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I have a 5 year old little boy and it has been a hard few weeks to be his mother.

It was hard to turn on the news.  Hard to listen to the names and see the faces of those murdered. Hard to hear about a child being taken at gunpoint and held underground for a week.  Hard to contain maternal hatred for men who would perpetrate such horrors. Hard to contain tears of gratitude and grief for those who stood between a gunman and children to die more valiantly than most of us could ever hope to live, much less die.

It was hard to process the mixed feelings of relief and shame at that relief because the only thing that was different about me and someone else was their unimaginable loss and grief and my luck and chance not to have lived where they did.

Then a murder/kidnapping on a school bus 20 minutes from my parents’ house where I grew up – 10 miles from the bus route my daughter rode for years – reminded me that proximity was a risky defense on which to base my relief.

And, to be perfectly honest, in an attempt to shield myself I pulled away from these stories to a certain degree.  I read about them daily, I offered my prayers and held out hope, but I stayed away from commenting, watching and participating in the hourly drama of it, because the more I watched, the more certain I became of one fact.

There is no real safety for my children.  And that haunts me.

I grew up in a world where mothers don’t die in childbirth and, except in the direst of cases, babies live.  Polio, smallpox, dysentery and other child killers have all but been eradicated due to the advances of medicine.  I walked through an old graveyard months ago looking at all the tiny gravestones from 150 years ago (one family I remember had more than 5) and gave thanks that I live in an age where my children will most likely all live to adulthood – something that didn’t happen for either of my grandmothers, nor any of my great-grandmothers. In that I am so very blessed.  Even with the health risks of Downs, Sawyer has every expectation through science, education and the advancement of compassion to live a high quality life where 100 years ago doctors would have recommended I never see him and that he be thrown into an asylum to rot –something completely unfathomable to me, as his smiling face is my greatest joy every day.

But I have other things to fear – not viruses and disease – something worse: my fellow human beings.

The things I used to lay awake worrying about in the night – that Ezra may one day put himself danger because he doesn’t listen when he should and do something dangerous like run out in front of a car, that Sawyer will one day be taken advantage of and mistreated because of perceived disabilities – have been replaced by more violent actions from the insane adults around them.

When my daughter was growing up my big boogeyman fear was that she may be lured into a van with candy or a puppy and raped and murdered.  I taught her about strangers, was vigilant and kept my fingers crossed, relying a good deal on the knowledge that – statistically speaking – she was probably safe and doing my best to keep the odds of such dangers as low as possible. I tried to raise her to be aware of her surroundings and stay out of high danger situations. She is 20 years old now; so far, so good.

I still have that boogeyman to worry about with my young sons to some extent (I cannot forget about the Sanduskys of the world), but now I have a new one to hate and fear.  One whose insanity cannot be explained away so simply and straightforwardly as a child predator taking one child at a time for their own sick gratification.

Now we have these mass child murdering motherfuckers to worry about.  Ones whose insanity is sneaky and devious and seemingly has no recognizable profile as of yet.  Ones that you cannot warn your children about because if your child is in the presence of this kind of madman, it is probably too late.

How am I supposed to teach my little boy to be vigilant and protect himself when his entire world view is based on the knowledge that he is precious, loved and cherished and that adults are his protectors? Do I shatter that innocence?  Would that be more dangerous?

These crazies operate so far outside of our society’s moral contract that the rest of us cannot fathom their levels of insanity. And quite frankly, I don’t care to.  As compassionate as I can be, these monsters engender no compassion or forgiveness from me – no matter their circumstances, problems or mental diseases.  May they rot in the bowels of Hell for all eternity.

The mindset of one who would intentionally target children is so horrifying and terrible that it is impossible to protect against it. I listen to the arguments from banning all weapons to putting armed guards in schools and know that neither would work.  Neither would stop someone who wants to kill children. There is no sure safety against that.

There is one thing that we all agree on, no matter where your political, religious, racial, ethical, sexual  or any other dividing line in society may be; whether you have children or suffer from a phobia of them; we ALL operate under then indisputable knowledge that children are precious.

