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Boys And Loss And Compassion

I originally wrote this piece over two and a half years ago on July 29, 2012.  At the time, I believed Big struggled with empathy…It turns out, not only does he NOT struggle with empathy, he may feel more than most.

A week ago today, my cousin’s wife lost her battle with breast cancer. Although, she is in heaven now, I don’t actually feel she lost at all. She fought bravely, with grace, courage and beauty. She maintained her faith throughout, and was strong for everyone else. Kathy showed us all what it means to have family and friends in our lives. She lived her life up until the very end. When I got “the phone call” the wind was knocked out of my sails to say the least. I was devastated for Chandon, auntie Mary Jo, Taylor, Taylor’s babe and Kathy’s family and friends. I cried. And cried.

The eldest has trouble with empathy. He loves his family so much that I often forget. He struggled to understand why I would be so upset. After all, we didn’t see them often. I explained my grief the best I could and went about the business of packing our bags to make the drive to say our final good byes.

On the day of the visitation, I talked again to the boys about what was not appropriate. When we arrived, Chandon was greeting people. Accepting hugs, “I love you(s),” and condolences. The eldest, of his own accord, walked up to this cowboy in his starched white shirt and “pink for gray” bracelet, who is more a brother to me than a cousin, and hugged him tight. Joe looked him in the eye and said, “I’m sorry for your loss.”. One single tear trailed down this brave cowboy’s face. He bent down to reply, but couldn’t. Later after the funeral, as we all gathered at Kathy’s sisters, Chandon said he wanted to say something to Joe, but the words were stuck in his throat.

As we were driving home yesterday from my dad’s Joe asked why there had to be cancer in the world. I said, “Baby, I just don’t know.”. My youngest babe says, “Taylor’s baby still has her grandma.”. I say, “No, baby, her grandma is in heaven.”. Chet says, “No, mama. I mean just like we all have Jesus with us always, the baby will have her grandma with her always.”. What you have to know is that we are not a particularly religious family. We (sometimes) make it to Christmas eve and maybe (ok rarely) Easter services. We tend to find God when we are with our family, or fishing, or at the beach, or in the company of our friends…Chet’s had three school years of once weekly chapel that must have really sunken in.

I’m so very proud of my boys for really grasping the important things in life. Sometimes, it takes five and a half and seven and a half year old boys to show grownups how to travel through this inevitable part of life…loss.

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You Can’t Teach That Compassion

I was telling my friend Becca a story today. It was about the WeeOne. This kid. The one with the brown eyes and lashes that will melt your soul. The one with the fiery temper who kicks walls at school when he’s had enough. He’s the most compassionate child, quite possibly ever. He has a friend at school who he knows has a lunch box because he brought it once. The other day the WeeOne said, “bring your lunch so we can sit together at the table.” Lunch box kids sit down first while the other kids get their trays. This boy, who reminds me of an eight year old version of River Phoenix in Stand By Me, tells my boy that his family doesn’t have enough money to buy food for his lunchbox and that’s why he eats school lunch. My boy. The one who has a hot head. The one who looses his cool at every PERCEIVED injustice. He’s making a list of things he wants to buy his friend for Christmas. “Because it will make both of us happy.” Yeah. Becca’s right. “Tempers can be controlled, but you can’t teach that compassion.”

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