I just want to thank everyone again, just for being here and reading, and also for all the incredibly thoughtful and supportive comments over the last several days. I can’t tell you how much it helps for people to remind me of the things I know in my heart, especially when those things are getting overshadowed by the grief—in particular, that Hudson knew every second of her life that she was loved and that I did everything I could ever possibly have done for her, both before she got sick and after. I’ve been suffering through a period where I’ve felt as bad as I have since late summer—and that is hard, because I want so badly to believe that the grief lessens over time (because how can it ever feel as bad as this again?), only to be smacked in the face with the reality that it is entirely non-linear and unpredictable and will be that way forever. Forever. And it’s on those days that hearing from you helps so much.
I want to write today about something I’ve thought a lot about since the first time I invited people in to witness this terrible journey, which, really, was back when I first posted on Facebook about Hudson being seriously ill. Since then, and particularly since I started writing here, so many people have told me how strong they think I am, how brave they think I’ve been, how well they think I’m handling this, that they would have crawled under a rock and never come out. I won’t argue on these points, but I will just say that from my perspective, I don’t feel particularly “strong.” It’s not that I feel weak—I just feel like this is what it is and I’m just going along the best-- no, the only-- way I know how. A Facebook friend posted a quote awhile back that has continued to resonate with me every single day: “You don’t know how strong you can be until being strong is your only choice.” I heard a similar quote in a movie recently, where a character said, “You don’t know what you can do until you have to.”
I remember when my mom was first diagnosed with terminal cancer, I kept saying, “I can’t watch her die. I can’t watch her die.” I just didn’t think I could do it. And yet I did. Not only did I watch her die, but I helped her do it peacefully, helping my dad and sister take care of her for the final weeks of her life, doing things I never dreamed I was capable of: changing her diapers, dressing her sores, giving her suppositories, telling her it was OK to leave us, holding her hand as she took her last breaths. How did I do this? I still wonder the same thing myself. Just like I wonder how I sat through a discussion where I learned that my child would either not survive this illness or would be disabled for life. Or how I sat and watched them disconnect all the machines that were keeping her alive and then held her while she died. Or how I have continued to get out of bed every day for the last six months. I really have no idea how I did all this. How I am doing this. But you just do what you have to do. And that is all that I am doing now. Because it is all I know how to do.
But with that preface, the point I really wanted to make today is that not everyone has to be this “strong.” Hopefully no one I know will ever have to be this “strong” (and I’m using quotation marks because, again, I don’t necessarily think this is strength—it just IS). Hopefully no one I know will ever have to do what I am being forced to do now.
Another message that I hear so often from so many readers is how much our story has changed the way they look at their lives and their relationships with their children—for that, I am incredibly grateful. As I’ve said more times than I can count, the fact that Hudson’s life can continue to have that kind of meaning and that kind of impact on the world is the only thing that brings me any consolation whatsoever. It brings at least an iota of meaning to something that seems otherwise totally meaningless and senseless. But I’ve also worried sometimes when I’ve read comments and private messages that some people feel what seems to me to be guilt. Some of that guilt is just natural, I know, especially that their children are alive while my child is not. I know it is about as impossible for me to tell those people not to feel that kind of guilt as it is impossible for me not to feel resentful and jealous of them at times. It is in our nature. But the last thing I would ever want is for anyone to feel guilty for feeling frustrated or overwhelmed or short-tempered with their children, or for complaining every once in a while. At least, please don’t feel that way because of Hudson and me.
I’m glad that Hudson’s story helps people have some perspective about how they interact with their kids and really, how they live their lives in general. Life is too short and it is very precious. And we should cherish what is. But life is also life. Things that are going on in your life may be hard. Then you may compare it to what’s going on in my life and think what you’re going through is not so hard. But if it’s hard to you, then it is hard. A healthy dose of perspective is great, but it is perspective. And it is relative. If Hudson were here, and I were dealing with the frustrations of potty training and picky eating and regressions in sleep habits and all the other really hard things about raising an independent-minded toddler, I’m quite sure that I would have really hard days, too. And I might complain a little or at least express some frustration. It is only because I’ve had to go through this unimaginable thing that I can look around me and go, “OK, well, the rest of this is really not that hard.” But not everyone has to be this “strong.” It is OK to have a hard day and to feel like it’s a hard day for you. I would never want anyone to downplay real feelings because they feel like they don’t have it as rough as I do.
I guess I am just saying (rather inartfully, I’m afraid) that I don’t want anyone who knows me or who reads here to ever get so caught up in trying to cherish every moment that you forget to actually do it.
Thanks again for the last several days. I really needed it.