We recognize and believe that children who are the least among us in years are in fact the future of the entire world. Just the amount of energy and imagination embodied in one child is so precious to  us as adults who have grown up and lost their wonder that, without children, we would be utterly lost in a cynical world unsavable and unredeemable.

Our children are that redemption.

They are our lights, our beacons, our reasons, our future.

I am terrified for all of them – quite selfishly, mine in particular – and thus the future of humanity.

I roasted a chicken and a half with vegetables on Sunday evening. 

Being the ever-on-top-of –it working mother that I am, I had dutifully read my Real Simple magazine, gotten new cooking ideas and recipes, made my grocery list and ran through the store at breakneck speed so I could get back in time for Jay to go pick up our Phish tickets for this coming Saturday’s show. I wanted to cook a nice Sunday dinner, especially since Greta was home.

I had cleaned the kitchen, poured a glass of pinot grigio and began to cook.  I was cooking enough for dinner that night, dinner the next night and lunch leftovers for me for the next couple of days at work.

I was busy. Things were being cleaned and cooked and prepped in a small space at a high rate of multitasking speed…and there was that pinot.

For reasons I will not get into, I was a bit distracted and emotional.  I had also fielded a couple of calls from my emotional and high strung mother while cooking said meals and was even more distracted than cooking for 5 people and 4 meals would have normally been – and that would have been hard enough.

When it came time to take the chicken out and check for doneness, I could not find the meat thermometer. 

I am horrible about timing chicken.  In an effort to make sure I do not serve my family salmonella on a plate, I over cook the chicken every time.  Then I am disappointed when I cut into that chicken and realize with the first bite that I did it again and, therefore, my efforts for a perfectly cooked meal were in vain. After all that work. Dammit.

So I have begun to rely on the thermometer.  Once that baby says my chicken has reached 165 degrees, it is out of the oven to rest.  I will not over cook the chicken.  I will not over cook the chicken.

But, when I tried to find the thermometer I had specifically laid out on the counter in preparation, it was not there.  I had just had it.  Greta had seen it on the counter as well. Still it was nowhere to be found. 

After a few minutes search, I realized I was wasting too much time looking for it and cut into the chicken to check for doneness.  It wasn’t. So I put it back into the oven and, after thinking about it, decided that the 10 minutes Jay had suggested could not be long enough and I doubled it to 20 minutes.  (Ensuring later, of course, that the chicken would, once again, be over cooked.) 

I moved on to the next step in the recipe – prepping the maple Dijon sauce. As I got the Dijon mustard out of the refrigerator, my mother called. again.  I listened to whatever it was she’d forgotten to tell me when we were on the phone 30 minutes before as I shook the mustard. I sat it down and checked the vegetables. 

Realizing they were almost overdone, I pulled out the roasted vegetables and poured them up into a corning ware dish and covered them with foil while I waited the last few minutes for the chicken (to over cook).  

I got off the phone with my mother and got out the maple syrup and a bowl.  I went to get the mustard and wisk.  No mustard on the counter.  Or in the frige.  Or in the pantry.  Or next to the sink. 

Where the hell was the mustard, dammit???

I had just had it. 

Of course, I had also just had the meat thermometer as well.  And no one could find it, either.  Jay had come into the kitchen and looked; Greta had come into the kitchen and looked.  It was gone.

And now the mustard.  AAARrrrrgggghhhh.

Jay, hearing my frustration and frantic search for the mustard, came into the kitchen.  With a “what is it this time?” and a cursory look around the kitchen, Jay helpfully suggested that I use the creole mustard he found in the frige instead of the Dijon mustard whose whereabouts I was currently losing my mind over. 

No.

No, no, no.  I was not using the creole mustard.  It was not like I had not checked the frige before I went to the grocery store and made sure we had the ingredients I needed to make the recipe.  Had I screwed up and not had it, ok. I would use a substitute mustard, as much as I would have hated doing it.  But I had the right mustard.  Hell, I had HAD IT IN MY HAND shaking it up not 10 minutes ago.  I would only need to use the creole mustard if we did not HAVE Dijon.  And, unless someone came into the kitchen and DELIBERATELY took the Dijon mustard and threw it outside, we HAD Dijon mustard. 

