Where are the leaders?

Tonight I’m grateful my living children are sleeping safely. Today in the news, I watched a child get get pepper sprayed and an elderly man attacked. 

We’ve taught our boys to know police officers as helpers. The police in our town have been there for our family when we needed them. Not just a little bit. They were at the house in a blink when I called 911, one watched over us while it was happening, made sure the boys were safe, called our pastor, they all handled the situation with respect and grace. Later, an officer hand delivered a gift to our family from the police department. We talk about race, white privilege and our responsibility to speak up and use our privilege to create change, black history, … but not this, yet. 

Knowing that the police in my country will pepper spray a child, and attack an elderly man, let alone discriminate, harass, and hurt people of color, has me thinking of a new dialogue with my boys about the people who are there to protect us. How do I explain to my little boys that those events are happening here, not some far-away place we see on TV? How do I explain that the uniform doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good? That’s not right. Police officers are there to protect the people, not attack the people. I don’t have answers to these questions. I don’t know how to tell my boys any of this.

I’ve been posting on Facebook about cops on their knees. Now I see that brutality is overwhelming the peace. I try so hard, after all of my trauma and loss, to be positive–to listen to Mr. Rogers and look for the helpers. Today, the images of what looks like war, coming from all across my country, are spreading too fast and smothering anything positive. What I’m seeing is chaos. And pain. And confusion.

Black lives matter.

No justice, no peace.

Say His Name–George Floyd.

Say their names–which one?

Arresting a few cops does not bring justice.

Now, how is the policy change going to happen? How is the cultural change going to happen? How can we guarantee accountability? Where is the justice?

Where are our LEADERS?

My babies have been through enough. They’ve lost their brother, Covid-19 and quarantine added a new layer to our grief and trauma (which they’re handling like badass rock stars), and now the entire world is in even more turmoil. Of course, it’s justified turmoil. Overdue turmoil. Necessary turmoil. Painful, gutting turmoil. Righteous turmoil. If-you-thought-the-political-climate-revealed-character-you-should-see-what’s-happening-now turmoil.
But turmoil, nonetheless.

I’m feeling disheartened. And scared. And obligated to simultaneously protect my boys and educate them on what’s happening. We have a moral responsibility to stand on the side of justice.

But after all I’ve been through, after all we’ve been through as a family, we just want peace. Trauma survivors do not wish for more trauma.

The protesters are saying “by any means necessary”, and I get that… I mean, the best I can as a white person.

But, God help those cops if they EVER try to harm my beautiful children, no matter how old they are. George Floyd, a grown man, called for his Mama. As a mother who has lost a son, I can tell you that peace does NOT exist without justice. I don’t know if I’ll ever know peace until I’m with my boy again.

I truly hope that the protests around the world will put us on the path to justice for every mother who has lost a son to police brutality. I truly hope that the protests around the world will put us on the path to justice for racial inequality. I truly hope that from the protests around the world emerge true, worthy leaders for our country. I truly hope that we find this path during our lifetime, so that I can watch my living children grow up in a world of true equity.

And there I go, defaulting to that positivity.
That won’t bring change. Marching, protesting, persevering brings change.

Where are the leaders?

I can lead by starting in my home with my family, and take responsibility for learning the right ways to be an ally. I can lead with my voice. 

Maybe some are leading by attending rallies, and this inspires their neighbor to do the same.

How can you lead? 

Let’s do this now, because I can only imagine magnifying the pain of losing my son to suicide to equal the pain and grief black and brown people collectively and historically experience in this country. I’ve heard them say they’re tired. And I can tell you, as a grieving mother, they really are.

Many long thoughts on why I should and shouldn’t shut up.

I am grateful to have been raised with a healthy understanding of humility and grace. Today I have learned that I have only begun to understand what it means.

My church holds a summer Peace Camp every year, and this year both Tuna and Binker went.  Binker became friends with a boy his age, and on the last day I was talking to his mom and another friend. We were saying that we should get them together. This boy is an only child.

