Sunday, February 17, 2013

Making Space

I was reading the blog of a woman whose 3-year-old daughter was killed at home in a domestic accident. It was totally heart-wrenching and gut-wrenching to read. It's the type of story I would have avoided reading in the past because it's just "too sad". I did have to pause while reading it because she was writing in great detail about the day they found their daughter and what happened at the hospital and all her feelings at the time and now. It upset me so much I couldn't eat my dinner that night. I went back and finished reading the post and had a big cry. I am crying now as I write this. She was writing to tell her family's story and as a call to action - she asked people to secure their furniture because her daughter died when a dresser she climbed on fell over on top of her. To date she has gotten over a thousand comments from people expressing their condolences and telling her that they are heeding her advice for her little girl and for their own children. In our old apartment, all our furniture was secured because we live in an earthquake zone. When we moved, we had to get some new stuff and hadn't gotten around to securing all of it. After I read that woman's blog, Pete went out and got more materials to finish the job.

I've been thinking about why I push myself now to read other people's tragic stories when in the past I avoided it and that seemed to work fine. I just wanted to "be happy" and sometimes hearing about other people's sad stories dredged up things from my past that I had decided not to think about. That was the strategy - don't think about terrible things that have happened and maybe it will be like they never happened. When Toren was born, that strategy completely collapsed. Now you would think, I've got enough on my plate with our own sad story so why add more? I went back to that woman's blog post and as I stared at the photo of their beautiful little girl, bright and smiling with seemingly her whole life ahead of her, I thought about the heart's capacity to feel love and to feel pain. There is no limit to this. In one of the poems that a dear friend read at Toren's memorial, On Joy and Sorrow, Khalil Gibran writes, "Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is greater." But I say unto you, they are inseparable."

In the past, I would have thought that reading this family's story, even knowing about this little girl and how she died so tragically, somehow hurts or diminishes me. That it could somehow take some happiness out of my life because then I would be carrying this sad story too. But since Toren died, I feel that knowing about Meghan's life, and her death, and how her family is carrying her beauty forward with them one painful step at a time, enriches my life. Just as it would have been if I had had the chance to meet Meghan in person, my life is better for knowing about her.

We can all enrich our lives by creating space in our hearts to hold other people's pain, as much as we would hold their joy. I have met people who can do this. It is awe-inspiring and something important to strive for.

In her post about her daughter, this mother is asking us to be with her in her sorrow. It's hard for us, and infinitely harder for her. If you are ready to have your heart (and tear ducts) cracked open, please create a space for Meghan in your hearts and read her story here. (Also, I hardly need add, please secure your furniture.)

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