My nephew Tyler and I were getting an afternoon snack out of the fridge. Ty stood in the open fridge, resting one foot on the shelf inside and as I turned my back on him to get something out of the cabinet I told him, "Ty - don't put your foot up there." As I'm searching through cabinet for the crackers he wanted, he let go of the fridge door before he had removed his foot and ended up getting it closed in the door. As I'm sitting on the floor with him, rocking him back and forth in my lap, I tell him that it's going to be okay. I run my hands through his hair and kiss the top of his head. At this point, he's screaming for Dana (my older sister), wanting her to hold him. As Dana comes over to see what's going on, Tyler looks up at me with tears filling his eyes and begs me, "I don't wanna die!"
That knocked the wind out of me for a second. This little boy was in no way on death bed, not even close. But he was so terrified of it and it broke my heart. I knew that feeling. I knew just how overwhelming the fear of death can be and even though I knew he wasn't even close to dying, I wanted to wrap my arms around him as tight as they could and absorb all of his fear and pain. All he had was a cut on his toe - I at least knew Tyler wasn't going to die... my mom didn't have the reassurance with some of my siblings and I.
For a brief moment I realized just how painful it must be for my mom and so many other parents out there, hearing their medically fragile kids crying in pain and fear and not having anything they can do about it. Tyler was over it within twenty minutes and back to running around the backyard, no problem. But my mom and tons of other parents out there - they don't get that type of quick recovery or reassurance. Their kids' fears of death are very real and they share that fear with them. They hand over their crying children to surgeons as we beg them "don't let us die." The guilt they must feel. The helplessness. And to top it all off - they are trying to cope with their fears while remaining strong for us...
So to my mom and all the other parents out there who have sat by their child's hospital bed and reassured them during the fearful tears - thank you. I don't "get it", but for a brief moment I had a glimpse into the gut twisting feelings you must go through every time we confide in you about our fears of death... knowing there is virtually nothing you can do. Thank you, from myself and on behalf of your kids, for staying as strong as you do and reassuring us - even when you aren't so sure yourself.
Hope and Love,