We Live in a Constant State of Fear
Being parents of a child who has transitioned into eternity has cut deep into our lives in many ways. But today, I would like to focus on one aspect.
The midnight hour falls. Ashlee and I lie in bed wide awake, overcome by the weariness from a busy day. Neither wants to move, but we both know we won’t sleep until we do. Everyone knows how cranky my wife can get when she hasn’t had her beauty sleep. I reluctantly get out of bed to begin the night’s ritual. I walk through our dark house, tripping over Barbies, stepping on legos, and holding in expletives.
I enter the boys’ room. Switch on the light. And I stare at their chests to make sure they are breathing. Their chests rise softly, but I am unsure. My eyes could be playing tricks on me from the tiredness that weighs them down. The next step is to uncover their feet, and run a fingernail down an arch. Their foot jumps. Alive. Next room.
The girls are a little more difficult. Sometimes, they are shallow breathers. Sometimes they snore. When they snore, the whole room vibrates like a dragon’s lair, but you can never tell which one is snoring. I try to tickle their feet. No reaction. They have gotten immune to the nightly routine. I take more drastic measures. Eyelashes. My oldest daughter slaps herself in the face. I chuckle because I’m immature like that. Irritated, but alive.
I can return to bed, and wait for the next time I awake, or when Ashlee wakes me rather, that night for rounds.
A net of fear has been cast over my family. We hide it. But it’s there. It has changed how we go about our day to day. It has changed our prayer life. It has changed what freedom we give our children.
Superstition has crept it’s way in. It’s not the black cat crossed our path, bread and butter kind of stuff the older generation used to participate in.
It’s what if the one night we skip our check is the wrong night? What if we forget to check on one child? What if God woke us up at 3am to tell us to recheck, and we simply were too tired to save the life of one of our kids? We get up and check every time.
We no longer just pray with our kids to have a good night sleep. Now we always add the addendum that they wake up happy and healthy so that God is very aware that we would like them to wake up.
The children are not amused.
They’ve wised up to our task. Who wants to be tickled, or irritated in the middle of the night? The other night, Ashlee went in to check about 2am. She reached to check on our daughter who spoke up, “I’m okay, Mom” in the most irritated voice she could muster. Well… She’s okay. We get it. Let you sleep. Sorry we poked the bear.
Losing a child alters the mind. If you are someone who has not had this experience, you simply wouldn’t understand it fully. It clings to you, as it should. You child will always be a part of you. But the pain that comes with it is something you’ll go measures to never have to feel again. There are superstitious parts of my mind that won’t even allow me to say certain things here because I was always taught that speaking things into existence could make them real. Yes, I know it’s crazy. But that doesn’t change the fact that it stays in the back of my mind.
Even the harmless activities I participated in the day my daughter passed have become taboo. I’m a gamer at heart. I can’t find myself playing video games anymore. I’ve tried, but I have to turn them off. It took me years to begin watching Anime again. I’m a nerd, who has been stripped of the ability to be one. The fear of recreating the night could make it happen again is there subconsciously.
Welcome to a peak inside the mind of a bereaved father.
Not everyone is a bereaved parent, but we all have our thing. Tell me I’m not alone.