Last night I couldn’t sleep. That’s not totally unusual. I’m a woman of a certain age— there are many things that keep me awake these days. However, last night it was the most horrible of thoughts, the darkest of the dark. Yesterday I read in our local paper that a vibrant young girl, who graduated from the high school that my kids have attended, was killed in a scooter accident overseas, over spring break this week. I knew the girl. Not well, but I knew her face, remembered her personality. She was a baby, just having started college— so much life ahead of her. She was doing something joyful and fun, with her sister and friends. She was having an adventure… All I could think, as I lay in bed last night, the dark pushing in around me, was that her parents were probably on their way to get their baby’s body, and bring her home. They were going to comfort their other daughter, who lost her sister, far far from home. All of the scariest things came in on me, and I could not close my eyes.
Any parent reading that news post would have felt something. How could we not? The cliché: It is the worst thing I could imagine, is so true. What parent doesn’t feel that way? But as I lay there, all I could think of was my son. He is on spring break in China. He’s in some adventurous place, and there is no way to reach him. All I could think of was my daughter, living so far away, each day away from our care. It scared the hell out of me, as images of those other parents raged in my head. Their pain was palpable as I lay there worrying about my boy, my girl, both of whom are so far away. I am in NO way comparing my anxiety to their pain, their loss— but I could not stop thinking about them, their horror and grief, and I could not help but send up a fervent plea that my own children are safe.
I have written plenty about missing my kids, wishing they were living closer (until they are actually living here)… but ultimately I am proud of their choices and excited for their adventures and journeys. But does that always make for peaceful nights on my pillow? No. In a logical mind space, I understand that anything could happen right here at home. I know that bad things can happen when they are near me, at their colleges, or far away; I have lived my entire life knowing that loss lives right around the corner. However, every time I shut my eyes last night, I could only imagine those parents: facing this enormous, catastrophic loss— so far from their girls.
Any parent who doesn’t say that losing a child is their greatest fear, the worst of the worst, is missing a chip. They may not all lose sleep over other parents’ losses, but we all have our demons. As another mother, how can I not read that story and look to my own children— count their toes and fingers, make sure they are sleeping soundly. Though all three are nearly grown up now, there is still no sweeter thing than seeing them asleep in their beds, chests rising and falling, that familiar smell of each of them around me. That is when I sleep soundly. In moments like last night, the fact that their beds are thousands of miles away keeps me awake. It makes my heart race and my brain skip. It makes me touch wood and try to think of of positive things to push the monsters away. Last night, I couldn’t sleep thinking of another mother’s loss. I stayed awake far too late, saying silent prayers for her, for her family, and for my own kids… so far away.
What keeps you awake at night? Do you worry about your kids, or are you good at managing those demons? Leave a comment, hit the Like—I’ll sleep better. Join me on Tales From the Motherland on Facebook.