I know that the majority of my posts are devoted to the humorous side of portraying parental life; this isn’t one of them. I debated writing this post, because it feels unbearably heavy, and I know that for some, it’ll feel too morose. But one of the goals of writing my blog is not just to make you laugh, but to be REAL. I want to share various aspects of what it’s like -at least for me- to be a parent. And this topic is one of those excruciating realities.
I noticed that after my first daughter was born, news stories began to affect me in ways that they hadn’t before. Call it ignorant, or self-centered, or maybe oblivious? But after my daughter was born, any story involving a child or baby was suddenly heart-breaking in a way that I couldn’t have imagined. Any story of a child’s abduction, or suffering, was immediately painful to read. It had gotten to the point where I tried to avoid combing the daily news stories, because I didn’t want to dwell on things I couldn’t control. That intensity faded over time.
Cue to this week:
I caught a headline on my social media a few days ago, about a missing 2 year old. Noah Chamberlin. It’s hard to type his name. He had gone on a nature walk with his grandmother and big sister, and in a single moment, had wandered off and disappeared.
Once I read the story, I was consumed by it. Accompanying every update or story was a picture of the beautiful little boy. He had been missing for a week yesterday, with Tennessee search crews frantically combing every area of their search grid for him.
He was finally found yesterday afternoon. He had passed away, and was found lying in a clearing just outside the search grid. No foul play; it was just a tragic accident. Even the police crew who spoke at the press conference about finding him were in tears.
Hard to read, right?
When I read the update, I didn’t just cry- I bawled. I wept. I cried harder than I have in a long time, alone in my car.
This is the part about being a parent that we don’t like to dwell on, that we try not to think about. But this is one of those stories that dug its way deep inside me. I’m writing about it to get it out, because it was one of those moments as a parent that you just feel so much.
Because you know that it’s every parent’s nightmare. Losing a child is every parent’s greatest fear. And as a mom, you hear of such a thing, and you immediately connect to it, because you know the love that you feel for your child is so strong, so possessive, that you cannot even fathom -or want to fathom- being in those shoes.
Maybe it’s because there are similarities between Noah and my own #6. Noah was described as a lively, active, runner. Lightning speed, always on the go, a joyful, speedy two year old boy- just like my own speedy, impish 2 year old.
This is the part about parenting that is the silent, messy, unspoken, part.
Of course these stories usually have that effect. You hear of them, dwell for a moment on the parents, pity them, hug your own child, and then… life goes on. For YOU. Because you can’t even imagine such a thing, and more importantly, you don’t want to.
Part of why I wanted to share this story is because it IS horrible. It’s uncomfortable to read. It’s something no wants to think about. We want to steer clear of tragedy, because the world can seem dark enough without choosing to dwell on it.
THAT’S what it’s like to love another human being so much. To be a parent truly does mean wearing your heart outside of your own body, in the form of the tiny (and eventually, not-so-tiny) person that you’ve been entrusted to care for. And sometimes, it makes you feel more than you ever expected to feel.
As a mother, my heart broke for Noah’s mother. My heart hurts for Noah’s big sister. And his Dad. And everyone who loved him. And I wanted people to stop -if you’ve been brave enough to stick with me this far- pause for a moment, and feel it, too.
Why this child? Of course, there are countless tragedies like this, or worse, that happen every day. I know this. But for some reason, this story resonated in my heart. Maybe because he was two years old. Maybe because the headline caught my eye at a vulnerable time. Maybe because I wrestled with own faith over it, in knowing that regardless of our faith, sometimes things don’t end in the happy, miraculous way we want or need them to. Tragedies like this remind us that even with faith, we can still experience loss so devastating that it takes our breath away.
The outpouring of kind words and honest sorrow for his family from all over the country illustrates the very best parts of us as human beings. His family was so genuinely touched by the way that the search for Noah brought the community together, and how many people offered help, love and support for a child and family that they’d never even met. People have already described how they’ve seen in this tragedy their need to love more, to stop forgetting how precious life is.
I think in my humdrum, chaotic, flu-ridden last few weeks, I’ve forgotten how precious life is. So maybe that’s my intention; to pause and acknowledge a precious little boy that I’ve never met for reminding me to love my own precious boys and girls.
And for the reminder that my tired heart still cares about mothers I’ve never met who hurt in ways I hope to never experience. It reminded me to FEEL instead of going through the motions in life.
No, being appreciative of your own blessing(s) doesn’t make this tragedy any “better”. No, it doesn’t make sense, and it never will, in the here and now. But I wanted to share this to in some way honor this little boy that touched my heart to its core.
In honor of Noah Chamberlin.
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