Late last year, my midwife lost her mother. In my condolences, I asked what I could do to make her difficult time less painful.
“What you can do is make more memories with your family. That is what life is all about and what sustains us in death,” she replied.
Since becoming a mother, I find myself obsessing over death. I’m consumed by the horror that saturates the news. A certain degree of paranoia seems to dictate much of how I operate.
When I drive, I hunch over the steering wheel in a hyper-alert state trying to predict everyone’s next move. As this year’s traffic related death toll flickers overheard on electric signs, I clench the steering wheel until it hurts. I devise escape plans and scope out hiding spaces in public places in the event of a mass shooting. I exhaustedly research homeschooling, so to delay relinquishing watch over my daughters. Certainly this is no way to live.
Today I received a large envelope in the mail. Inside, there was a note in penmanship as fragile, established, and beautiful as the 80-some-year-old man who wrote it. It read:
When I saw this article, I instantly thought of you, being the quintessential mother. I hope it’s new to you.
Included was a copy of the National Geographic article The First Year by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee with stunning photos by Lynn Johnson. Darrell, my grandmother’s dear friend, tore the article from the magazine, trimmed the edges, and re-stapled it into a little booklet.
My heart swelled. In fact, it’s still swollen knowing someone took the time to create this thoughtful package for me (and that someone considers me “the quintessential mother!”)
Darrell’s note got me thinking about all of the other kind things people have done for me. Like the day a fellow mother flashed me a thumbs up while I nursed Iris at the restaurant table. The countless times strangers have lent me a helping hand with my girls. An older woman put up Willow’s hood before we stepped out into the frozen tundra as I juggled Iris, our carry out, and my tote. Most recently, a young man got out of his car and slopped through gray, Wisconsin slush to help me fasten my Tula when he saw me struggling in the parking lot.
All of these incidences and more remind me how contagious and powerful kindness can be.
Despite the hate, the horror, the unthinkable that lurks around every corner, it seems to take a lot to bring us down. We unite during tragedy. We work hard to pick up the pieces of broken hearts, broken communities. And yet, it doesn’t take much to share light and love. It’s little things, handwritten notes, that resonate.
In this stream of consciousness-esque post, I risk oversimplification; love is bigger than hatred. Maybe it’s my privilege that leaves me so hopeful, an “All We Need is Love” kind of hopeful.
What may be disillusioned optimism over conflicts much bigger and more complicated than I might ever understand, I do believe what Bhattacharjee writes in the article Darrell sent me.
“Despite coming prewired with mind-boggling capacities, the brain depends heavily on environmental input to wire itself further…. The baby brain is an incredible learning machine. Its future– to a great extent– is in our hands.”