I thought I would share this “gift of experience” with you today — something I know many of you child-loss parents have experienced in your own ways. It is an excerpt from my book, Star Child: A Mother’s Journey through Grief.
The quote that opens this chapter is from Maria Housden, author of Hannah’s Gift: Lessons from a Life Fully Lived. Maria lost her three-year-old daughter, Hannah to cancer. In her book, Maria shares the transformative lessons in living she received from Hannah, who brought courage, honesty, and joy to her struggle with cancer. I remember when I finished reading Hannah’s Gift, It made me want to lead a better life in honor of Hannah. An extraordinary book for everyone, not just those who have lost a child.
“The truest measure of a life is not its length but the fullness in which it is lived.”
Hannah’s Gift: Lessons from a Life Fully Lived
I am the one who cherishes your children—their cries, their laughter, the sweetness of their hugs or blown kisses. My awareness has been expanded. I know the gift you hold in your arms, only because of the ones I have relinquished. I know how precious are these little lives.
It’s August in Texas, and I’m seated at a table at Cheezy Jane’s Restaurant with my husband. The lunch crowd is ordering hamburgers and malts, bean and cheese nachos, grilled chicken salads, and soda fountain drinks. A miniature train glides soundlessly overhead, going around and around on a suspended ceiling track.
I saw you when you walked in, your little girl holding your hand, her blond ringlets peeking from beneath her petal-shaped sun hat. She looks about three. Your two handsome sons, probably ages six and eight, with their buzzed summer haircuts, follow you to a table next to mine.
Your sons have your soft gray eyes. They call you Mommy and ask you a hundred questions, one after another. The oldest boy asks you how old he and his brother will be when you turn fifty, fifty-five, and then sixty.
You laugh and say, “That’s a long time from now.”
The children busy themselves, coloring and drawing with paper and crayons the waitress has brought them. Your little girl squats on the chair, her bare feet flat on the red vinyl seat; her tiny pink flip-flops have silently tumbled to the floor. On her paper, she draws you a heart. You tell her to color it red. You smile tenderly at her, brush back a lock of hair from her face.
Shortly afterward, my husband and I get up to leave the restaurant, and I think about stopping briefly at your table to tell you how lovely your children are, remind you of how lucky and blessed you are. But I decide against it.
I think you know just how lucky and blessed you are. I saw it in your eyes when you brushed back your daughter’s hair from her angelic face.