I AM NOT CRAZY.  It was here.  It was right here. I was on the phone with Mother.  I took it out of the frige.  I shook it up so the watery stuff that settles would not drip into my dish. 

I put it right HERE. I slapped the counter in the spot where I knew I had set the mustard a few minutes before. 

Or had I?  Had I imagined it?

Jay told me I was overreacting.  He told me it was not there anymore and no one knew what I had done with it.  We checked cabinets, the freezer, drawers.  I got more and more upset because the stranger the places we looked, the worse I felt.  If we did find the Dijon mustard in the freezer, then I am a lot more scatterbrained and out of control than even I thought.  And I hate that about myself.  I hate being scatterbrained and high strung.   I want desperately to be one of those calm, in control moms who have all the tools and time everything out – and never over cook the chicken.    

I was on the verge of tears.

Have you ever seen the movie Midnight Lace? It is a Doris Day, Rex Harrison 1960s thriller.  It has been a while for me, but from what I remember it is about a married woman who starts to doubt her own sanity.  Things start happening she cannot explain. She gets death threats by phone.  Then notes that disappear. When she tries to show proof, there is none to be found.  Her loving husband and best friend stand staunchly beside her as she descends into madness and hysteria.

I am pretty sure in one scene the husband takes his nutty, hysterical wife by the shoulders and tells her she is overreacting.  

Only the husband and best friend are having an affair and have orchestrated the whole thing so when the poor wife winds up dead it is not from them murdering her (which they fully intend on doing) but from her tragically taking her own life due to her stedily increasing paranoia.  Their mutual grief (and the conveniently dead wife’s inheritance) is the basis for their growing love and affection leading to their marriage and happily ever after.

Apparently, Ezra has seen this movie.  And understands it well enough to use their tactics to get rid of me. 

While Jay was in the kitchen holding me by the shoulders telling me I was freaking out for no apparent cause and it was just mustard, for heaven’s sake, who cares which one you use, Greta took Ezra into the living room and asked him where he put the mustard. 

Just as I was trying to tearfully explain to Jay that I felt like I was losing my mind and I had already been upset and THIS WAS NOT HELPING, Ezra showed Greta where in the pantry he had hidden the Dijon fucking mustard. I never even saw him sneak into the kitchen, the little rascal.

I understand that I had Ezra when I was 37 and that means I will be old, demented and crusty when he is in his 30s. I just never thought he’d have the wherewithal to start laying the groundwork for my incompetency hearing this far in advance.

He never would fess up about the thermometer though. 

Greta found that under her bag in the living room the next day. 

I am going to have to keep an eye on this one.

Being that this weekend is Father’s Day, I’ve had some shopping to do.  Like every woman in my situation, I struggle with what to do for Father’s Day  – and I have three of them in my life. 

Ezra’s dad and I are divorced but we have managed (with lots of soul-searching and knock-down-drag-out text fights over about a year) to come to terms with the fact that he and I, along with Jay, are raising this child together and we all love Ezra and have his best interests at heart.  We get along very well now, especially for people in our situation.  I am grateful for that.

In that spirit, he very nicely got me a Mother’s Day gift that he let Ezra pick out. So last night it was my turn.

Ezra and I went to dinner and then went to a collegiate sports store to get his dad’s gift. 

Another thing you have to understand about me and my family and our Southerness is that we are an Auburn family. 

Big time. 

My dad went there, Jay graduated from there, Jay’s little brother is there now.

I was raised to be an Auburn fan from birth.  And I will do the same for my children. 

This is a BIG deal down here in the South.  The SEC rules the roost.  The other day, my brother posted a simple, “100 Days!” on his Facebook page and I immediately knew that it was exactly that long till the first Game Day of the 2012 season (it is down to the 80s by now! Yay! I cannot wait!)

