A Difficult Question to Answer

Aug 12, 2009

My life is full of questions. Not ones that I am asking, but rather, ones that I am being asked.

My two oldest children are the biggest “offenders” - constantly berating me with things like, “Mommy, what would you do if I lost my glasses?” or “Mommy, what time will we get home?” or, my personal favorite, “Mommy, why do I have to go to sleep and you don’t?” I try to tune out the never-ending chatter as much as possible, but for the most part, the little people in my life seem to expect a response. So, I have come up with some standard answers.

“I’d be very upset.”

“In 10 minutes.”

“Because I’m the Mommy.” (Gosh, I never thought I’d actually ever say that!)

The other day, though, my daughter asked me a question that could not be resolved with any of my usual replies.

We were in a store parking lot and I was trying to, quickly, in 105 degree heat, load all the kids in the car.

Suddenly, my daughter, Jordan, said, right before jumping into the backseat, “Mommy, what would you do if a car came around the corner and killed me, Bennett and Maclain?”

My first instinct was to say, “Are you crazy? What kind of question is that?”

Instead, though, I paused in the process of strapping in the baby and took a moment to think of how to respond.

“I’d cry forever” is what I’d said.

Jordan seemed satisfied with my answer, got into her seat and was singing along to Hannah Montana in a matter of minutes.

I, however, couldn’t get the question out of my mind.

Because, though I had answered her correctly, I recognized that I had not answered her fully.

What would I do if I lost all of my babies? Or, Heaven forbid, even one. How do you answer a question that conjures up the most horrible image you could ever conceive?

I could have told her that I would die along with them. I could have said that nothing in my life – not my job or my friendships or even my marriage – would mean a thing if those little faces were no longer in this world. I could have told her that without her and her brothers, there would be no life left to live.

But, along with all those horrible thoughts, I also had to wonder, “How did my life come to this?” And, by that I mean, less than seven years ago, I didn’t even know my daughter, let alone either of my sons. I have furniture that’s been around longer than they have. And yet, in such a short period of time, she and those little boys in the backseat have become the most important components of my life. When did that happen? Was it the moment they handed them to me in the operating room, all swollen and swaddled, or did that kind of emotion and love develop over time?

I wish I had an answer for that. Yet, it eludes me. What I do know is this. Every day, I hear stories, on the news or on the internet, about people who have died. Each morning, I think the sadness in the world could not possibly get worse, and yet, somehow each day it does.

The tragedies that everyone seems to think are the saddest, though, are the ones where a child is involved. And, I’m not arguing with that. I can’t imagine, as we have well determined, what it would be like to lose any of my kids.

But, on occasion, I will hear a story about an adult who passes away, and they mention that the person leaves behind a mom or a dad. Suddenly, my heart breaks for those parents. Because, though I know it would devastate me to lose my children now, I also know how, with every day that passes, I love them more and more. When Jordan is thirty-five, or either of the boys are in their twenties, how much deeper will my love be for them? How much more would it hurt to have to say good-bye at that point? How much more of my heart will belong to them? I have friends who have faced this situation – lost a child. Some have lost their only child. I don’t know how they’ve coped. I pray I never have to find out.

“I love you, Jordan,” I call out over the music in the car.

“What?” she yells back.

I turn down the music.

“‘I love you,” I tell her again.

“Oh. I love you, too,” she says. “Mommy?”


“What time will we be home?”

I have to smile. For, this is a question I am equipped to answer.

“In 10 minutes, sweetie. In 10 minutes.”


kanyixin said...

Aww, how sweet!
My son sometimes would tell me that he loves me more than I love him because he's known me his whole life and I've only known him for part of my life.

Kelly Seiler said...

That's pretty good reasoning on his part! :-)

Natalie said...

Great post. Took a tough one and still made me smile. :)

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