My girlfriend’s six-and-a-half-year-old daughter was struck and killed by a minivan two weeks ago today. She had spent the afternoon at the local library checking out books with her mom and asked if she could walk the two blocks home on her own. And, honouring her daughter’s burgeoning need for freedom, her mom agreed.
She was struck and killed in that two block walk home.
The past two weeks has been heavy with grief, shock, sadness, disbelief and cold, white fear. My heart has been breaking for my girlfriend and her family. My heart has been breaking with deep and heart-wrenching sadness.
My heart has been breaking…but there is no protocol for my heart. How do I mourn the loss of a child that I did not know? How do I support a dear friend that I see once a year if I am lucky? What do I do with all this grief when I am so far on the outside of this loss but feel it as if it were my own?
The reverberation in my own family has been to tighten the rope on my three kids. Keep them close. Keep them safe. Don’t let them be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Don’t let them leave me. Ever.
Simon and I travelled from the cottage five days after the accident to attend the funeral service. As our group of high school girlfriends came together in front of the church it felt surreal and tragic. The last time we had all been together was on the 31st of May for our annual dinner gathering. That occasion was full of happiness, laughter, fun, warmth, and love.
Needless to say, this gathering felt entirely different but the deep sense of community, friendship and love was as solid as ever and we were a formidable force for our beautiful friend.
While we waited for the service to start I browsed the program and noticed no name beside the Thanksgiving for Life. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that my friend would stand up and deliver a stunning 20-minute eulogy for her daughter.
She stood before us and shared her daughter with the congregation. She shared happy memories, funny memories, and described the afternoon of the accident. She told us of her daughter’s need for freedom and independence and of the gentle loosening of the boundaries to honor that request.
She told us that her daughter died because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that she died feeling the heady freedom of a two-block-walk on her own.
My old friend reached into my breaking and bewildered heart and asked me to keep holding the faith. She asked me to honor my children’s need for freedom. She asked me to remember that my job is only ever to walk beside them on their journey and never to walk it for them. She read to me from Gibran’s The Prophet and reminded me that my job is to ‘house their bodies but not their souls.’
And so now it is time for healing. It is time to figure out how to be with a loss that is so much mine but not mine at all. It is time to move forward with the reminder of the fragility and vulnerability of human life. It is time to appreciate every moment I have with my beautiful sons.
And it is time to lean back into the fact that the moment I became a mother I also became the ‘stable bow from which my children as living arrows are sent forth’ and that I want nothing more than to bear witness to a flight that is both ‘swift and far’.
Thank you, Jilli, for your fiercely loving and courageous mother’s heart that spoke so deeply to mine. Sending all my love to you my dear friend. xo
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.” And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.