Ezra’s dad, on the other hand, is a graduate of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M. Yes, the very Texas A&M who left the Big whatever conference and are coming to the SEC this year.  And playing one of their initial SEC games against Auburn in Auburn. And being that the Corps is the oldest military student organization in the country and Ezra’s dad was in the Corps band, which never missed a game his entire college career, he is a bit of an A&M fan in his own right. 

Never during the years I was married to Ezra’s dad did this become a real issue. I will watch any college football and as Auburn and A&M were in different conferences they never met up on the field. 

Until this year.  So this is gonna be fun. 

I have already done my best to inoculate Ezra from his father’s A&M influence.  He has a myriad of Auburn paraphernalia from the pennant hanging in his room to pom-poms, jackets, hats and other such items. 

More importantly he watches the games with us.  Mostly because he has no choice, but we also try to explain it to him and play football with him.  You know, make it fun and teach him.  It will be a whole family deal. Sawyer already has Auburn gear to grow into (he wore his first AU shirt in the hospital when he was born – you get the idea?). 

It is a full indoctrination program we have going. And Ezra’s dad has both noted and commented on this on several occasions. 

Despite that, and with full recognition of the fact that I am such a big person spirit of thanks and Father’s Day, I bought Ezra’s dad an A&M flag he could fly outside his home with pride for A&M’s first season in the SEC.  He will come to understand why the SEC is the most respected conference in the country and he will, eventually – provided A&M can hang – enjoy that same pride. 

But a part of me was a bit concerned about purchasing something that could be used to undermine the Auburn training Ezra has had up till this point.  So when Ezra asked very sweetly if he could get a little plastic Auburn helmet for two bucks at the register, I smiled and bought it for him.

And this morning when I dropped him off at school, he wanted to take the little helmet in for an additional show-and-tell. Hm, imagine that. 

“Can I take the Auburn helmet to my Daddy’s house, Mommy?” he asked innocently as he got out of the car.

“You sure can, love. I got it just for you to keep at Daddy’s house, ok?  War Eagle!!”

“War Eagle, Mommy!”

We high-fived.

That’s right Ezra.

Exactly.

I remember:

The first time I felt you move.

The first time I saw you.

Crying the first time I was left totally alone with you and I realized it was my job to keep you safe and alive.  I was scared to death. I still am.

Sleeping with you and nursing you as a baby.

Taking you to Ft. Rucker ER in the middle of the night with croup.

What a beautiful baby girl you were – literally.  Everyone knew it – all they had to do was look at you.  And then you would smile and cackle and they really loved you.

That your first word was “light.”

Singing “Five Sleepyheads” every single night for 4 years straight. Reading One Fish, Two Fish every night for at least 2 years.  And I still am able to recite The Cat and the Hat for Ezra now because of you. 

Moving into our first apartment together at Fieldcrest in Dothan.  For the first time you had a yard to play in and we spent hours at the pool playing. For the first time I was a single mother.  For the first time I had my own apartment – with you. 

The night you fell into that pool upside down with a swim ring on (because you didn’t listen to me and stay off the deep end ladder) and had to be pulled out by your ankle.  And I put you right back into the shallow end before you had a chance to be scared.

Your wide, scared eyes from your car seat the time I hydroplaned and wrecked on the way to take you to daycare.  You never made a peep while the car was spinning, when we hit the tree (a very small one with the back bumper, thank goodness) or even after I got you out.  You didn’t know what to think, so you just took it in stride and trusted me.  You were 1.

The first time you ever flew. You were 2.

The first wedding you were in.  You were 2.

The time you cut your hair while I napped on the couch.  You were 4. I still have the hair – dated.

The second wedding you were in.  You were 4.

When you broke your tooth at Aunt Maug’s and how cute you looked when you smiled with that chipped front tooth. 

Being the tooth fairy.

You dressing up in Monna’s clothes for a tea-party at First Presbyterian preschool – complete with hat and pearls. I have pictures.

When you broke your ankle in kindergarten. Twice.  I still have both casts.

Taking you to Disney World, Epcot and Universal Studios for you 5th birthday.

Field day, relay races and “We Are The Champions” in Miss Stevens’ class.

