Sometimes perspective just sort of whacks you upside the head. There is no literary or elegant way of describing that sort of blow.
I have three beautiful, healthy daughters. I mock-complain about how my oldest is about to be sixteen, my middle one just started high school, the “baby” will be ten in two months—double-digits is a big deal. I groan and fuss and otherwise gripe about having to nag them about their chores, or drive them all over the place, or how the baby has reached the age where she likes to talk on the phone with her friends endlessly—and since we have no landline, just cell phones and she doesn’t have one, she monopolizes everyone else’s. I fret over the time I’ll have to spend following up on homework, because a lack of follow-up last year had disastrous consequences.
And then I see a Facebook post from an old friend. She and I were in dance classes together when we were kids, for probably about five or six years. Her older sister and mine were in classes together as well. We didn’t go to the same schools at first, but in high school, there we were, our dance years long behind us. She transferred during our senior year, and we both moved on to college and jobs and families, and when I next ran across her (again, on Facebook), it turned out that she was the mother of two lovely little girls, younger than mine. And her younger daughter was born with a terminal illness, and was going to die, most likely before she reached the age of ten. She was that matter-of-fact about it. She had to be or it would crush her. So I followed along, reading posts and viewing pictures and watching this woman, this woman I had known since we were both little ballerinas in satin bodices and tulle tutus, who was now the strongest woman I had ever known.
And because she wasn’t a Facebook addict, and because my attention span is horrible, I didn’t notice at first that she had been off for a while. And then I found out that her daughter had passed away, this past December. And then, she shared the information that something had happened to make her realize that, had things been different, her beautiful angel would have been starting kindergarten today. Instead, she finally went looking at headstones, something that until this point she hadn’t been able to bring herself to do.
I don’t know how to reach out, or if it would make things any better. Though we have a history together, it wasn’t really as super-close friends. Can sympathy from someone like me possibly ease her pain? I don’t live in the same city or state, can’t drive over there to drop off a casserole or whatever it is that people do. I don’t have money to offer to the cause of searching for a cure for the disease that took her daughter’s life, or for a scholarship in her name, or anything of the sort. All I can do, and what I did do, was post on her wall that she has my love. It feels both inadequate and presumptuous. Yet knowing her, she has the grace to accept it in all its imperfection.