As I watched Maddie play in the water on the slide the other day, I came to an odd and rather uncomfortable realization. I have spent the past 5 years preparing for her funeral.
I watch her play and more often than I care to admit, a fleeting thought passes through my mind. “How will we describe her at her funeral? We’ll talk about how delighted she was to splash in puddles. We’ll recount some funny stories about her. We’ll say she was a ray of sunshine after the dark. We may even play some of her self-produced videos.”
It’s not that I spend a lot of time worrying about her imminent death. She’s a healthy, robust child who barely ever got sick until this past year at daycare when she was exposed to all the pesky bugs that love to breed in a room full of small children. Yes she has a heart murmur, but the doctors tell us it is very, very slight and nothing to be concerned about.
So then why am I preparing for her funeral? I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Nikki and Julie’s funerals, why Maddie?
The thing is, when you bury one child, death perches on your doorstep and you can never again live in a fantasy world that “it couldn’t happen here”. After we lost our son Matthew, we had a miscarriage. Throughout my pregnancy with Maddie, I waited for the day when the pregnancy would end. It seemed inevitable somehow.
When Maddie was born a healthy beautiful child, I thought “well, I’ll enjoy the time I have with her because it won’t last.” When the doctor discovered a heart murmur, I thought “no big surprise. I knew it wouldn’t last”. When they told us the heart murmur was so slight it was of essentially no concern, I thought “okay, then it will be something else that will take her.” I never said these things out loud, but somewhere in a hidden corner of my mind, I believed them.
I know it’s crazy and irrational, but it’s what the mind does sometimes. I don’t obsess about it, and it hasn’t made me into one of those overly-protective can’t-let-the-child-out of-my-sight parents, but it sticks with me and pops up now and then when I watch her.
I think it is the memory of Mrs. B. standing at her son’s grave that has brought this all back to me now. I wish I could banish death from my doorstep and go back to the fantasy that it could never happen here