I see, hear, smell, and feel a lot of things that I'd never wish to be a part of any family.
I can't tell you what it's like to see the crash cart come in for a 19-month-old boy who has lived in the hospital his entire life. CPR is a brutal activity, and it seems all the more savage when a man straddles a 21-pound boy on his hospital bed and performs chest compressions with every fiber of his being. What is it like to watch your child die and be powerless to help? How does your brain even process that? How do you breathe?
I don't know.
And I don't know how I am able to anchor these parents as they bob about in this sea where the currents are constantly changing and yet there is often no land in sight. I can't explain any of it as it's happening and I need some distance to be able to process it days later. It amazes me that in these moments I can do what I am there to do, and that's document life and love. Sometimes that's the end of life. Sometimes it's the very last breath.
What looks like the end to outsiders is a beginning. It's a new normal of living without a child. It is a string of missed milestones - simple stuff like learning to hop on one foot as well as graduating, getting married, and having a family. I'll return to them for his services, graveside and memorial. I'll return to them to tell this story all over again in albums. We will cry, hug, cry, be silent, hug, and stare into space together, because sometimes that's all that can be done.
I watched her lift her precious son to her lap. She sang to him. She told him how brave and kind and strong and loving and smart he was. She told him how happy she was the day he arrived. She whispered these secrets of love as she gently touched every part of his body.
I've held her hand more times than I can count. I've journeyed with this family for 17 months. Tomorrow we come together again to celebrate his life through stories, hugs, and songs.
Through these families and my own acquaintance with mortality I learn how to live. I learn how wholehearted connection and intentional living make a difference. That's what I stand for and that's why I'm here. I truly believe that when we make these connections regularly and muster the fortitude to live our intentions, we expand our own selves by becoming inseparable pieces of others. We leave marks and patterns. What do you want your mark to be?
I see a lot of incredible moments of the human experience while being with families in love and grief. From each family I learn, and those lessons and points to ponder are what I wish to share with you here.