Every so often my sister or my niece posts a picture of my nephew. It comes across my news feed, stabs my heart with a fierce bit of remembering I hadn’t expected that day. That initial fire is often followed by a soothing memory.
- I was there when he had the cupcake war.
- I heard the story of the skateboarding.
- He gave the best neck hugs, didn’t he?
Sometimes it hurts for a long while, the pain is deep and fiery and I can’t hold back the sobs of loss when it feels as though it didn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t have been that way. There is so much wrong in how and why and where he died and I hate it. The sneak-attack days of not expecting to see his face are hard, though not as hard as they used to be.
On such a day a few months ago, a friend posted a picture of her little boy climbing trees just as his grandmother did. He looks serious in the photo, staring down to the camera lens as he grasps a small branch to balance with, as though it’s his flag staking claim to Everest. This picture delights me, because before he was born, his ultrasound showed a big old tumour on his back, and no one knew how bad it would be. It was months of guessing what it could be.
Then he arrived, and only a flabby bit of skin remained where the tumour had been. Now he’s a goofy, joke-loving, life-living tree-climber.
It’s easy to be reminded of what we’ve lost. It’s easier still to feel as though we have a right to hold tight to the bitter pain of that loss, to shake our white-knuckled fists at God, forcing out the strangled words, “why me?”
It’s harder to remember that tree-climbers have to fight for joy too. How else could they pull themselves up on the branches but to let go of whatever they held so tightly? Who knows, below there might be a momma with a camera, smiling at Everest, whispering the same grateful words, “why me?”