I was observing the attention she was able to give him, the calm he emitted, the calm she emitted, and feeling nostalgic from when I only had Tuna.  He was an only child for four and a half years before Binker came along.  I was able to dote on him, give him all of my attention, and he….uh, never emitted calm….but, I guess maybe I did.  I did not yet know the more scattered feeling of having two, or three.  (Although, that’s a whole other topic, because actually having two or three seems to create more calm  in some ways. I mean, if one-child-me could see the way life is now, she’d FREAK OUT! Whereas three-child-me is like eh, whatever, if you’re not bleeding or broken you’re fine.  And then there’s the whole floor food thing…)

Annnywayyy,

So I was wondering how that dynamic would work on a play date–Binker as the middle, his new friend as the only. They played nicely together, so it really shouldn’t matter. My mind was letting that go, ready to exchange numbers, when her son walked up and talked to her about something. She was able to stop, talk to him with her full attention, hug, and he trotted away. Now don’t get me wrong, I talk to my boys and hug and kiss and give them what they need. The difference I noticed was in her. In not needing to then immediately switch to what another kid was doing or saying or needing.

Me, being all blabbity before the thinkity a lot of the time, said “Awe, I remember that, only having one.”

I was smiling, reminiscing, and then I felt my heart hurt when I saw her attempt to smile at my remark (I do that–feel people. It can be helpful, but it sucks a lot too.)  I didn’t understand why, but the energy shifted, and I realized that that was NOT the thing to say. She seemed uncomfortable, then I was uncomfortable, and I changed the subject.

Flip to months later. We never did set up a play date. We became facebook friends. She posted an awareness meme about baby loss–stillborn, infant death, miscarriage.

Oh.

Cue the tears, and the feeling that I never really will know anything, and that I probably should never talk ever again. And, the desire to tell her that I had a miscarriage, and how in the great Universe could I be so heartless to assume that someone has one child by choice.  One little seemingly innocent comment unearthed great grief.

I don’t know her story, but I know the pain of loss.  I don’t know anyone’s story, and I know the importance of NEVER ASSUMING ANYTHING EVER.  There is a saying: Always be kind, we don’t know what another person is going through. I can extend this with “always think and think again before you speak”.

All children are amazing miraculous blessings.  The families with six children–the ones we say are crazy–are blessed.  We don’t know why they had six children.  We can never assume to know. The families with one child–where we wonder why they were never given a sibling and will they be ok in life without one–are blessed.  We can never assume to know why they had one child.

It’s not a topic we discuss.  We whisper “I lost one too”, and that’s the extent of it.  I remember that I decided I wouldn’t do that–be quiet about it after it happened–and then I forgot I said that. Until two things happened:  Tuna and I had a conversation, and the next day I saw the meme.

“Mommy, is a baby growing inside a mom alive?” (you know, every day conversation with a 9-year-old. I have no idea where this came from.)

“Well, it develops a heart beat, and it is a big debate on whether or not a fetus is alive.  Some people believe anything with a heartbeat is alive.  Some people believe that they have to be able to breathe on their own.  Some people have other beliefs. It’s a grey area. Sometimes babies are born prematurely and they can’t breathe on their own.  Sometimes doctors can save them, sometimes they can’t.  Sometimes it’s not up to us.”

He looked really sad.

I told him I had a baby growing in me before I had him, and I lost it. He was surprised and asked his or her name. I had never given it a name, didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl, never really thought about that, and once again was blown away by the depth of conversation I have with my boy.

“So I might have had a sister.”

“Yes, maybe that was my girl.  But now I have a niece, and maybe one of you boys will have a girl and I’ll have a grand daughter.”

“You’re going to be an awesome grandma, mommy!”

“Thanks buddy.”

Since then I’ve been thinking of what I should name the baby that I miscarried. Then the meme showed up. I think I will choose a name to honor all lost babies, worthy of being honored and talked about, not to be ashamed of, not to be embarrassed about. A name to honor everyone’s choice to have 10, not have any, adopt, not name, talk, not talk about it, grieve.  how can there be such a name?

With Unity. We as grieving mothers and fathers can find peace in Unity. Unity is where we come from, and it is where we go after this.  Coming from One, returning to One. My comment may be forgiven with Unity. We all can understand it on some level.

My lost baby is named Unity, in honor of all of us. She is joined in Unity with all lost babies, and their parents are joined in Unity through their grief and healing.

As Albus Dumbeldore said, “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” I was afraid to name her, and now that I have, the fear of the sadness is gone. I hope her name resonates with one of you as well.