Writers seek throughlines. Coaches seek potential. Athletes (& humans really) often seek perfection. I am all of these things. But since July 28, 2000, my deepest sense of connection is being a parent. I’ve never been more connected to a calling or felt a greater sense of purpose in my life, I guess that’s how I ended up with four of them. Whether it was a 3am feeding, getting down on their level to look at a little face, or the joy I feel watching them discover who they are, I have always sought their presence. All of these identities have collided in my mind as I try to understand the reality of the tragedy that occurred at Stanford this week. I didn’t know Katie, and I know I can’t make anything better, or create any comfort for people I don’t even know. I find myself unable to concentrate except to seek the throughline, to mourn the loss of potential, and to say that there is no perfection expected or possible when it comes to ourselves or our kids. We just need their presence. I can’t imagine life without them and what the Meyer family, Katie's friends, and her entire community have been left to grieve leaves me with the greatest sense of despair and emptiness.
All week I’ve been journaling about women, because they have shown up for me in ways big and small since my surgery three weeks ago. We are a force to be reckoned with, and at the same time, are so hard on ourselves. Even together, with a sense of a sisterhood, or a team, we can feel so alone. So many of us are challenged when it comes to asking for help; we feel we need to put on a brave face and be strong on our own. I think we are afraid to need each other. After surgery, I’ve needed help for the simple things, and at this stage of the game, I've finally gotten a little better at asking…and the women have come out of the woodwork. I'm sure Katie was like these women. They've been there to lend a hand with everything from a ride, to a meal, to laundry, to taking Matthew’s stitches out of his hand.
Yes, he managed to crash on his skateboard three days after my surgery and wind up with seven stitches and a compressed L1/L2 in his back. He scared the heck out of me to the point that I wasn’t even ready to talk about it last week. It made me feel fragile in a way I hadn’t felt in a long time, since he was little and I couldn’t let him out of my sight after his near drowning accident. Over the last twelve years since we almost lost him, I have battled with how to let him go out and experience life in the way that is necessary to build confidence and independence instead of giving in to the neurotic feeling that exhausted me because no matter what I did, I knew that I could not control enough to guarantee his safety. As parents, we never can. On the surface, life often looks harder for him than it does for my other three. School and socialization are harder and it is an achilles heel to cater more to him because from the world’s perspective he seems to struggle more. But the pressures that our kids put on themselves at the ‘top’, where internal battles are hidden under their more hearty exteriors and grace under fire ways, or the amazing wins that we all love to celebrate, are extreme. How do we know what is too much? What I know is that over a lifetime the high highs are not what bring us through but instead, the simplest forms of human connection that ground us in our inevitable moments of uncertainty, sadness, fear, or grief so that we can see another sunrise.
Life is full of questions that we never know the answers to. I am certain that the question of how a life is cut too short is one that will never leave us. The only throughline I can find is that we need each other to understand our beauty and our struggle and connect anyway. We have to tell people we love them, and help each other see a way through when we can’t find it on our own. We have to show that we are that one call that says you matter too much and the end isn't near.
I wanted to come up with an answer…the age of social media, the isolation that we have experienced, or the achievement that may seem to be a birthright for lights that shine so bright on earth, but the writer in me can’t come up with one. Every week I write to gain perspective and to connect with the younger generation to pass on whatever wisdom I’ve uncovered along my journey. But today the only thing that comes through is that we need to love and lean on each other when fear creeps in and the struggle is too much to shoulder alone. For Katie the struggle is over, but I can feel her strength is still here. I hope and pray that God’s grace covers her friends and family in the softest golden light and that they can always feel her strong presence…because as parents, from the moment any of you are born, that is all we ever need.
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