I listened to him, commiserating. I know him to be a good and loving parent. I listened to this worn out man swear he would never travel with his kids again.
I listened bout a Christmas time flight and two wee small children who had a hard time on the plane, and just how very hard it was. Small children excited about Christmas and Santa and grandparents and presents and cousins, parents who were tired from a long week, luggage and flight delays and I think you have a perfect storm of hard times.
I have no stories of commiseration. Any stories I would have would be from the other side, the weary passenger who listens to the children on the flight. This wasn’t going to make him feel better.
A thing I have come to know profoundly.
And I sometimes want to say that: to speak the one profound truth I learned in those 30 minutes with my son. These days, these hard and busy full days with small children who will not sit quietly, they will speed past. In the middle of these moments are the ones you hold on to. In the middle of this are the moments of mind blowing amazement.
It is the work of a whole life, of all our lives to know this. To know that in the middle of the hurly-burly and the frustration there are these moments of brilliance, these moments that if we look for them will change and mark our lives.
It has taken me all of these years to know this. To take away the pain and the horror of all that time and all that pain. To separate his death and how he gasped for his very breath and hold on to that single solitary second when I stared at his hands and saw my crooked finger and his tiny, perfect nails. It has taken staring at the photos, turning the memories over in my mind for years now, to hold on to the moment when I held my son and sang him a lullaby. To hold on to that moment and let all of the rest go.
If I could say anything, I would say that. In the worst and most trying circumstances the universe schooled me in the art of holding on to the holy, the blessing, of finding the benediction and letting all of the rest go.
I talk about my son too much, even still. I make people uncomfortable and I actively work on stopping, not entering those conversations, biting my tongue, obscuring and obfuscating. I am failing at it.
But if I could do anything – I would whisper this. I held holiness in my arms, saw and lived and breathed a form of sacrament. When I let all of the hurt and the pain go, I can tell you this. I cannot commiserate with over tired children on a plane. I don’t know it.
I know this, I have learned a single splendid truth, I know it in my being: our children are given to us to allow us to reach out and touch the face of God, whatever you conceive him or her to be. They are given to us as a moment of beauty and a trust. They are that which outlasts us, a linkage to a bigger and more powerful thing than we could ever conceive on our own.
Listen to me, I know this: find those moments. Turn them over in your hands and dig yourself into them up to your armpits. Step, no leap into them. Be there, fully.
And let all of the rest go.