"It feels like all these beautiful pieces of life are flying around me and I'm trying to catch 'em. When my granddaughter falls asleep on my lap, I try to catch the feeling of her breathing against me. And when I make my son laugh, I try to catch the sound of him laughing, how it rolls up from his chest. But, the pieces are moving faster now and I can't catch them all. I can feel them slipping through my fingertips. And soon where there used to be my granddaughter breathing and my son laughing, there will be nothing. I know it feels like you have all the time in the world, but you don't....Catch the moments of your life. Catch them while you are young and quick. Because sooner than you know it, you will be old and slow. And there will be no more of them to catch."
- "Pilgrim Rick," This Is Us, NBC, November 11, 2016
When asked how it felt to be dying, Randall's father, William, who was dying of cancer, answered with this monologue. It shook me because it put into words a feeling I have experienced since Ben died. I think the experience can come to anyone, not just the dying. To anyone who knows death. To those who have lost or even contemplated loss. To those sensitive to the passage of time.
Before Ben, I had known death but in different ways. Grandparents who had led a fruitful life, loved, laughed, held my hand for countless years. But, never a child. Losing a child made the passage of time so important in some fundamental way I could not explain. It still makes me look at my girls in a different light. I became obsessed with the concept of time and, most importantly, its passage. I researched it from physics and spiritual perspectives. I wrote about it. But, it still keeps me awake at night. Sleep is not as it used to be. I take something to help me sleep these days, or it would never happen. But, still, upon that instant of waking -- I pause. It is a sense of anxiety, reminiscence, regret, fear, anger -- all rolled up into one. Every. Single. Morning. Without fail. For most of my day, I scurry around with work, with the kids, happy, content. But, for that instant - I pause and everything rushes in, until I take that first initial step out of bed. It is all related to the passage of time. The loss of Ben, of a child. Childhood.
I find myself grasping to capture the looks on my girls' faces when they laugh, their expression when they sleep, the rise and fall of their chest when they lay on me at night....breathing. Content. It is childhood I will miss. Each and every moment of the passing of time that I struggle to hold onto before they are too old to call me "mommy." Ben made me cherish it all. It is death's fault. Knowing death.
Cherish every moment. Hear the sound of the moments at they exist in the present. Feel them. Listen to the guttural sound of your child's laugh. That is TRUE happiness. Feel the softness of their skin as they grab your hand as you walk down the street. The sound of their voice as they call for you. Their expression when they score a soccer goal. Childhood. Life. Joy. It will all pass too quickly, united with time that flows into the future.
My youngest still likes to sleep with mommy once in awhile. I lay awake watching the rise and fall of her chest. The content look on her face. It is this which causes the pause as I awake in the morning. The pause when I realize "the pieces are moving faster now and I can't catch them all. I can feel them slipping through my fingertips. And soon where there used to be my daughter breathing...there will be nothing." Time will have passed. They will be teenagers, then adults. And...just not enough time.