Can I have a few minutes?
Something sad happened today. The youngest child of two of my high school friends passed away. They posted a photo of their daughter on Facebook. The little one was in a wheelchair, smiling. Sending her off with a farewell full of both sorrow and joy.
I never met this impressive little girl, but I know my friends. Over the years they shared photos and let us get to know of their daughter’s fighting spirit and cheerful personality. I stared at the one photo today and wept. I commented with condolences, trying to be strong for these friends who have to be so heartbroken right now.
Before today’s photo, my friends posted photos of their other children posing with their sister. There was so much love, and I was hoping and praying so hard for her to pull through. It was not meant to be. I am grateful to have seen these precious last moments of her life, so full of joy and compassion and love. Her family surrounding her, cherishing their time left with her in mortality.
At this moment I’m thinking of bedtime. You know the routine: go potty, change into an overnight diaper, brush teeth, say prayers. Dadda gives you a big kiss goodnight, and I lie with you for a few minutes as you wind down for sleep.
Usually you take my hand and lead me to your toddler bed. I lie down, and you lie beside me. The soft purple and pink beams of your night light roll in a small circle on the ceiling, and Arvo Pärt’s “Spiegel im Spiegel” plays softly in the background.
We talk for a little bit. I ask about your day; I describe mine. Sometimes one of your legs rests on top of me; sometimes we hold hands.
This is my favorite part of the day.
When I try to get up, you grab my hand or hold my head down to make sure I stay with you.
A few more minutes.
A lot of people consider turning 30 years old a major milestone in their lives. This week you turned 30 months.
You’re getting taller.
You tolerate a crowd of children, but most of the time you’d rather play alone. You’ve shown this numerous times at daycare and in the church nursery.
We won’t force you to make friends. You might be a lot like me in this regard. I either reach out, or I don’t. I either reciprocate friendly gestures, or I don’t.
I hope that you become better than I am. For that to happen, I need to be better than I am.
I told you about these friends tonight, as we lay in your little bed, trying to sleep. I was blinking back tears in the darkness. I told you my friends were sad, that you would have loved their daughter. I squeezed you a little tighter, a little longer, hoping the embrace somehow would reach my friends.
As we snuggle every night, I think about this, how the time passes. I dread the moment when you’ll no longer want me lying beside you, talking about our day. You’ll hurry me out of your room instead of getting me to stay. I will yearn to find warmth and comfort in the pride I have for our wonderful daughter. Wonderful you.
This abstractness worries me. I equate it with a void of a little body beside me in a little bed. The absence of gazing through the dark at each other, eyes connecting the way only a parent and child’s can connect.
Until that moment, I will lie next to you. I will enjoy the space you occupy, the warmth you emanate, for as long as you let me.
Even if it’s just for a few more minutes.