Saturday, February 11, 2012

Our Little Time on Earth

Yesterday, a sweet little boy named Caleb passed from this world. He was seven years old. We loved him dearly.

Through Bridgette's personal challenges, we have been SO lucky to meet (and to "meet") other children and parents who have also been handed something unexpected. Many of these parents and children cope, every day, with so much more than we have ever had to.

I've cried a lot the last 24 hours.

Caleb and his family, especially his mother, touched our hearts in ways they will never know. April is the closest thing I've seen to an angel who walks among us. She was Caleb's perfect guardian.

His death has me thinking, as so often happens when these hard moments come, about how short life is for all of us and what it means to make the most of the time we have.

Making the Most of It

I had reason, earlier in my life, to think I was not going to live as long as others might. As a result, I felt an extra push to "get it done."

If I wanted to travel, then I'd better travel. If I wanted to achieve, then I'd better achieve. If I wanted that story, then I'd better go find it. I needed to talk to people, ask hard questions, sign-up for that class, attempt that sport, take that tour, unscrew those screws, eat that new food, run faster.

Do it all. Do it now. Get it done.

That attitude, I discovered, makes for intense, spontaneous experiential-living and a lot of random opportunity.

Now that I have a kiddo, as so many parents discover, I can't live for myself anymore. Not in the same way, at least.

And when you have a child with sincere challenges, suddenly, you are quite literally living for him/her-- day and night.

If you want to get on a plane and travel to __________ for the sake of your OWN experience, you can't. You have to save the desire, store it in a box, place it on a very high shelf where you can't see it and can't dwell on it, and return your focus to your child.

S/he needs you.

Their challenges become your challenges.

When Bridgette was born, of course our lives changed. And when she had surgery, our lives changed more. And when she received her first developmental evaluation, the change continued.

Now that she is active, trying to communicate, and experimenting on her own, we can only try to keep up with the change that is happening inside her.

As life changes
Whatever that change may be
Wanted or not
It's up to us to rediscover an outlook
To help us make the most of
Our little time on earth

Lessons Learned This Week

Before I heard about Caleb, I had been planning to post an entry on "lessons learned this week" with a bunch of silly mom stuff I've experienced in the last 5 days.

For example:

--Crayons were designed(!) to fit into straws.

--And you can indeed(!) paint the walls with lettuce.

With Caleb's passing, I'm not writing the same post, but my conclusions about those moments feel more poignant.


Maybe, ultimately, it's exactly those kinds of experiences that are the most important to living life to the fullest. For me. Right now.

--Discovering the diameter of a crayon. Who knew?

--Teaching myself to take a deep, calming breath when I'd rather yell.

--Figuring out how to find humor in lettuce. And in paint. At the same time.

--Giving a kiss for creativity and getting a big hug in return.

--And instead of the punishment and tears that could have happened, hearing my daughter say, "I love you, mommy," when, last month, she couldn't say four words in a row.

Now that's living!

On Experience

No one will ever live my life but me. No one will ever see out of my eyes. There are things I've seen and done, day-to-day-to-day-to-day, that no one will ever know, and frankly, I may not even consciously remember.

Letting those little things add up --the uniqueness of each moment, every observation, each bit of knowledge, every tiny experience-- shapes who I am, how I think, and what I become.

This is important, certainly, to who I am. But perhaps, and this is getting a titch philosophical, more important is what I do.

What each of us does. And how it affects others.

No matter our stage of life, we experience. Because of our experiences --good and bad-- and how we react to those experiences, we become. Who we become then affects what we do. What we do causes others around us to have their own experiences.

What a wonderful interactive cycle.

Caleb and April -- Being, Doing, Becoming

To me, Caleb was the perfect "being" while April was the perfect "doing."

Together, they were both "becoming."

Through their experiences together they were becoming something greater than either would be alone.

But what they also did, by nature of "doing," is add to my individual experience.

They added to the experience of *hundreds* and *thousands* of other people who have become better people for having known them.

Their challenges, and the way they reacted to them, have blessed people around the world.

We are grateful to them. To their whole family. To Caleb's father and brothers. To April, for inspiring us by writing Caleb's blog.

The Greatest Lesson

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned this week came from that leveling reminder that we all die. And life really is short, for everyone.

Although we cannot "carpe diem" every. single. moment. because we're only human, we CAN try to find the value of putting our wants in a box for a while to influence someone else's experiences.

We can rediscover an outlook, every day if we need too, that will help us make the most of life.

Last night, Caleb's passing reminded me to hold Bridgette closer, tighter, longer. It reminded me that my minutes with her are precious.

What a meaningful experience to have with a little time on earth.

A Note from Bridgette

Hi, April.

Thank you for letting me be one of Caleb's special buddies.



Paul said...

So poignant, Kelly. Very touching and something we all need to remember. Thanks for letting us visit tonight. We love you all very much, especially little Bridgette.

Brenda Johnson said...

Beautifully written Kelly!!! And not a dry eye here as well. Our heart goes out to little Caleb's family and our love goes out to Bridgette and her special family!! You have all (both families and the other families you are in touch with going through difficult times) done a fabulous job during difficult circumstances. You are an inspiration to us all!! I hope you both completely enjoyed flying your airplanes as much as we enjoyed Bridgette's hugs and kisses tonight!!!

Lore said...

Thank you, Kelly. Very thoughtful, lovely sentiments. I have learned much myself over the years of getting to know April and Caleb through their blog. Truly special people.

Alisha said...

Beautiful post, and what a lovely reminder that we all need to hear from time to time.

I'm always sorry to hear of the loss of a young life... well, any life for that matter. But it's never fair when a parent has to outlive a child.

My heart is with Caleb's family, and my heart is with you and your family as well Kelly. We're lucky to know you, Jeff and Bridgette! Let me know if you need to grab lunch and chat sometime... I'm always up for it :)

Amanda said...

I went to high school with April. She truly is amazing. One of those people who I'd like to be like someday.

Thank you, Kelly! That was beautiful.

April said...

Oh Kelly- I am in tears. Thank you with all of my heart for your beautiful words. They have touched me to the core- sending you a most heart felt "wink"