I think about it a lot.
I think about dying.
I lie in bed at night and can’t breathe from the bad dreams that paralyze my lungs at the thought of one of my kids dying. I lie there with eyes wide open to the dark and I play it through my head. How would I cope? Would I flail? Would I vomit? Would I curse God?
And when my daughter tells me after dinner that she’s scared of her dreams and can she please sleep next to me tonight I say yes. And she laughs and twirls and tells her daddy he can sleep in her pink princess bed because she’s gonna be sleeping with mommy. And I feel her tiny palms pressed to my cheeks and her breath sweet and hot against my throat, and I know that if one of us dies in the night we will have had this moment.
No one can steal this moment. We’ve logged it together and lodged it in our hearts, an infinite memory.
The little girl and her bright hair lighting up all that dark.
When I see photos of women, of writers, gathering and mentoring each other I want to picture myself there with them. I think maybe it’s because I’m 41 and still so hungry to be mothered. I don’t know what I didn’t live when I was 18. I want to live it now at 41.
If I was my mother I would have only one year left to live.
So I think about dying more this year.
But thinking about dying is a rambly road that leads you around unexpected, scrubby corners until what you discover is that thinking about dying is really thinking about living.
Thinking about dying is really asking what kind of living are you brave enough to do?
Am I brave enough to say goodbye to my kids on Monday mornings? Am I brave enough to let the weekend with all its quilts and snuggles and movies and cookies and play dates and adventures in the back yard live through us? Am I brave enough to say yes to its chaos and loudness and inconveniences that are part of the business of inviting friends and neighbors into your lives?
Am I brave enough to put those kids onto the school bus on Monday morning with saxophone case in hand, hair brushed just so, and let them have at it? Let them have at this dangerous business of growing up and away from me?
Because hiding is its own kind of dying.
Hiding from the growing kids and the million and one aways they will outgrow me.
Hiding from the God who has called me to follow Him, hiding from His voice, the inconvenience of saying yes, the awkwardness of following. That is dying too.
And following, that is living.
Yes is an answer full of the fresh breath of being fully alive.
This past week I followed my friend Crystal Paine and her whole family as they followed their own brave yes all the way back to my home in South Africa.
It was exhilarating. When you watch someone face a fear and carry on regardless, it makes the hairs on your arms stand up.
But when you watch kids as young as your own kids do the same, it shakes you loose of the fear of death as you start to focus on the freedom of living.
They lost luggage, short-circuited the outlets with their American appliances, got sick, threw up, and wondered if it had been a mistake to go.
But then this happened.
The thing that died was fear.
This trip was a big step outside our childrens’ comfort zones.
There were a lot of nerves for them going in.
We talked to them about how this was not a mission trip, but a relationship trip. Because we have so much to learn from the South Africans. And they don’t need quick fixes or Amercanized solutions, they need our friendship and love most of all.
Yes, we want to give in very practical and tangible ways, but the most important thing we can give is ourselves — to be WITH them, to listen to them, to let them know that they are not alone.
There have been hard moments and awkward moments for each of our kids, but there have been many, many moments like this. When I see them — all on their own — pushing past language barriers and cultural differences and just reaching out their hands and hearts in love. It’s beautiful beyond words.
The most important thing we give is always ourselves.
We give aways bits and pieces and as we get braver, great big chunks of ourselves. We give away our own own lives and it’s the only way really, that dying becomes living.
In my last year sharing the same age as my mother, I want the fear of dying to be the thing that dies in me.
I want to follow in the footsteps of our children who live the deep, Jesus truth of never holding back pieces of who they are – of giving themselves so generously that there’s no room left over for fear.
This is the year I want to live.
Inspired by this post by Christie Purifoy.