Sometimes when I lay still, I’m seven again.
Laying in my bed at night, paralyzed with fear that my mother would die.
That my grandparents would die.
Because my father already had.
Death crept inside my chest and pulled in so tight that I could barely breathe.
“Mom… are you still awake?” I would call.
Sometimes once, more often five or six times, every five minutes or so until sleep finally settled over me and overpowered my fears.
Death and my anxiety have been lifelong partners.
When my grandmother passed away last month, I was on a plane within 23 hours of hearing the news.
We simply told Katie that I need to go to Maine… that I just needed to go home. No details. No grief. No death.
And I went home and grieved. My heart broke when I saw my grandmother and those old wounds reopened.
There have been nights since returning to California, when my mind won’t let me rest and I quiet my breathing enough to hear Craig’s.
And I get up and lay my hand on Katie’s chest, to feel the rise and fall. Then I go to Matthew.
This anxiety is mine and it’s as much a part of who I am as my smile, my blue eyes, my gratitude for the good in my life.
And I have been determined to keep that from Katie, my child who already carries the weight of the world.
Who worries about things she shouldn’t.
Who feels things too deeply.
No laying in bed at night for her, wracked with worry.
But last night, one the most-loved teachers at her small school passed away.
The letter I found in her backpack asks us to talk with our children to prepare them for next week, when the school will grieve as a whole.
This weekend, we will have the talk I’ve avoided for six years and six months.
The talk that I didn’t have, even as my whole fell apart last month.
We will tell her about death.
We will introduce her to the idea that it can come from nowhere and rob you of someone you love in an instant.
And my heart is breaking at the thought of it.