The world is on fire.
Nothing seems real, nothing seems good. As I was watching news coverage of the events that took place yesterday in Washington D.C. I had one thought- protect her.
My daughter was only 4 years old when her dad was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer. She was 6 when he died. She watched him fight for his life and watched him go from the biggest, strongest man we knew to a shell of himself.
The thing I agonized the most over was how I had protected her from all the bad and scary of the world up until that point, but I couldn’t protect her from the one thing that would crush her heart and threaten her future forever. I couldn’t save him from cancer, and I couldn’t save her from the pain of losing him. I had kept her in a safe bubble for 4 years. She didn’t even really understand that people died at that point. Maybe I didn’t prepare her for the real world soon enough, but I wish I could put her back in that safe bubble forever and spare her the heartache and trauma. It’s something that I struggle with daily now.
When she got home from school, all news coverage was silenced and replaced by cartoons. We cuddled on the couch. We laughed until we almost cried. I didn’t utter a word of what happened, because at 7 years old she cannot process what happened clearly if we as adults cannot process what happened clearly. She knows the world is bad. She witnessed it firsthand when cancer took her dad. She doesn’t need a daily reminder of it.
I urge you to be your children’s safe space. Be their home. Protect their hearts and souls from 24/7 news coverage. Raising a child who has suffered from complex trauma is hard. Protect them at all costs, even if it means looking away during their waking hours. They don’t need it in their lives. We don’t need it in our lives. Let them be little. Let them be innocent.
One of the hardest things about being the widow is the enormous responsibility I feel to be her protector. All of the weight of that falls on my shoulders. He was our protector and our safe space, and he’s gone. I have no back up. I have to be the one to hold her when the world is falling apart, and there is no one to do that for me when I need it myself. I want to live in a world that doesn’t make me wish Jesus would come now and take us all home. I find myself at a loss for words when I do have to explain the horrors of the world to her, but I’m thankful that I do not have to cover this one with her. She has seen enough.
When we packed to move away from the home we shared as a family of three, I struggled. I had to pack up all of our belongings to sell our home, and along with that, every hope and dream we had for our marriage and our family. We bought that house as a family of three, but only two made it out alive. It has taken me months to unpack everything, and I’m still not done. I don’t know if I ever will be. It was more traumatic to unpack it into our new home than it was to pack it up to move. I found myself sobbing into boxes of my husband’s clothes, boxes he packed before he died that held his treasures. I found myself reading every card, every slip of paper, looking for something to make me feel closer to him. I still am unable to open his bedside table drawers. It’s a time capsule I’m just not ready to crack yet.
I was opening boxes earlier this week and I opened one full of stuffed animals. Everywhere my husband went for work would bring one of these treasures back home for our daughter. There are so many, and she has named them all and holds them to feel closer to him. I opened a box labeled “Quinn’s room”. Inside I found this, a simple 7 year old interpretation of a word that packed a powerful punch-
She packed that box. She filled it with all of the stuffed love her dad had gotten her over the years. I can only imagine what was going through her head and heart when we packed up the only home she had ever remembered up until that point, but in that moment when everything felt scary and new and bad, she had hope.
We can learn a lot from kids. She teaches me lessons I should be teaching her every single day.
Moving forward through this burning world that has shown us insurmountable pain and heartache, I have hope. I have hope for our future, wherever it may take us. I have hope that God is preparing someone’s heart to love us like Matt did. I have hope that one day, I won’t have to be her only protector anymore. I have hope that, despite being dealt the crappiest hand life could ever hand a little girl, that she will continue to thrive and find reasons to belly laugh daily. I have hope that the world will find some semblance of peace. I hope that peace will flood her world like a river and that joy will wash over her all the days of her life. I pray this for her nightly.
I don’t know what this year has in store for us as a family of two. I do know that I’ll pick her up and run her through the fire every day for the rest of my life if I have to. He was my shelter, and I’m forever hers, until we make the peaceful transition from this life to the next.