It was one of those weeks. The ones that feel like they will never end…as early as Monday afternoon.
I’ve found that as long as one of my roles is going well – whether it’s as a mom or leader – then I can work my way through the unforeseen challenges of the other(s).
That week, something at work threw me for a loop. I was managing it, but my patience probably wasn’t what it should be. That particular morning, my son decided it was time to push mom’s buttons, because at this age, I swear they have built in radar for knowing when and how to get a reaction.
I remember thinking, let me get him to before care. He’ll get it together and end up having a good day. I’ll get my head on straight during the drive in to the office and we will reconnect over dinner.
The day did not go as planned.
There had been a fatal car crash the evening before. A phone with my number was lost in the wreckage. There was no warning as I drove up to the house that morning.
The dad, Rob, was out front. That was a first, but I smiled and said something simple like “good morning.”
I stared blankly while he explained that his wife, Lori, and oldest daughter, Maddi, were in an accident the night before. Maddi, a year older than my son, did not make it.
With my son looking on from the back seat, I held this man and sobbed with him over his loss. The little girl with the gap-toothed smile, who used to grin at me over her morning cereal, was gone. She was my son’s friend, but also part of an extended family, as they had welcomed us into theirs.
I cannot explain how meaningless the things I was worried about – just five minutes before – became.
My life quickly refocused. I could not send my son to school. I had to help him understand what had happened and begin to process his loss.
Fortunately (?) for my son and the rest of his classmates, there were only two days left until February vacation week. We were all given the opportunity to be close with our families and help the children process what had happened to their friend.
It allowed us time to remember what is most important.
We feel lucky to have known a little girl, if only for a little while, who could light up the room with her smile. Who helped my son realize that not every little girl plays quietly with dolls, and there are other kids, girls included, who love to run around and play just like him. Who bickered with him like a sibling and shared her sister with him. As an only child, he felt like one of them.
As a mother, I grieve for Lori. I can try to imagine her pain, but know it is beyond my comprehension. My heart is heavy for Carly, the little sister, who isn’t old enough to understand why Maddi is no longer here. And Rob, who must try and help his girls while processing his own grief.
Maddi was a gift to those that knew her. For my part, my gift will be to let more go…to worry less about the obstacles and daily challenges. Instead, to refocus that energy on my family. And, whether he thinks it’s cool or not, I’ll continue to sneak in every hug and kiss I can from my son for as long as I can.
The other lesson, or gift, in all of this is that the time is RIGHT NOW. Not tonight at dinner, or in a few minutes. Right now is the only moment we know we have.
Maddi’s time with us was short, but maybe if more of us can put away the petty, and focus on the joy of right now, the joy she brought to the world can live on.
If you are interested in helping Maddi’s family during this difficult time, a GoFundMe site has been established by the community.