Mother’s Day Rainbow by John Pane, May 2003
As he opened the door in the “drop off” zone, on that brisk, fall morning, John turned to me and said, “I love you, Mom.” He quickly shut the door and rushed off to meet his 2nd grade friends on the playground before the school bells rang.
I noted a new tone of voice in his comment. He had stated his words with precision. He had given me a careful look, rather than a quick glance as he uttered the precious words we often shared.
When I picked him up that afternoon, he was quick to explain the morning’s communication of endearment.
“You know why I told you I love you this morning, Mom?” My response was a simple, “Why?”
“Well, just in case,” John commented.
“Just in case?” I queried.
My older son proceeded to verbalize the most profoundly emotional reflection I had ever heard from him.
“Just in case it’s the last time we see one another.”
Driving home, I was spinning with questions and emotions.
I anxiously wondered if John had some sort of sense of impending doom.
I was consumed with astonishment at the depth of his feelings and his need to communicate them.
I was perplexed by his thoughts about death.
And then I remembered. His hamster, “Flash,” had died a few weeks prior and his grandmother was terminally ill with Mesothelioma.
My 7 year-old son was looking through the blurry window of death. I knew exactly how he felt. The loss of a loved one is far from crystal clear.
It is filled with the fuzzy sort of pain that affects both heart and head.
It is filled with unpredictable and shadowy feelings of grief and disbelief.
It is filled with obscure confusion about how the world can go on when someone loved so dearly has died.
When his hamster passed away, he spent 3 hours in bed before dinner. He couldn’t talk about it. It was simply too painful. It was difficult to separate the death of his first pet with the impending death of his unconditionally loving grandparent.
In his carefully crafted communication that fall morning, John had stepped out into the realm of the reality of life and death. As parents, we do our best to support our children’s social-emotional development. Learning about loss is one of the most difficult domains.
So, for the past 10 years, each day my sons leave our home, I say, “God Bless You. I love you. Have a beautiful day!”
You know. Just in case it’s the last time…