If you belong to the world of parenthood you know what fear I speak of. As a parent we all share it. That unimaginable, totally despicable, horrendous nightmare. When we hear the stories from parents who have experienced the totally unimaginable, we all cringe a little inside. To lose a child. The very words, indeed, just the very thought of it turns my stomach and tightens my throat; threatening to cause me to vomit and choke on it all at the same time.
I can only imagine the kind of pain that would cause. I can only imagine how it would change a person. What that experience would strip from you. My kids are my life. I live and breathe them. I have no idea how parents pick up and move on after surviving that horrible, living nightmare. I'm not sure I could. I don't know if I would ever be strong enough to manage it. When I lost Gabe in that campground, when the thought entered my head I may never see him again, when that horrible nightmare was becoming reality and taking on a life of it's own...I had a little taste of what it would be like to live without your everything.
He was gone for less than two minutes, but it was the longest two minutes of my life, and it was long enough for me to watch my world crumble around me. Just as a neighbour was carrying Gabe back into the campground my panic was turning nuclear. My sister in law later stated how calm I appeared, and I can only reply that if he had been missing for a few seconds longer she would have seen someone completely lose it.
I was jogging back and forth, unsure of what direction to look in, clutching Edie to my chest, trying to match my breath to hers, trying desperately to suck air into my lungs and feeling faint nonetheless. Helpless, confused, and utterly terrified, I prayed someone, some evil someone, with intentions unknown...and yet too known...hadnt taken him. My family fanned out in every conceivable direction. My cousin Jamie shouted to look along the river bank, and he began to run to the swimming area where Gabe loved to play, just in case...in case... he had fallen in. My head jerked to the river, and my knees grew weak, "he can't swim" was all I could manage to think. A scream threatened to escape from my tightened throat, bile rose and cut off what breath I had managed to suck into my lungs. Edie cried as I crushed her body to mine. Just then, at the beginning of my panic induced collapse, a lady came walking into our campground, my son on her hip, his tears caused "by falling" she stated, but he was otherwise unharmed. I collapsed into my chair, my knees no longer strong enough to keep me upright, but he was safe and I scrubbed the panic from my mind. I scrubbed the thought of drowning or kidnapping from my thoughts because you can only live with them briefly before they rip your heart out. Every now and then I think about those few minutes he was missing and I feel that familiar panic pour through my veins and I have to shut my brain off, while forcing my thoughts on happier memories.
So why am I remembering those moments today? Why am I writing about our worst nightmare as parents? Because a woman on my blog list lost her child. She named her blog "514" today because it's been 514 days since her baby girl Maddie passed away, and because it was 514 days her child lived and graced their lives with her presence.
I can only imagine the pain she must feel daily. The sucker punches she has to endure while raising her daughter's younger sister. The moments filled with laughter and yet still tainted, always tainted with the laughter she will never hear again, with the life that should have never been lost, with that moment NO parent should ever have to endure. A living nightmare that she can never wake up from; and one which I refuse to imagine for very long, lest I drown in this sour, sticky air.