Last night I cried my eyes out while reading to the kids. We were nearing the end of our book, a story about a happy family with six rollicking kids. It was a safe story, I thought, cute and well-written.
And then the little brother crashed his bike, severed his brain stem, and died.
I cried for two and a half chapters. What I really wanted to do was to put the book down, go to my room, and bawl my eyes out. Instead, I persevered, voice tight, tears streaming down my face, nose running, long pauses, the works.
My older daughter listened with her head pressed into my arm, her shoulders heaving. My younger daughter, curled up on the chair, cried with her hands over her face. My littlest kept whimpering, “I don’t want to read this book anymore, Mama.” And my oldest repeatedly offered to take over the reading. At one point he suggested we read something funny. “How about Matilda?”
Losing one of my babies is my worst fear, my deepest heart pain. Just one thought of one of them not growing up is enough to make my eyes start watering. I can’t go there.
But then I did. With no warning, I plunged right into a grief so profound I can’t even imagine it, and the breath was sucked right out of me. It was awful and ridiculous.
I feel like I’d for sure shatter into a trillion little bits if one of my children died, but I know better. I would keep going. And so I plowed through the pages, reading about the uncle who told the oldest brother that there was nothing wrong with him for not crying. It’s like each of us has just been handed a steaming bowl of sorrow, the uncle said. Some of us start eating it right away, but others wait till it cools a bit before digging in. Either way, everyone has to eat what’s in their bowl.
I read through to the very end, even though it was more than I normally read—there was no way I wanted to extend the agony.
But even after the kids were in bed, I couldn’t shake the achy sad.
It was a good book, though.