When I was younger, I used to be afraid of dying. Not of the process of dying, but of actually being dead. I wasn’t a morbid kid or anything like that, but I definitely was aware that death was something waiting for each and every one of us at some point. I think I was most afraid of the lightbulb just going off. Of ceasing to exist. You see, I loved living and the thought that it could be over before it really began was something that I dwelled on as a kid.
My preoccupation with death ended for the most part in my physics class during my senior year of high school. We were studying Einstein’s basic premises and something he said quelled all of my fears. Energy cannot cease to exist. It can change form, but it cannot simply vanish. Whew!! What are human beings at the most basic level if not beings of pure energy? I felt much better knowing this one little thing. Well, that and the fact that since millions upon millions of people had already died, it couldn’t be that bad, right?
The next major moment that had me evaluating life and death was the creation of my son. It blew my mind that we somehow created a life. One day I wasn’t pregnant, the next day I was. Seriously, that’s crazy! I wasn’t convinced that I was actually pregnant for a while because I didn’t have any symptoms (except an aversion to coffee). As such, the first time that I saw the baby’s heartbeat was completely surreal. He was no bigger than a lima bean, but he had a heartbeat.
I’ll also never forget the first time I felt the baby move. I was sitting at my desk at work (I was 14 weeks pregnant) when if felt like someone brushed their fingertips along the inside of my belly. It was such an incredible moment and I remember having this thought – “I’ll take care of you little one, you just sit tight and don’t worry about a thing.”
Fast forward another 6 months and I was in the hospital delivery room. The labor process seemed like it was taking forever until the doctor finally said, “Ok, it’s time to push.” Then, everything seemed to speed up. I don’t remember anyone being in the room with me although I know it was full of people. I was drawn completely within myself focusing on the solitary thought that, whatever it takes, I was going to see this baby safely into the world. And I did. And there he was. All 9 lbs. 2 oz. of him wiggling in my arms. This perfect little person who didn’t exist a mere ten months ago was now here in my arms. It was like holding my whole world. It changed the way I saw everything. My fear of death now was that he would lose a mother and he needed me. I would love to live to see every milestone in his life, but it’s not about me anymore. The fact that he exists and the fact that I brought him into this world made all of my fears about the what ifs seem obsolete. Now, I am only afraid of one thing – something happening to Parker. In fact, I now know that I didn’t actually know what it was to be afraid until I had my son. His safety, his comfort and his life are the only real things that matter to me anymore.
You’re probably wondering, why all the talk of mortality? Well, I keep up with about 15 children who have cancer. I met the first mom on an online board when her little guy, Ethan, was diagnosed at 2 months old. He was born 3 weeks after Parker and he lost his fight 4 months ago at the age of 16 months. Through her, I came to know a number of the other families who are battling this disease. I found out yesterday that little Sullivan just died at 15 months old. I can’t even begin to describe how heavy my heart is right now, so I do the only thing I know how – I hug my son and send up a prayer of thanks that he’s had 21 pain-free months and a heartfelt wish that he have one thousand more.