I first heard of the "Last Lecture" just after Caleb died. I think one of you may have posted a link to the lecture a while ago so by now maybe everyone has already heard his words. I took a great deal of comfort away from his speech. It reminded me that no matter how bad things are in my life, I always have a choice. I may not like my choices but I do have them. And I knew after listening to him speak last fall, that my choice was clear. I had to choose to live, not survive, but live with the loss of Caleb. I have made peace with that. I know that I will always find a new part of the grief this loss has left behind, a simple, innocent errand or activity will call him forward and I will again be hit with the loss of my son. Reminded that we are living without him. That every day we live takes us farther away from him and his brief physical presence in our lives. I have made peace with that too.
I know my children have been forever changed, their innocence stolen, much too early and so unfairly. I can only hope that I am able to show them how to live with grief, how to be sad and how to mourn and then how to find it within yourself to heal and to begin to live once again. And to find, no reclaim, joy and to feel it too. I hope we have shown them that even in the darkest of times, to never lose...well, hope. That even without the benefit or curse, depending on your perspective, of religion, we have taught our children that no, we are not immune from tragedy, but we are also not helpless to overcome it. That part of what they will take with them into their futures when they remember their lost little brother is the knowledge that having loved greatly and having lost greatly has not diminished them or weakened them but rather has shown them the real courage and strength it takes to truly love someone, even when the love can not be reciprocated and worse, even when the love seems to only cause you pain. The courage and strength they both have within them and are so unaware of now. I wonder if they will ever realize, when they look back on these days, how much it spoke of their character and hearts when they welcomed their new cousin into their lives. Not once did either of them ever begrudge their cousin or her family for getting to be born or for having a new baby, when they could not enjoy those things with their own baby brother. As a parent I was overwhelmed by their actions, by their complete lack of selfishness or envy and by their desire just to love a new life, by their desire to love, again, at all.
It speaks to me about belief, not in "God", but in healing, in the things we can not see. The things we wish to be there, things we never touch and yet we believe in them. Hope. Love. Courage. Strength. Magic. Ghosts. Dreams. Miracles. In the interview last night, the same idea was brought up in relation to this famous letter:
"Dear Editor--I am 8 years old."Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus."Papa says, 'If you see it in The Sun, it's so.'"Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O'Hanlon115 West Ninety-fifth Street
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no child-like faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Not that I liken our experience in any way to a belief in Mr. Clause, but I do compare the healing with the idea that we heal with the belief that there is something out there worth healing for, even if we can't see it in the moment of our grief. For me I could always see why I had to heal, they were standing in front of me from the moment I got home from the hospital, willing me to be their mom again, aching for me to love them and not to be sad. Desperate for comfort and assurance that their world would be righted again. It wasn't really a choice at all, or at least not a hard one. Caleb's life had been taken away, from him and from us. We could not let that take away our lives too. And so, as I wrote to a dear friend recently, I choose to love all my children equally, no more or less than the other, not even Caleb's death could allow for him take more from me than the other two each have. And I have found peace with that too.
So that's where I am for now. Living with what has been handed out, choosing to live and hoping I can live with the choices I have made.