Hold you Close Enough
Your tufts of straw-hued curls.
Your rounded cheeks still clutching traces of the toddler and infant you once were.
Your grown-up teeth, gapped and large alongside dots of baby teeth.
Your chests as they rise up and fall down, up and down, up and down with the rhythms of your breath.
Your breath, your breathing that I can see and feel and hear right now, right now when so many parents will no longer be able to see feel and hear their own children breathing.
You are breathing. You are breathing next to me, and I cannot hold you close enough, not close enough to block out all the fear and desperation I feel right now.
Not close enough to ensure, to guarantee, that I will be the recipient of that one answered prayer, that one prayer that even those who never pray might still send up to the heavens, that prayer that asks, that begs, that you and I live long, happy lives and that at the end of those long, happy lives, you outlive me.
(Please, I beg of You, let them outlive me. Let us all live long, happy lives and let them outlive me, Amen.)
Part of me wants to build walls. Part of me wants to construct concrete barriers around our home, to never let you out of my sight, to keep you safe by shielding you from all that is terrifying and monstrous in this world.
Part of me wants to hold you close, just like this, and never let you go.
Biological imperatives march through me, millennia of our species’ survival pour out of me, manifest themselves as searing, writhing human emotions.
I am not protecting offspring or preserving the survival of the species or ensuring that my genes appear in future generations I am holding my babies close, I am holding you boys close, I cannot hold you close enough, cannot hold you close enough, hold you close enough.
Somewhere right now, in a moment that is always now, because this sort of loss is not just limited to days and times and places like these, there are mothers and fathers staring into an abyss that I cannot fathom. It is the abyss that I only allow to cross my peripheral vision, the one that whispers, “When you become a parent, you open yourself to the possibility of the most immense joys and also the most immense loss and pain.”
I cannot hold you close enough. I cannot hold you close enough to silence that abyss.
To speak of hope seems unimaginable. To speak of understanding is impossible.
And yet I’m grasping for hope and understanding. We’re all grasping for hope and understanding. Because it seems the only way forward. The only way to take one foot and place it in front of other.
And I cling to you. Hug you. Kiss you. Envelop you in my arms. Not able to hold you close enough to fill my cup with hope, to eliminate the fear.
Your hearts beat, your breath deepens, the scent of your baby-shampooed hair reels me in as I press my lips to your foreheads, as I whisper three desperate “I love you’s,” as I try to hold all three of you close enough.
As I wonder why the universe is so unfair. As I hold my own broken heart up against the shattered brokenness of so many families’ hearts tonight. As I pray and pray again, “Long happy lives, lives that outlive mine, please please please please, Amen.”
As I pray for all those broken hearts.
As I pray for hope and understanding, to find it somewhere amidst the fear and anger and heartbrokenness.
As I pray for laws and policies and leaders and that are compassionate and wise.
As I pray for that oft-invoked arc to bend toward justice.
As I pray for the ability to release you from my grasp, to let you run out into the light, to send you off into the world as emissaries of compassion and wisdom and justice, to release you without being able to always protect you, because therein lies hope, as fearful and daunting as that prospect might be.
Therein lies hope.
But for now, I cannot but hold you.
For now, I will try and try and try and fail to hold you close enough.