Sunset over Arizona
Sunset over Arizona (Miranda Hernandez)

Sometimes I look back on things I’ve written and I feel surprised. I had forgotten about that day, forgotten about that phrase. Sometimes, my own innocent words can make me cry. I hold on to those entries. They feel like portals.

When I was pregnant, I went through a bad week. It started when I received an email informing me an old co-worker had died. I then heard that my cousin’s 10 week old infant, who I had only recently found out existed, had also passed away. I didn’t know how to deal with either of these things. I hadn’t been close to my co-worker or my cousin, and I hadn’t spoken to either of them in more than seven years.

That week, I was at the mall shopping for some last-minute necessities, sitting down in the food court with greasy take-out Chinese, when it hit me — the desire to write. I wrote to my son throughout my pregnancy, and I realized that day this was a key decision: do I write and tell him everything, or do I hide it all away?

I know from reading mommy blogs and many conversations that parents often hide things from their children. To their credit, I think a lot of it stems from a desire to protect, to save them from worry. I don’t know what a 10 year old could do about money problems or a grandmother who favored the male grandchildren. I do think, though, there are things that can and should be shared, used as discussion points to help us understand our world. When I paused that day in that mall, I realized I believed death was one of those things.

And so I wrote to my son, I wrote to him about death. I wrote to him in a way that I hoped would be understandable, inside of a framework that explained that I told him these things out of love. Because I think love includes talking about hard things. Because I think love includes telling someone, “When you fall on hard times, I am here for you. When things go terribly wrong, I won’t run away.”

And this is what I told my son. I told him that these deaths had saddened me, and I told him about my confusion on what to do. And I told him that, for his sake, I wanted things to be different. I wanted to build tighter bonds with family, I wanted to become a better friend. I wanted these things for him.

And here is where it becomes ironic, because although I made those statements for him, everything I did afterwards became so important to me. And I read this letter at the end of a retreat last summer, and I realized that although it was written for my son, it could also be addressed to me.

And I went for Chinese food yesterday, greasy take out in a food court in a different city, and it all came flooding back to me. And I read this letter again last night, and I realized it will probably never not make me cry. And I treasure that, because it’s real. Because I chose to talk about the hard things. Because I chose to share that with my son, and I will always have that, and he will always have me.