Coming back in my office, I listened to the voicemail from daycare – “James had an accident… he’s ok, but…” The world stands still. The awareness that my son had been hurt, had experienced pain, had cried out and I had been elsewhere – unable to hug, comfort, and wipe tears.
It ended up being nothing too bad, but I was aware that with the smallest change in the accident, it would have been everything. One inch higher and it would have scratched the eyeball – it could have meant loss of sight, loss of parental peace and confidence, loss of life as we know it.
Driving to pick him up that afternoon, I entered that space – the space where life stands still. It is the frightening space where the Fragility of life rears its ugly head and demands that you pay attention. It’s as if you realize Fragility has been living in your house and you didn’t even see it.
Standing in that space – aware of Fragility – you wonder, how was I living unaware all these days (that is, since the last scare whether a bump on the head or an illness)? How is it that we forget that Fragility is standing there next to us all this time?
When James was a newborn, it sometimes felt like Fragility wouldn’t leave my side. It went everywhere with me. I was afraid of my own inability to protect against it and I was especially aware of others’ inability as well. It makes us cautious as new parents – skeptical of even seasoned caregivers because Fragility has taken up permanent residence in our homes.
But with time, our eyes stop noticing it as much. We forget Fragility’s presence and persistence as we live our days and our kids become stronger and more independent. It is true that to be human is to have Fragility live within us. But to live with it constantly in our face would leave us paralyzed for Fear is Fragility’s best friend. With one comes the other – often behaving as if they are middle school boys who love to egg each other on.
On that drive home, Fragility and Fear danced around in my head as if they were happy to have gotten noticed once again. But as I sought to expand my view, I noticed another force at work within me. The quiet one standing in the scene was Fragility’s other friend – Gratitude. Gratitude is the shy one in the room – the one who you have to strike up the courage to engage with but the one whose riches are endless. Gratitude is the one who calms the rambunctious and reckless Fear and grounds me. Gratitude is the one who sings to me the comforting hymn, “It is Well,” reminding me that no matter the events, one day all will be well. As Barbara Brown Taylor puts it, Gratitude teaches you how to “say thanks and mean it.”
As the scar under his eye heals, life will pick back up and I will no longer stand still. May I do my best to dwell in this space as long as I can because I know that recognizing Fragility, Fear, and Gratitude reminds me what is important. It reminds me of what it means to be human. It opens my heart to all the families who are having to wrestle with these three friends every day as their futures are tenuous. It invites me to live once again and learn to give thanks and mean it.