When they are grown, when all those moments you meant to remember and cherish for all time are in the past and their edges are softening, you and I can see our children: enormous and tiny. They are at once too big and too small, as though we've turned the telescope of time backward. And sometimes they are perfectly captured, frozen snapshots of memories, as lustrous and perfect as the tiniest insects preserved in amber. We see them sleeping in bed alongside us, in their white cribs, in those superhero toddler beds we put together when the crib was outgrown. We walk with them, carrying them like precious gems, balancing them on jutted-out hips, small fingers caught in our own, arms draped around their narrow shoulders, and when they tower over us, with our arms snaked around their waists. We see an endless series of discrete moments in like progressions marking the unique growth and shaping of each child, unique and unrepeatable. A shadow of grief may touch us when we put to bed in the evening one small, busy person only to be greeted in the morning by a wholly new small person, subtly but surely changed; such is the nature of growth. Such is the lot of parents, whose universal reality is that we must always, always let go. When they sleep in their own beds, we let them go. When they stop nursing in favor of food, we let them go. When we drop our fingers to rejoice in their first tottery steps, we let them go. When we take them to the door of their first school and watch them go inside, we let them go. In a million ways and with an equally endless combination of emotions, we let them go.
This weekend was one of particularly stunning spring weather in northeastern Florida, those last few days of mid-70s temps with warm Atlantic water, streaks of high bright clouds and almost no humidity; the days we welcome with open windows and billowing curtains. We walked a long way on a falling-tide beach, kept company by more people than usual for the time of year, likely sharing a recovery from the lingering winter, their faces upturned like sunflowers. Kids slid along the surf on skim boards and rolled in on boogie boards. I could see porpoises beyond the sandbar, and I thought of whales moving through the warm water to cooler environs and sea turtles, readying themselves to follow their inborn compasses to lay eggs on these beaches.
One of my sons sent a message. Had I heard about the tragic death of one of the kids he'd spent years with in Little League? I had not. Memories. Snapshots. The face of this kid - and the face of his dad, who coached and umpired - called those captured moments to mind. All the years our boys played baseball, before they went off to high school and all its attractions and distractions, we spent countless hours with other families with whom we had varying degrees of connection. There were hours of practices, games, tournaments, scorekeeping...no matter how poetic or prosaic it might have been, no matter how personally connected we felt or didn't feel, we spent a LOT of time together. And now this athletic, smart-alecky, funny, competitive, challenging and interesting kid was gone, the victim of a tragic accident.
As I walked, I heard a kid shout behind me, "Dad! Hey! Dad! Can you help with this?" Behind me were two kids, presumably brother and sister, working on some kind of sand sculpture or game. The parents were comfortably perched in chairs under an expansive umbrella. They glanced at each other, smiling, and waved the kids off: You're fine; go ahead; we're comfortable. I very nearly turned back to look at the dad, to say, Go. Go and go and go every time one of them calls for you. You will never know - none of us will ever know - what time is allotted to us, to them, to this existence on this Earth, in this life. Go! Their childhood may be all you're thinking of, but the letting go may be SO MUCH more permanent than you expect...Go! These are not the same boys, but they are the faces of children who remind me that there is no time but now. We see them backward; we imagine them forward. But there is no real time but now.
I did not turn back. I walked forward, thinking about Brandon Young Bush, thinking about how he touched my life. Thinking about how his dad touched my life, thinking how they both challenged me to be better, stronger and maybe even a little smarter. Thinking: All we do is let them go. Thinking, Go in peace, Brandon Young Bush. Go in peace, and may peace find and comfort the hearts of those who loved you so much that you will be with them always. Shifting, ephemeral, timeless as the ocean; present and yet gone, for they have Let You Go, sorely though it has broken their hearts. So go in peace, young friend, to love and serve the Lord as an angel in the firmament of the Heavens.
Brandon Young Bush
Requiescat in pace
Note: This post is written without the editorial skills of Dylan Christensen; any and all errors are my own.
Photo credit (c)Rodney Christensen