I wanted to post my feeling on this about a week ago, but out of respect for the family and not wanting to share any information before they were ready, I decided to wait.  A little over a week ago, an aquaintance of mine lost his wife.    When I used to teach, I would see him at professional development days and teacher things, and sometimes, I’d see them at church.

A week ago, she had a massive heart attack in her sleep and died.  She was 33.  They have a daughter who’s about 7 or 8.

She was a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend.  She was young.  She was overweight. She was stressed out.  And she had a heart attack.  And died.  At 33.

I write that because in a lot of ways, she is me.

I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, and a friend.

While a little older than her (36), I am still young.

And I am overweight.  And I am stressed out.

Do you see where this is going?

That could have just as easily been me.  But for the grace of God go I, and all that.  When I heard about her death I was shocked.  I mean, I know overweight + overstressed = candidate for heart attack, but she was so young I would never have seen it coming.  I doubt she did, either.  So many questions filled my head all that day and night:

Did she wake up the morning before just like every other day?  Was she tired?  Was all that she had to do that day running through her head?  Did she go to the market?  Take her daughter to dance class?  Did she kiss her husband goodbye?

Did she put gas in her car in the cold, and comment to her gas- pumping neighbor on how cold it was?

Was she thinking about all she had to do that week?  Fretting about her ailing mother?  Did she argue with her husband?  Were they on good terms, or barely speaking?

What did she cook for dinner that night, or did they go out?  Was she feeling okay, or unusually tired?  Was her heart racing and did she attribute it to stress?  Did she think she was coming down with something?

Did she read her daughter a bedtime story?  Did she skip pages or rush through it because she was tired?  Did her daughter ask for just one more story?  A glass of water?  One more kiss?

Did she kiss her husband goodnight?  Did they make love?  Sleep with their backs to each other?  What was she thinking about as she drifted off to sleep after a full day?  Did she say her prayers?  Have a quiet time?  Or maybe just crawl into bed, exhausted, deciding that when it came to exercise/ lovemaking/ prayers/ devotions/ reading that bedtime story she’d just do it tomorrow?

All of these questions plagued me, and we’ll never know the answers.  The truth is that a lot of those questions described MY Saturday, and I thought about how much I would regret if that had been me and I could have looked back.  I would have read the extra story, hugged my kids a little tighter, kissed my husband, made time for that last prayer.  Or knowing it was a possibility,  in the days and weeks before I’d have taken more time with my kids, exercised anyway, made better eating choices, been more available for my husband, and worried less about the house/ laundry/ my to- do list.

I’ve decided that I’m going to learn from this wake up call, focus on what matters, change those things that I can for the better, and honor God with the time I have left- however long that may be.  Not just for me, not just for my kids or my husband- but to learn from and honor the life of a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, and a friend who left us too soon.

Who knew I’d be posting a part two so soon?

So, my daughter has a audition tomorrow.  She dances, and she’s a great dancer.  She’s auditioning for two shows- Aladdin and The Nutcracker, as performed by the Ballet Theater of Maryland.  This will be her first audition hosted by people who don’t know and love her.  She auditioned for the pre- professional group that she’s a part of (and must re- audition for each year), but that’s directed by her long time dance teacher.  Not that that ensured her a spot, because it didn’t- but she was a little more comfortable in the presence pf people she’s known for years.  This time it’s different.

She’ll be competing against a roomful of strangers, in front of a panel of strangers, somewhat far from home (auditions are an hour away- the shows aren’t that far, though).  I am nervous for her, and somewhat scared- all those other dancers, whose talent we know nothing about- and her in there, alone with them, being judged on her performance as compared to an unknown quantity.  My “mother’s heart” is not aching just yet- right now it is beating a hundred beats per minute, fluttering like a hummingbird’s wings, in anxiety- laced anticipation.

We just completed her performance resume, and will pick up her headshots tomorrow- they don’t need to be professional.  Good thing, because I forgot until the last minute.  But I have some good shots of her- between the dancing and the modeling in this house, I’m constantly taking headshots of my kids anyway.

Preparing the resume made it more real for both of us, and increased her level of stress so much it was almost tangible.  Once again, I played the cool, collected mom- “it’s no big deal, you’ll do great, you always do.”  Inside, I feel nothing of the sort- I KNOW she has the ability, I’m just afraid that in the presence of these other dancers and judges she’ll get nervous and freeze up.  I hope not, and that’s all I can do, because I’m not allowed to stand by and coach her, or peek in for a thumbs up, or anything- she’ll be in there, away from me, on her own, to stand on her own merits.  I know she can do it, but I’m afraid she’ll choke.  Perhaps I should have more faith, but it’s hard.

Once again, I silence that part of me that screams out to protect her from the possibility of hurt- the part that wants to tell her to just be happy taking dance classes.  And she would be happy to hear that, for as much as she wants to dance professionally, she does NOT want to audition.  Ever.  But auditions are par for the course, and something that she must get used to experiencing.  So I push her- not against her will, because if she honestly didn’t want to I probably wouldn’t force it- but I push her enough to move past the fear and into the next level of her training, even as I inwardly cringe at the thought of what could- and will- eventually happen.  I push her toward the thing that I want to protect her from, because it’s for her own good.

This is her dream, her ambition- all she’s ever really wanted to do.  I have to let her spread her wings, even if she falls the first few times before she flies.

