Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thoughts on the unpleasant

I have been thinking a lot about something rather unpleasant. Death. Specifically, my own.

I'm going to explain that, because left alone it sounds really, really bad.

Natasha Richardson. Jade Goody. Mothers who died last week, both leaving children behind.

We spend our lives as moms saving our children from things that will hurt them. We make sure outlets are covered, knife drawers are blocked, TVs and dressers are anchored and we crawl around on the floor with the sole purpose of discovering anything potentially deadly down at kid level. We lock up poisons. We have the safest of car seats professionally installed. We make them wear helmets. We don't let them run with scissors. We teach them to hold our hand and look both ways before they cross the street. We take them to the doctor when their bodies hurt and we hug them close when their hearts hurt.

I'm sure Natasha Richardson and Jade Goody did these things too. And right now, in a moment when their children's hearts hurt more than ever, the mamas aren't there to kiss it better.

Which brings me back to my original sentences. I have been thinking about death. Specifically my own.

Would I want to know I was dying like Jade Goody? Would I want to be able to explain it to my kids? To have a final goodbye party? To cry myself to sleep at night wondering how many more times I would get to tuck them in? To suffer for months knowing the inevitable was coming sooner rather than later?

Or would I want to go like Natasha Richardson? Would I want to feel fine and then be not so fine after all? Would I want a quick, sudden death without the agony of suffering and seeing my children suffer with me? Without the chance to say goodbye?

Either way, I cannot fathom leaving my children motherless. Because I am not just their mother. I am Mommy. I am the one who kisses owies. I am the one who knows the bedtime songs. I am the one who knows how to best soothe bruised egos. I am the one who knows just the right amount of chocolate syrup for chocolate milk. I am the one who gives the best hugs. I am the one who knows play dates and dentist appointments and homework assignments. I know how to make the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I am Mommy.

And so for all the care I take to make sure that life is safe for my kids, I think it might be prudent to start taking care of me. Jade Goody died from cervical cancer that went undetected too long. Natasha Richardson died after she refused medical care for a bump on the head she got while skiing. You can be darn sure their kids made it to their medical check-ups and that Natasha Richardson would never have let such a bump go unexamined on one of her boys. Moms tend to sweep themselves and their needs under the rug too often. And sometimes, as a result, the unthinkable happens.

So it is time to put myself on the list of things to protect for the sake of my children. Because I cannot imagine leaving my kiddos without their mama. I don't want to be away from them and more than that I don't want that kind of pain for them. I know it can't always be helped, but it's time to do more to try to prevent it.

I hope Natasha Richardson and Jade Goody rest in peace and that their families, especially their children, find comfort in their memories. And that somehow they know that their deaths pushed at least one mother into taking better care of herself. I doubt I am the only one. I hope not.

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