It’s been an odd couple of days. I am still floating on that disorienting current of grief and gratitude and guilt that I mentioned yesterday. I’m experiencing Grace and Whit in high definition, and my awareness of their every detail of is at an all-time high; I’m dazzled, and overcome, by the physicality of their bodies, their presence in a room, their noise, their sheer being-ness. I look at them and think, again, they are tenaciously sturdy and incomprehensibly fragile at the same time.
Since our conversation on Sunday about what happened, there have been very few references to it in our house. Grace asked me at bedtime yesterday if the sick and angry man was really dead, and I said yes. She asked me how many children had died and I told her. She asked me how old they were and I told her. She was quiet then, for a long minute, and then opened her book, curled closer to me on the couch so that she was flush against my side, and started reading.
Tonight, as I tucked her in, she said her usual prayers (“thank you for this amazing world” being the line that always slays me). I kissed her on the forehead and began to stand up. “Wait,” she whispered. “I want to say another prayer for those kids.” I sat back down on the edge of her bed and nodded in the nightlight-lit dimness of her room.
“I hope those kids know they are loved, and know how much their families miss them,” she looked at me, her mahogany eyes huge, shining. “I hope they are settling into their new lives in heaven. I really hope they are with Pops and Helen. Maybe they are going swimming with Helen and talking about airplanes with Pops.” I swallowed hard, struck by her conflation of her late-summer loss with the deaths of these children. The deaths are of course as different as you can imagine, but I think that conceptually, they each feel both near and far to Grace. Her great-grandfather, beloved, but old, in a stage of life so foreign as to be a different country. These children, strangers, but her close contemporaries, the girls and boys she sits next to at assemblies and walks by in halls. I love that she imagines them drawing comfort from each other.
I leaned down to kiss her again, and felt her arms clasp my neck and pull me tight. “I hope so too, Grace.” I whispered against her ear, feeling my tears trickle into her hair. I hope so too.
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