Warm cuddles on the couch in front of the fire. I’m cradling my six-year old son, planting kisses all over his sweet face.
“Can we just stay like this forever?” I ask dreamily. Then we joke about how silly it would be to be snuggling like this in 30 years.
“Mommy, I love you,” says Xavier, nestling in.
“Te quiero,” I reply. (I love you, in Spanish.)
“I love you. Even when you die,” little voice quivering.
“I don’t want to lose you.” Xavier explodes into tears.
“I don’t want to lose you, either,” I say, because I can’t think of anything else to say, suddenly having no coherent thoughts.
Oh, my heart.
This child. My vivacious, rambunctious, adventurous boy is suddenly frightened for my life. His little arms are wrapped tightly around me, squeezing. I’m squeezing right back. Fighting back tears because my six-year old daughter is next to me now.
“I don’t want you to die,” he’s really crying now.
I’m rocking him, kissing his mop of hair, stroking his cheek assuring him that “it’s ok to be scared.” My daughter has moved into my arms and I’m now holding both kids. My twins. My babies who are not babies anymore. Tears spilling.
Then Xavier asks if people can live to be 200? 100? “…ninety-nine?” Pleading. I explain that no one knows how old they’ll live to be. That I try not to think about it, choosing instead to treasure each day. But I tell him I will always be in his heart. “Even when you die?” he asks, unsure. Yes. Just as my mom is always in mine.
My children have suffered loss indirectly and it is natural for there to be fear and confusion. The strongest missing presence is that of my mother, perhaps because I’m not afraid to talk about her. I’m not ashamed to admit that I miss her and that I’m sad that she’s gone. It breaks my heart that my children never knew her which is why it’s so important to me to keep that flicker of a memory alive.
Very recently we had a scare when my father had a heart attack. And even though we knew he would be alright, the kids were visibly shaken when I tried to explain to them what had happened. The very real possibility of losing their Abuelo hit them hard and without warning.
For now I’ll do my best to quell their fears by giving them all the love and support they need to understand this great unknown. I will answer their questions honestly and carefully. And I will hug them and kiss their tears away when nothing will do but a mother’s warm embrace. Even if I have to do it for the next 30 years.