When we wake up in the morning, it will be a whirlwind of activity to get all she needs and get her there on time.  We’ll make it, and thankfully the busyness required will keep my mind off of worrying for her- at least until we arrive.  Hopefully it will keep her from being so nervous, too.

I wonder if we’ll be having a celebratory dinner tomorrow night, or planning a consolation activity for her as well.  Or if we’ll even find out that soon- the waiting would be difficult for us both.  Luckily for me, I have an immediate distraction to help stave off my worrying- The Milkman calleth.  But I’ll keep you posted.

 

Update: Monae was selected for two roles in the Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s performance of the Nutcracker this winter.  Congrats, baby girl!

If you are a mom, you are probably familiar with this phrase.  If not, and for those of you who are not moms, I’m not referring to the heart that pumps blood through my body.  My “mother’s heart” is the one in the center of my chest and the pit of my stomach at the same time; the one that aches when your kids hurt, warms when they give you kisses, and smiles when they pick a bunch of dandelions so that you’ll have “pretty flowers”.  It’s also the one that fiercely protects when your kids are in danger, and is on alert for boo-boos, monsters under the bed, or the heartbreak of a first crush, depending on how old your kids may be.  This “heart” never gets a break either, and like the other one, needs it’s life-blood your kids- in order to survive.  When one of them is in any type of predicament- real or imagined- your “mother’s heart” immediately responds.

It’s that “heart” that I am currently doing my best to ignore- yes, I said ignore.  You see, this is one of those “imagined” moments of danger- when I say imagined, I don’t mean that the possibility for hurt does not exist, but that if that hurt should come to pass, it’s one that will ultimately help my child- in this case my oldest son- grow into the responsible man he is quickly becoming.

And it’s such an insignificant thing.

My son is a Junior Firefighter.   That’s one of the things he wants to do with his life.  In a nutshell, he receives the same training as regular firefighters (they are trained by active firefighters) only they don’t train with live fires.  But they do everything else.  Right now, he’s the sergeant of his platoon (the kids are grouped into platoons), but elections are today- he’s running for captain.

Last year, I got really nervous and “mama beary” when he decided to run for sergeant.  Not that I had any real reason to be concerned, as he’s well- liked by his peers and is very dedicated, I knew he’d be upset if he wasn’t elected.  You see, they still vote kids in to positions- understanding that sometimes having to face a defeat will not ruin you for life- in fact, it can help grow you as a person and build resilience and integrity- which stands in contrast to the current trend of “let no child feel any type of disappointment ever” (which, I think, is why as adults they are so unprepared to deal with it).  But, I digress.

He has been nervous about this for over a week, and especially this morning as we traveled to the fire station.  I cold feel his nerves, and my “mother’s heart” ached to tell him not to accept the nomination- for fear that he would be disappointed if he wasn’t chosen.  My mother’s heart knows that he will be very hurt, and very sad, and it can’t stand the thought of him being disappointed.  It wants to shelter him, to protect him from his own ambition and in some cases (gasp!) dreams, because they may be a little too ambitious, or so my mother’s heart thinks.  He might get hurt!!!

Luckily, I have lots of brothers and nephews and a husband who remind me that I’m not raising a little boy, I’m raising a future man- and I remember their words as I listen to him tell me his plans for advancement.  My son has always had a plan for his life- a path he intended to follow.  I’m not surprised, since I’ve been praying for that very thing since before he could roll over.  Every day, almost without fail, sometimes getting back up from bed when I realized I had forgotten, I would place my hands on his head, his back, his feet, and pray “Lord, please show him Your purpose for his life while he is young.  Make it plain to him; give him the boldness to walk into that purpose regardless of who understands or agrees.  Lead him the way that he should go, and help me to do whatever I can to not hinder him, but to help him to become the man you’ve created him to be.”  Everyday.  For YEARS.

So he’s a kid with plans for his life.  Sometimes I guide, and sometimes I stand back in awe.

This is a part of his path, I know.  He may not get chosen, and he might,  Either way, it’s part of the plan- a plan that he’s prepared to take risks for, I might add.  And I try to respect that, even as my “mother’s heart” is shouting at me to “put an end to all this dreaming and goal setting- what if he gets hurt??!!!!”

And I distract myself, and I shush “her” as loudly as I can, because this is something he feels he needs to do.  It’s not inappropriate or weird or anything else most moms of teenagers are concerned about.  And yes, he might get hurt- but if he does, he’ll learn to move past it.  To press on.  He’ll become stronger, and more resolved- that’s how he is.  Either way, he’ll be fine.

I’m proud of my son today, because he’s not afraid to push past his greatest fears to get what he wants.  I wish I had more of that when I was younger.  I wish I had more of it now.  I learn from him, sometimes.  He’s teaching me right now.

And so, as I quiet my “mother’s heart” for the 1,000th time today, I end this post, as it’s almost time to pick him up.  This post was part of my distraction, too.  I wonder how the elections went, wondering whether I’ll be planning a special meal to celebrate, or a special activity to help assuage the hurt.  Either way, he’ll be fine, and so will I- until next time.

Update: Mark is still sergeant; he didn’t get promoted.  He’s not nearly as upset as I am, lol.   He said he got over it really quickly, and now he knows what he needs to do to help ensure his promotion for next year- and he can’t wait to get started.  Another lesson learned (by me).