A few months ago, a Facebook friend posted a quote that went something like this: “Enlightenment is the awareness that you must be and do only exactly what you are being and doing at this very moment.” For the life of me, I can’t remember who posted it or to whom they attributed it (and my apologies to the author, for I’ve probably bungled it, but the idea is clear). Even though I can remember nothing else about it, I’ve thought about this saying many, many times since I first read it. Before Hudson got sick, I meditated on it as I struggled with finding fulfillment in my work. But during the week we were at the hospital with Hudson, it took on a whole other meaning for me, and I repeated it to myself over and over again. As visitors came and went, as we prepared ourselves for the absolute worst, as we said goodbye to our little girl, I wondered if our friends and family were puzzled over how I wasn’t falling apart every second. I wondered if I was falling apart “enough,” falling apart at the “right times,” falling apart the “right way.” It seems crazy, I know, that one would even have room to think about such things, but somehow I did. Again, I realize now that I was more concerned myself about how the hell I was holding it together—what was wrong with me that I wasn’t falling apart every second? During these moments of self-doubt, I took a deep breath and kept reminding myself, “You must be and do only exactly what you are being and doing at this very moment.” I told myself (and thankfully I was actually aware of this) that my body was only capable of falling apart so much at one time and that its way of protecting me was to put itself on autopilot when necessary and let me fall apart when not.
I have reminded myself of this same truth many times since Hudson’s death, and it continues to bring me a great deal of comfort as I navigate a process for which there are no maps. But what Ed and I also realize now is how incredibly privileged we are to be able to be and do no more than exactly what we are being and doing right now. How many grieving parents can basically take off an entire month of work with no financial repercussions? Ed has short-term disability insurance that covers bereavement and, even more importantly, incredibly supportive and loving colleagues who are shouldering a giant’s burden during this time so that he can take as much time as he needs. Even though I had only been at my office for five months when Hudson died, and even though my colleagues barely know me, they donated enough sick leave for me to take an entire month off and are willing to donate more if I need it. Our health insurance is likely to cover every cent of a very expensive three-day stay in the PICU with only a small copayment. Dozens and dozens of friends, family members, colleagues, and even strangers made personal donations to us to cover expenses related to Hudson’s hospital stay, death, and memorial services. We are very, very fortunate and my heart aches to think of others who suffer such a terrible loss, but carry so many other burdens that they barely have room for their grief.
On top of that, we have experienced an outpouring of love and support that I remain without words to even describe, let alone express our appreciation for. Every single day since May 10, when we first took Hudson to the ER, we have received cards and notes, messages, poems, phone calls, visits, food, and so much more—every single day for more than a month.
So many people have remarked at Ed’s and my strength and grace during this unspeakable time. I said at Hudson’s memorial service in DC that if we are strong, if we are graceful, it is because we have been lifted in love every second by family, friends, and strangers. It is for that reason that we are able to be and do only exactly what we are being and doing at each moment. One Good Thing that the death of our beloved daughter has left us is a new understanding of the breadth of our good fortune and the importance of gratitude. We are so very privileged. And so very grateful.