the truth we don't want to face and what to do about it
Children die. Babies die. Teenagers die. There should be nothing shocking about these statements. We live in a world where children die. If you don't see this reality then you really are not paying attention.
We love a good happy story.
A child is deathly ill and the dad does everything he can to heal his kid. He rages and fights and in the end they overcome this tragedy.
A little kid with cancer dances on her hospital bed. She is brave and strong and an angel. She gets to be cancer free.
A teenager goes for walk and encounters a dangerous situation and is saved by a fast thinking stranger.
A pregnancy is complicated and full of interventions and the child, born at 26 weeks, lives to have a full and beautiful life.
These are the stories that we share on Facebook and they perpetuate the idea that if we try hard enough, we can avoid death. Death is 3rd world problem. In this world of technology and Grey's Anatomy, everyone gets a miracle; everyone gets to live.
The worse thing is that we put death in the bad category. We make it disappear by creating a culture where death isn't acknowledged, we give little room for it to be present. Culturally we are given very few skills to deal with death. This translates to bereaved parents being avoided, miscarriages being dismissed, the death of the parent minimized and casualties a mere statistic.
Which is so messed up.
Because we are MORTAL. We all will die. Everyone you love, everyone surrounding your life will die because we are MORTAL.
We live in a world where children die.
A child is deathly ill, the father rages and fights and in the end there really is nothing they can do to avoid that child's death.
A little kid with cancer is in pain. She does not want to be there and cries and screams for everyone to leave her alone. She dies.
A teenager goes out with friends and dies in a car accident.
A pregnancy is fine and the baby never takes a breath.
These are stories that we do not want to face.
What do we do with that? How can we change the way we view life and death? How can we not perpetuate our cultures evasion of death and bridge the gap of isolation that is created by that avoidance?
The start is to be kind. Take actions that convey love, that will bring empathy instead of distance. This gives opportunity for those dealing with grief to be vulnerable and honest.
This is messy work. It is full of mistakes and missteps and that is why we don't do it. It is easy to think of all the wrong things that could happen, but if kindness and love are the motivation it is better then doing nothing.
Let me repeat that again.
Doing something with kindness and love at the center is better than doing nothing, even if it is the wrong thing.
Once more those in the back who don't believe me,
let me repeat with a few more words.
I can think of multiple examples of when people chosen to do something for our family that was less then perfect. The encounters were hurtful, uncomfortable and in lesser circumstances awkward and annoying. Even with all of that, the fact that these people chose to show up, that they reached out and were willing to take the risk in be with us during our hard days means so much more than the mistake.
Be willing to uncomfortable, reach out, give, smile, say Hello, see marginalized people, take a risk, have spare change, engage with your family, send a quick text, if you are thinking of someone let them know. Ask a bereaved parent about their child, invite them to share about their grief. Listen to the stories of the people you encounter and put yourself in their shoes.
This version of kindness is vulnerable. It takes a willingness to make mistakes and to face rejection. When this happens take a few deep breaths.
Breathe through the hurt and shame, remember why you too the risk, ask questions, learn and be humble.
And then try again because the alternative is too great a cost.
Sarah was born on the 27th of July. She came into this world with her dark brown hair and her soulful eyes. My baby girl was an enigma in so many ways. She was an old soul, entirely interested in being independent and had a sly sense of humor. Her first sentence was "Do it self" followed by many more complex ways of communicating that same sentiment again and again as she grew up. One time I had the audacity to do up her car seat instead of waiting patiently for her, which resulted in a protest that lasted the 20 minutes it took to get to our errand.
Sarah lived for time with her big sister, to play Frozen or sing silly songs with her pink guitar. She knew how to throw a temper tantrum and was well gifted in the walk away and slam the door maneuver. Sarah ended every meal with sitting in her dad's lap and wiggled at night until the moment she dropped off into sleep. She could do a puzzle in no time flat and was so excited for school and learning to write her name. She was obsessed with violins and had the perfect bow hold without being taught.
Sarah also had a quiet fierceness to her. That independence, that humor, that love and soulfulness mixed together in the best way is everything that I miss.
Sarah’s death teaches me to enjoy the little moments, to strive towards kindness, gentleness and love. I remember that these moments are gone too soon and that there is no guarantee that there will be more. I wish that on the 27th I could be spending the day being kind to Sarah and making her day special.
Instead I will be doing my best to remember her well.
So on the 27th please remember Sarah by being kind. Apply the lesson of uncertainty to your life and instead of focusing on the negative, take a day to indulge in the people around you.
If you want to share this post, or share your act of kindness feel free to tag me on Facebook or use the hashtag #sarahsdayofkindness on social media. I would love to see how you chose to honour her life.