The elevator doors opened and two nurses rolled a young man in a wheelchair into the parking garage. A brain or neurological condition had contorted his muscles into painful-looking kinks. My kids stepped back to give them room, and then stepped into the elevator without batting an eye. No questions, no pointing, no fear. I thought I glimpsed a spark of recognition in their eyes.
I’m torn between sorrow that they are so used to the brokenness in our world, especially in the bodies of children, and thankfulness that they are used to it. My kids are very matter-of-fact about things many children don’t even know exist, like brain injuries, heart surgery, funerals, and cemeteries.
Last night, my four-year-old son told an acquaintance of mine, “We used to have six kids in our family, but my sister Elli died.” I wish I could be that open every day. Some days I don’t want to talk about it, to admit it out loud. I guess we never quite outgrow the denial phase.
Every one of our family is haunted by fear. We know death intimately and its habit of surprise. As I expected, the kids have worked through the death of their sister in phases, as they’ve understood more and more, or grown to ask different questions. I see it in their eyes when they catch a cold or cut themselves or need dental work or walk into a room with lots of medical equipment, like we did yesterday. The youngest had a checkup at the hospital, and one of his tests was in an exam room prepared with everything for a patient from the ICU. I saw the panic in my daughter’s eyes as she took in the ventilator, monitors, i.v. pumps, racks of medications and syringes and lines, and rows of med labels.
“Mom, does my brother need all that?” she asked, holding on to me tightly.
“No, honey. They have those things for other children, but your brother doesn’t need any of it. They will just use that one computer over there.” I hugged her.
She relaxed a little when the technician entered the room, pushed all the unneeded equipment against the wall, and sat down at the computer I had pointed out.
I am thankful that so far, my kids are fairly open about their questions. I am thankful that we can be with them to guide them through the emotions and fears and processing they are doing now, especially since Scott and I are so familiar with it all ourselves. But a part of me still weeps at the loss of our innocence.
On Wednesdays I host the Life:Unmasked meme, where we dare to take off our masks, write naked, and share the real us. The instructions are simple: include a link back to this post in your post (you can use this short link: http://wp.me/p2n5xv-xQ ). Copy the direct link to your post into the linky below. Then visit a couple others and leave a comment to let them know you stopped by. I will do my best to do the same.