Through her thick glasses, ever-sliding down her little nose, the four-year-old read a book quietly to herself. Pigtails slightly crooked, seated in the seventies-defining, plush green chair, she could see into the kitchen where her parents were cleaning up from dinner. Something about that moment made her ponder something beyond the typical musings of a child that age, and she began to cry. It was a quiet cry, not meant to garner attention, but carrying with it a true sadness. Her dad, noticing the tears of his carefree daughter, knelt by her side and asked why she was crying.
"I don't want you to die."
It was an honest and simple answer. She'd happened upon that moment everyone has when she realizes that, someday, she will be without the people who are the center of her world. Her dad comforted her, and assured her that he would be around for a long time. He insisted that she need not worry her little mind about such things, and they finished the rest of the story together.
As we get older, memories tend to fade, and the glimpses into our past become fewer and fewer. Details blur, and some moments disappear altogether. This memory is one that is as clear to me right now as the very day it happened. I can close my eyes and be back there in the little green ranch on the corner of that dirt road. There's a part of me that wishes I could find that old chair. In a way, it represents a a piece of the comfort and security that's gone missing from my life, and I'd love to have a seat and pretend to be back there again...just for a bit.
Children, the ones who are lucky enough to grow up with loving parents, are grounded in the security of having people who will provide an endless amount of unconditional love. I know that I relied on that security countless times throughout my life. There was that time in third grade when a boy was making fun of my glasses, and I remember thinking, "Mom and Dad love me." Those exact words went through my head, and the thought made me feel better. I fell back on that security when I was adjusting to college and being away from home for the first time, when I became a new mother, and when I suffered a miscarriage. Truth be told, that security has been an undercurrent my entire life and likely the reason I am where I am in life. That little girl knew there would come a time when she'd be without that security, and she thought it would happen when they passed away. It never occurred to her, all those years ago, that she might someday be estranged from her mother with no way to fix it, caught in a situation that would be entirely outside of her control. Of course she didn't. How could a child so young possibly imagine something so heartbreaking that her adult self struggles to understand and accept it?
I've done a great deal of healing over these last few months, but events of late have reignited the pain that began almost a year ago. Yesterday was one of the most painful days of my entire life, and the experience will be burned into my mind forever. It had to happen, and I'd do it again if I had to, but I saw and heard things I wish I could forget. In a way it feels like starting this all over again, but there's a difference this time. I know the path I need to take to heal again. It's already paved with family and friends, old and new. There's a set of directions this time. It'll undoubtedly have detours and potholes, but it's a much clearer route now.
The funny thing about growing older is that, while you start off life with one or two people who provide you with unconditional love, if you are as fortunate as that little girl in the green chair, you gather more along the way.