My Boat is Small

There is a kind of fear that comes with being a mother. I know I am not alone with this, and probably many fathers have it as well. A deep and unsettling fear of everything. Everything that might harm your children. You learn to manage it, yet it is always there.
When I was pregnant with my son, perhaps six months, C and I were walking on the Coney Island boardwalk when I stumbled a bit on a bumpy patch. I peed, but was afraid my water had broken. I mentally prepared for nightmares in the NICU . While we rode the subway home, we both spoke the gentlest and most worried words to our son about how we wanted to see him but needed him to wait until October. The big fear started at least by then.
When I was a teenager I remember my mother saying to us, regularly, “Make sure you let the water run a little before you get in the shower. I cleaned it but I’m not sure I rinsed it well enough”. I thought this was strange, but once I was a mother I understood that she was nervous that we may become poisoned with chlorine through the soles of our feet. Susanna one time told me, as we were getting ready to go out, that her neck hurt. My first thought was, of course, meningitis. She meant that the shirt she was wearing itched around the collar.
Now that my child has died, it might seem that my fears would intensify and even debilitate me. Occasionally I have awoken and run to my son at his slightest cough. I still jump to the most severe conclusions sometimes. Yet honestly, there has been a fundamental change. Every day I live with a newly solid knowledge of mortality. My vigilance has immense value, but my child still might die, before I do. It happens to the few, but it happens. It already happened to me. I am not more or less afraid but I know more about the powerlessness of my fears and my efforts. We do all we can. Like the plaque with the Breton Fisherman’s poem in my mother’s house read: Thy sea is so great, and my boat is so small. You steer, but the sea often has bigger plans.
Fear is not my enemy, but part of the whole eternal dance. I believe that we all come into this world on a mission, with a contracted amount of time and things to do. We come here with our fears, especially our fears of losing those we love again. You know why? Grief hurts. It capsizes our small boats, so that we need to learn to swim, or we need to accept that we are going under. Eventually we all go under. But you know what is stronger and better than fear? Love. Love does not always prevent death, but love persists, and love is forever.

By trishfreer

Mother, writer, artist and teacher grappling with grief and loss.

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