This picture, while it is of bedtime, is not specifically related to this post. I love it, though, because it demonstrates the kids sleeping on the floor when we visited our closest friends’ house this winter. This is a classic move from my family, to unroll a sleeping bag and crash, and I’m quite proud that my children are adept at it.
It had been a normal day. Busy, yes. For instance, we had no time to read Harry Potter. But I had given Grace and Whit dinner and talked to them about their days before they took showers. We had sat together on the couch and read a wonderful picture book from the library (I absolutely adore picture books and still read them to my children; they love them too), and then they got into their beds to read their own books before bed.
After fifteen minutes I went into Whit’s room to tuck him in. We spoke briefly, I did the sweet dreams head rub and the Ghostie Dance, turned on his music, and left. Then I went downstairs to Grace’s room.
I sensed as soon as I walked into her room that something was wrong. I asked her if she was okay, and she insisted she was. I gave her a hug, listened to her prayers (as always, a litany of “thank you for…” which inevitably brings tears to my eyes), and shut off the light. As I was closing the door I watched her roll away towards the wall, and something tugged in my chest. I knew she was upset, but I didn’t know why. Sometimes I’m overcome by all the wordless input I receive from others, by the ways that I can sense the mood of another person. This is simply what it’s like being porous. There is nobody with whom this connection is stronger than Grace.
I went up to my desk and sat down, trying to shake it off. I worry sometimes that I create incentive for her to have something wrong, when I do this, because it gives her attention when something is.
But I knew she was upset, and after a couple of minutes I crept back into her room. She rolled towards the opening door in the dusky light, a smile on her face and a question in her eyes. I lay down next to her and whispered, “please, please tell me what’s wrong.”
“I can’t stop thinking about when I die,” she began, defenses crumbling, all pretense of being ‘fine’ gone. “I mean, will I spend a million years by myself staring into space?”
“Oh, Grace.” I looked over at her. “I don’t think you’ll be staring into space. Remember, I’ll be there! Think of all the people in Heaven that you can be with.”
“But what if I can’t find you?” Her voice rose and she hiccuped once. We talked about reincarnation, and she said she thought that was a pretty cool idea. “Is that what people mean when they call me an old soul?” she asked suddenly. Yes, it is, I answered.
The conversation began to drift. I am trying to remember that I don’t need to fix what she feels. I can’t, anyway. I listen to her, nodding, recalling the power of simply abiding with someone. What can I do, after all? Not die? Of course, I will try. But that’s not really in my control, after all; that much I know.
We talked about Grace’s best friend from camp, who is coming soon to visit. The mood in the room lifted. I gave her a hug, asked if she was ready for me to go.
Grace nodded. “It’s amazing how fast things can shift, isn’t it?” She murmured.
“It is.” I smoothed her hair back from her forehead. “It is.” I kissed her on the cheek, pulled her covers up, and left the room.
As I pulled the door shut, she rolled towards the wall again. It was precisely the same movement as the first time I left, but it felt entirely different. I walked back to my desk and sat down again, just like before. As I looked out the window at the night I thought about how sometimes all we need is a few minutes of someone really listening to us, sitting with us, witnessing us.
That is enough for everything to shift, for the world to tilt, for all to be well again.