and jaw clenching worst of it? Would I, should I find myself in the same position as these shattered families, find these memories hard to recall? And if recollection failed would I be able to rise again from the crippling despair of the knowledge that they will never happen again? The thought that these poor families could be struggling in reality with the same emotions that I am merely contemplating as what if? My heart hurts so badly for them.
I was folding clothes yesterday after cycling another never ending basket of my children’s laundry in the washer/dryer. Without thinking I held one of my son’s sweatshirts up to my face and breathed in his scent that lingers there, a delicious combination of Dominic and April freshness. That was all it took for a trigger. I looked around at my once daunting task with the horrid realization that these poor parents who have lost their little loves must have so much laundry to do. Their children’s laundry. Whether it be fresh and clean or worn with remnants of meals and art projects smeared all down the front. I sat down and wept again, my head bowed before my little-person stacked piles of his and hers outfits, thankful I still have my babies to create those aggravating grass and spaghetti stains that I so often curse.
When we sent them off to school on Monday I held on to them for much tighter and much longer than usual, as I know everyone who could, must have. Then the rest of the week happened and we were as usual running late with quick hugs and kisses, and I love you called out as we rushed them into school. All focus was aimed at moving on to the next task of the day. It wasn’t until a few hours later when the thought of potential loss hit me once more, and I was filled with regret that I did it again. We went through the motions with displays of appreciation for each other, but without active appreciation for the moment, just as we have always done. With that realization I felt like a horrible mother, an inconsiderate wife, a poor example of one who honors the memory of the lives taken and their families who have had the cataclysmic misfortune to now live life with such unfathomable loss.
How often we hear the saying, appreciate every moment, live each day like it’s your last. I have decided that I cannot live that way. For me there is too much despair in this thought that my family and I could be separated. I can’t be in that moment all the time, or often for that matter. To truly live this gift that we are still blessed to have, I need the motion of life itself.
So I am going to keep going, raising my kids, living a good life, exploring and experiencing what the world has to offer outside of our four walls, and being thankful that we are all healthy and want for little. I will take pause now and then when the moment strikes, in that instant when I notice that she has outgrown her pants, when I hear him belt out a fabulous vocabulary word that I never saw coming, when I watch them put dollars in the bucket to feed the hungry at Christmastime, a mix of sadness of its necessity and pride in watching their desire to help our fellow people grow. It is with this motion of life that in my heart I will honor them.
Rest easy, little ones and your fallen heroes.