Today we got the news that my daughter Sunshine’s classmate has died. I know… it is a tough way to start a blog. My wife called me at work to let me know. The school that Sunshine attends will often make contact with parents when fellow students pass away. Unfortunately, Sunshine’s school has a high mortality rate, especially when compared with mainstream schools. All the kids in her class are medically complex and vulnerable – as is she.
When my wife began sharing with me over the phone, I felt the air get thinner as I gasped for more oxygen to fill the vacant cavities in my lungs like a fish strewn on the banks of a dusty riverbed. This death will cause a mini earthquake to erupt under the earth’s ocean sending ripples of fear to unsuspecting shores. Aftershocks will bully tender parents into thinking they are next. Brutal, unrelenting and strangely slow is the creep of lava indiscriminately ploughing through lush green fields of hope leaving a deep open wound exposed and scarred – life is hazardous but these days I think that is normal.
When I was a kid I moved many times. For a few years I tried not making friends because I thought it might be easier than saying goodbye. I soon learnt that loneliness was far more difficult to live with than the heartache of a bon-voyage. It reminds me of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s words, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” These words pre-empt a painful ending and flirt with catastrophic thinking, but it says something about how life works even though we fight against that truth daily.
Several times over the years I met the child who has now passed away. I liked him, my daughter Sunshine did too. His big soul didn’t fit in his little body anymore; he finally escaped the disease he was shackled to. Those around him didn’t have to think twice about giving love, it was reflexive – a compulsion. Now those who were closest will pay the highest price, but if asked I am sure they would have it no other way and count it a privilege.
“You are free to run now little man. No need to concentrate on drawing enough air into your lungs. Run for as long as you like and laugh out loud.”
Loving someone costs something every time. There is no free pass. The more we love the more it hurts when death demands its rent like an impatient landlord. The only difference is there are no deals to be made like a landlord might consider – when it’s time, it is time. When someone you love passes away they don’t return the love you invested into them, they don’t give back your generous expression, they take your love with them into eternity – that is why it hurts, a part of you leaves and if your love was of the unique kind, it may debilitate you more, maybe permanently. Real love is expensive.
Still it is better to love deeply with abandon than to live with the belief that you can be happier without pain. If you strive to live without pain, you’ll inevitably live without love. Love is worth every last tear, it is worth every precious minute, it is worth every wound. Each love scar should be worn as a trophy, a tattoo, a tribal insignia declaring you are forever connected. It is the price of affection.