Tonight, I'm going to a wake. Defined, a wake is a watch kept over a person or persons who died, usually occurring the night preceding a funeral or burial.
I'll be there in support of a dear friend. His sister-in-law and nephew were crushed by a fallen tree in the middle of a dark and terrible night, when storms again brought horror to our state.
What happened is heartbreaking. This little boy was afraid of the thunder, and his sweet mom went to lay in bed with him and calm his fears. It's what any mom would do. She was holding him in her arms, loving him, telling him everything was going to be okay.
In the end, it wasn't okay. At least not for those of us left here on earth to pick up the pieces, to make sense of tragedies like this. Especially not okay for her little 2-year old left behind. Yes, while she and her son were killed, her 2-year old baby girl slept in the next room, alive and physically untouched by the tornado that destroyed her family.
I can't think of a whole lot worse than this. I have been in tears most of my days since these kind people died.
Saturday, my friend asked if I would watch his children so he and his wife could get to the funeral home to plan services. These are boys, ages 7 and 1, who had just lost their favorite auntie and cousin. The first thing the 7-year old did was come sit really, really close to me. I held him so tight, and he looked up at me with crocodile tears and said, "I miss my Auntie and my cousin." And we sat there, and we cried.
As children do, he bounced back quickly and played, then out of nowhere, he cried again. And again. And again. And again. When my friend came to pick up his kids, I asked what else I could do for him. He looked at me tearfully and said, "hug Jackson and Keene more than you normally might."
And so, after he and his children left, I did as he asked. I spent the rest of the day outside with my children, holding them more, laughing a little louder, playing a little harder, turning my head every few minutes to let the tears fall away, knowing that this day, me and mine were spared. I have no idea why. None of us do, but as mother nature often does, she reminded me that day that any one of us could go, at any minute, any time.
My son asked that night, "Mommy, why didn't the tree hit our house?" And for once, I could not answer his question.
"I don't know, Jackson," I replied.
That wasn't sufficient. He was bothered and worried. "But mommy, why?"
I simply said, "That's just not what the storm decided to do, sweetie."
Then, I quietly gave him a soft kiss, turned off the lights, and laid there holding him, calming his fears, just like another mother had done a few nights before.
I dedicate this blog post to her, her son, and her surviving 2-year old girl.