Make time. Take time. Find time.

14 Nov

Two weeks ago, a friend’s 6 year old daughter was killed in a tragic accident. That week tragic accidents happened in lots of places around the world. That week other children died and life kept on being unfair and reality kept on being brutal. And that week, this brutal tragedy unfairly happened to my friend. But it didn’t happen to ME. My grief is nothing to her grief, to her family’s grief. My grief feels selfish and self-indulgent. My grief is useless to my friend, but I offer it. I can’t help but offer it. There is no bottom to my grieving about their grief.

I might pick up some chicken for my friend. I might bring her a coffee–she might be out viewing her daughter’s body, and thus not home. I might offer my time, my money, my embrace. I might attend her daughter’s memorial and weep from the depths of myself, bow my head and rock and keen. It’s not enough.

It can even be too much. Their house is packed with food, they’re swarmed with offers of help, I’ve heard that my friend says she’s “all hugged out.” There is nothing to do, but if I could, I would do it all, we would do it all, her community would do anything, everything. The parents of our town are rocked. Whether they know the family or not, the thought of this little child, this horrible tragedy, consumes. Friends who never met the little girl confide that they still can’t stop crying, can’t sleep, feel almost foolish in how deeply it affects them.

At one point in my life the worst things I could imagine happening all involved a violation of my own body or mind. But now the worst thing I can imagine would happen to one of my children. I don’t matter to me anymore, not like this.

I’m hugging my daughter goodnight and squeezing her tightly, holding her just a fraction too long. She interprets this gesture completely correctly and says softy, “I think you are more sad about this than me, because you’re a mom, and you’re the mom’s friend. I’m just a kid. It’s different.”

My nine year old also says, walking back from the little girl’s memorial, “A family is like a knitted sweater. And they have a piece ripped away. And all the little x stitches that hold the pieces of the sweater together are unraveling now. And now they need to try to fix the sweater, to stitch it together again. I think they can do it.”

People need lessons, and sense, and logic they can grasp, so they try to graft narratives on to this tragedy, to knit it into shape. But the death is not what holds the lesson. It was wrong, terribly wrong, and it was an accident. Random, horrible in its utter ordinariness.

When I think of this little girl and her family, I think of the trips they took together, their adventures, the experiences they made the time to share. The family meals, and the soccer games, and the early morning snuggles in bed. Every moment of that time was precious and vital, and this family embodied that knowledge. My friend’s little girl was loved and prized and cherished. What more can we offer our children than the gift of our time and attention? You don’t know how long you will share your lives together, you never know. Don’t miss it.

Standing with my friend in the park, in the sparkling bright fall sunshine, looking around at the celebration for her daughter’s life–the African drum circle, the hula hooping, the dancing, the colorful leaves and soft breeze and brilliant blue sky, the kids chasing each other around the playground and shrieking with laughter–she smiled and said, “Isn’t this beautiful? Isn’t this amazing? I want to do this every year. We should do this every year.” Yes, we should. Every year.

7 Responses to “Make time. Take time. Find time.”

  1. BananaWheels November 14, 2013 at 4:43 am #

    Devastating. I’m so sorry for their loss and can relate to your feeling of helplessness. Thank you for the reminder to appreciate every minute. I hope their family and your community can find peace and comfort in one another.

  2. Pernmoot November 14, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    So well said… ❤

  3. The Coconut Girl November 15, 2013 at 4:25 am #

    Thank you for this post. Your words bring comfort, and your daughter’s metaphor is so gentle and wise.

  4. erainbowd November 15, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    Sending some hugs to you, in a chain of hugs, the ones you’re giving, the ones you need to receive. Just a world of hugs right now. . . for everyone.

  5. Nancy Hopkins November 16, 2013 at 1:18 am #

    Miller, you have such a way with words. What a beautiful post from the heart.

  6. Naptimewriting November 16, 2013 at 6:01 am #

    Your daughter is so freaking wise. Wow.
    This? “My grief feels selfish and self-indulgent. My grief is useless to my friend, but I offer it. I can’t help but offer it. There is no bottom to my grieving about their grief.” This is how I feel about my dying friend and the friend whose kid just beat leukemia. What I have to offer is so small and stupid and unjustified and…I just don’t know where to put that sadness and “can I help?” energy.

  7. Elaine November 17, 2013 at 3:57 am #

    so true, I am one of those who does not know the family and yet i feel a mother’s bond of deep grief

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