Maybe it's a mom thing, but somewhere along the way I have bought into the belief that I am the axis that keeps my kids world spinning. Yep, me, I am the sole reason the clock keeps on ticking, and the sun keeps on rising and setting for my kids. Maybe it happened somewhere in the years spent lending out my womb or the countless hours spent caring for them, but I have been running this script in my mind since I can remember.
Recently the awareness of our mortality has also been on my mind. I have said goodbye to family and friends who were far too young and I am entering the years where statistically health issues are likely to arise. This combination of feeling solely responsible for my kids' well-being and the increased awareness of my impending death has been causing some anxiety in my life. Each little ache or creak I feel in my body has recently sent my mind racing straight to my eulogy and the need to write a how-to guide for whomever might step in to raise my children.
As life would have it, my youngest child has also been pondering mortality and what that means in his life. It seems that with all of my children, around nine or 10, they go through a stage where they become more aware. Whether it's a premeditated tactic for stretching out bedtime, or really just a time that they reflect, all of my kids saved the deepest conversations about this for the evening.
They were such deep questions and I struggled to give an answer.
While tucking my son into bed a few nights ago he began such a discussion. He told me he didn't want to go to sleep, because he worried that I might not wake up in the morning. He asked me, if that happened, whether our souls would find each other in heaven when he too would pass away one day. He asked me if we would remember each other, and told me that forgetting me would be the worst thing that could ever happen to him. They were such deep questions and I struggled to give an answer.
I decided instead to turn the conversation to how my grandmother was 87. I told him that I too could possibly have another 46 years. I told him I was pretty certain I wasn't going to die anytime soon, I planned to live a long life. He challenged my words, telling me that I shouldn't use "certain" — that it implied that I knew for sure, and none of us know. He was right. After a few tears and a bit more conversation he finally fell asleep.
The next morning I awoke with a pain in the centre of my chest, thoughts from the previous night weighing heavily on my mind. My own worries about mortality bubbled back to the surface. I decided to pray. I could not deal with this anxious state that I kept working myself into because of this irrational fear about the uncertainty of life.
After, I took some time in a quiet space to do some deep breathing and get myself centred again. Somewhere in the silence between my breaths it suddenly came to me, that what I was most afraid of wasn't death at all, but that life for my kids would not be OK without me. It was then that I was reminded that through all of the hard times I had faced in my own life, I was always OK. The universe worked in my favour, things unfolded how they should. Whether I was here or not, my kids would be alright. In that moment I knew that I had to let go of this idea that I hold the universe together for my kids, and I had to find faith in life again.
What I was most afraid of wasn't death at all, but that life for my kids would not be OK without me.
I am not promised tomorrow or next week, and I cannot promise my kids 40 years or 40 days. As my son reminded me, NONE of us know. But what I can do and need to do is teach them that no matter what happens, they have to have faith in life. They need to have something to hold onto when the rocky times come. Whether they find that in a relationship with God, Creator, Source or the universe — I need to teach them to have faith in something.
A good friend of mine who has a faith in God recently told me that she believes that as I have walked through life, I have not been alone. I have been held up and protected by His presence, even if I did not realize it. And even if you don't have a specific faith in God, it's all about having a faith in something bigger than ourselves, and teaching our kids to do the same. It's about having something to believe in rather than nothing at all, which is too scary of a place for me to be anymore. And so it is with hesitation, and some resistance I will resolve to trust in my heart that the universe has my back, and I will teach my kids to do the same.