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Thoughts on Mortality

It was a lovely birthday week, even if I found it to be a bit exhausting!

I was greeted with so many birthday wishes.  I was treated to breakfast in bed by my dear husband, my coworkers decorated my office, and I received messages of love throughout the week on Facebook, via phone, via text, and a few actual birthday cards.  I received $120 in donations for the Autism Speaks walk coming up on the 29th (you can still donate if you're interested) and I'm hoping that the Lady Godiva Program and Eagle Rare Awards received lots of clicks this week.  

Thank you to everyone who made the week special. 

I suppose it was inevitable, but thoughts of mortality crept into my consciousness this week.  Of course, I thought of the terrorist attacks in the days leading up to my birthday. It seemed somewhat easier this year to "celebrate" despite the collective grief and remembrance that our country now faces every year at this time.  Maybe it was because we had crossed over that imaginary line separating "10 years" from "11 years".  There is really no rational reason why one year should make more of a difference, but I sensed a distinctive shift in tone from friends and the media.  It was a sense that although this event has not been forgotten, a collective healing has certainly taken place.  

I was touched by the thoughts Vice President Joe Biden shared on Tuesday:
"No matter how many anniversaries you experience, for at least an instant, the terror of that moment returns, the lingering moment of that phone call, the sense of total disbelief that envelops you. You feel like you're being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest...My hope for you all is that as every year passes, the depth of your pain recedes and you find comfort, as I have, genuine comfort, in recalling his smile, her laugh, their touch."

After Tuesday, I seemed to push the thoughts of grief and mortality from my mind for a while.  I busied myself with work and my various extra-curriculars, capping the week off with a visit to my godson's 2nd birthday party on Saturday.  The ride home from Roanoke sparked a discussion with Roger about (of all things) Pixar movies.  We were talking about how amazing those movies can be. To me, it's not just the beautiful animation; it's the way Pixar artists capture the human experience through characters as varied as monsters, superheroes, cars, and clown fish.  

As the conversation progressed, Roger and I recalled how so many of those memories reminded us of Charlotte.  I said to Roger, "I never really appreciated how well they captured the character of Boo [in Monsters, Inc] until Charlotte became a toddler herself.  Then I realized how they really nailed it."

"I know," Roger agreed.  "You know how you turn your back for 30 seconds and your toddler has climbed up the stairs or disappeared right before your very eyes? That's exactly the way it happens! I remember vividly the time that Charlotte climbed the stairs without my knowledge.  One minute she was downstairs and the next minute I was scrambling upstairs to catch her. I was so scared that she would get hurt."

We were both silent for a few minutes and then, almost simultaneously, we said, "It's hard to believe that at that point, that was the worst thing that could ever happen to us."

That's when it hit me again.  That sneaky thing called grief.  That horrible reality that something as random as a lightning strike could hit our home and change our lives so dramatically in just one short year.  

While we were on the Pixar kick, we made the trek to the movie theater today to see Finding Nemo in 3D. I love that movie and I have seen it dozens of times but seeing it in 3D was beautiful and magical. You would think that after so many viewings, I would be immune to any emotion.  That one line gets me every time, though: "I'm not going to let anything bad happen to you."

Those are the words that we think as parents. We think we can protect our children from harm. We feed them the right foods and put up all the safety equipment. We screen the nannies and grill the boyfriends before the first date. We put extra safety features in our cars. We enroll them in the right schools. Sometimes all the protective measures work. When that happens, we are grateful.  On the other hand, even when you try your hardest, sometimes you lose your child.  

There is a quote that I use in the opening chapter of Four Seasons for Charlotte: "Making the decision to have a to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."  That alone accentuates our mortality.  

I am blessed with another year. Above all, I hope that I use it to help others and celebrate the life I've been given. Every day is a bonus.   

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