Yesterday, I met with a bereaved person who is also a student. After about an hour of talking- about all things good, bad, and in between- she said, "You know, you aren't at all what I expected you to be."
"Really?" I said in response.
"Not at all," she firmly reiterated.
"Hmmm," I grinned, "tell me more?"
She went on to say that she'd imagined me as a "depressed type", someone who'd be morose and down-trodden given the "serious and tragic nature" of my work.
"Oh?" I said. "And now you feel differently?"
"Well, yes," she continued, "you're rather... don't take this wrong, but..." She hesitated.
There was a long pause.
"Silly, " she continued after another long pause. "Almost childlike or playful or something that I can't quite put my finger on."
"So, you're saying I'm immature?" I smiled.
She apologized, and I said there was absolutely no need as I accepted that as a compliment.
I suppose I am a little immature for my age. I do love the things children do, and I participate in these activities regularly despite the fact that my children are grown.
I love hiking barefoot. I love walking in hailstorms and getting wet (big) hair. I love playgrounds, particularly hanging upside down on the bars. Teeter-totters rule. Swings are even better. Sometimes I run in the store just because I can. I love to ride on the grocery cart downhill to my car when I'm finished shopping. I make funny faces in the mirror, and I tease my kids incessantly (much to their chagrin). I start spontaneous 'tag-you're-it-and-you-can't-catch-me-now" games walking down the street with my daughter who calls me "immature"but then plays the game with me. I have an endless supply of immature behaviors in my repertoire of existence.
I even love squishing in the mud with friends' children.
Note: At first, the beautiful four-year-old (who would later join me in the mud party) looked at me like I was mad. I could see her mind working: Uh, mom... is this okay?
Soon after, however, she realized the glory of mud between the toes and joined me on the dark side.
Back to the conversation.
"Well, yes, I am, uh, less than adult-like at times," I admitted without shame. "But I cry too. Everyday as a matter of fact. The tears are never far from the surface... I cry for my child, and for her child and for his child and for their children and for her parents and his partner and for all the hurt and misery and suffering in the world."
She looked at me quietly. "How do you feel so sad and so happy," she asked with deep sincerity.
And I said:
This is what Death gives us: the ability to realize the preciousness of every moment in the world. The preciousness and the destruction. The joy and the sorrow. The beauty and the pain. I am here ever-so-briefly. I want to live life. To live life wildly. And free. To do those things which will enrich the moment without paying mind to what others may think or say about what should and shouldn't be. To surrender to the little girl who longs to play and seek and explore and just be. To cry when tears ask for a gateway, to stand in awe at those tiny spaces of life that are so easy to walk past, to live big- not small. I want color and contrast and silence and music and all of it. And, I am not afraid of life and the pains that it brings.
The masterpiece of this place is that we can have it all, the darkness and the light, and only in that way can we be whole and complete. Remember to mourn. Remember to play.
This is the gift of my dead child. Though I'd rather have her than park swings or mud pies, this is the gift of my dead child.
And I'm kinda glad that I wasn't what that student expected.