The third wedding you were in.  You were 8.

Reading Harry Potter to you… and then you reading them to me.

Going to the Peanut Festival and the beach every year with April, Jess and Tim.

Your sprinkler birthday party in our front yard.

Your first prize winning photograph.

The poem about America you had published.

Taking you and Anesia to tour the USS Alabama – and watching a live news broadcast.

Going to Dauphin Island just the two of us on Saturdays. Stopping at the farmer’s market stand on the way home.

Going to Orange Beach just the two of us.  We walked along the beach and you caught hermit crabs with the other kids at night.

Mardi Gras in Mobile. I still have a jar full of our coolest beads.

That you used to ride your bike everywhere, and I let you – as long as you had the walkie talkie and stayed within its range.

All the hermit crabs you had. Well, most of them. And the other pets – Miles, Snidge… the good ones.

The second time you flew.  You were 12.

Your 13th birthday party in our back yard… with the unbreakable piñata and shaving cream fight.

How well read and articulate you are.

Your art.

Your photography.

Your writing.

I know how smart you are. 

I know how strong willed and defiant you are. 

I know how talented you are. 

I know how much potential you have.

 I know how good you are.

I know because I made you and raised you.  For good or bad.  For both of us.

But I need you to know these things as well. 

I need you to know that, at 20, your life is really just beginning.  It may not seem like it, but it is.  I know this because I have lived your lifetime with you.  I remember it all. And I know exactly how long it takes for 20 years to pass.

As your mother, I need to know you are making the most of it.  It will go by so fast and I don’t want you to take it for granted.  You still have plenty of time.  If you take advantage of it. 

Don’t short change yourself, Greta.  Please.

I was having a rough time this morning. 

Any morning that starts out with a home invasion perpetrated by something with wings, antennae and a stinger is just not going to be a good morning (in my tiny bathroom with the door closed while I am brushing my teeth, no less).  Jay did his duty as man of the house and killed the intruder.  (The little bastard stung both Sawyer and the nanny yesterday.  I didn’t feel too sorry for him while the bug spray killed him, just so you know.) I don’t like bugs, flying or otherwise, with a special hatred and dread of roaches (a big thanks to Stephen King and Creepshow’s “They’re Creeping Up on You!” for that). 

Generally speaking, though, I don’t mind critters.  They are skittish of me and I of them and that is fine.  It also means that they (and I) keep our distances.  We may both live in the North Georgia woods, but I would rather catch a glimpse of them, not come face to face.  (Besides, if I had a Carrie Bradshaw hissy fit every time I saw a squirrel, I wouldn’t be able to walk out my front door.  And, let’s face it, I am from South Alabama.  We don’t have hissy fits over critters down here, so man up, city girls!)

As a matter of fact, Jay has taken to feeding the many, many birds we have living in and surrounding our yard.  We have found evidence of egg hatchings of at least one robin’s egg and another more generic little white egg (at least I hope they hatched instead of being some other critter’s dinner – says the woman who has a boiled egg for breakfast everyday).  I hear them all the time and love it.  I also love the evening light show the fireflies put on every evening. 

So this morning after Jay had rid our house of the stinging little bastard, he noticed a rabbit in the front yard.  He picked Ezra up so he could see it out the kitchen window.  It was cute. Ezra was impressed with the rabbit’s speed (of course – that child is going to be hell on wheels at 17, I’m afraid).  We had a little discussion about wild animals and how they are scared of us and can bite, etc., and how they run too fast for us to catch because they are scared of people.  Yes, all people, not just bad people.

I have probably mentioned that Ezra is a talker.  He also has a wonderful four-year-old’s imagination.  So as frustrated as I was for the encroaching of wildlife into my otherwise pristine human home, I got over it and allowed Ezra to both educate and entertain me on our way to his school.

For a bit of background, you have to understand that Ezra occasionally mentions “my sister, Abby.” The problem with this is that Ezra only has one sister and her name is Greta (my daughter).  His father has no other children.  Ezra’s dad is not married, either, so I assumed months ago when this first came up that he had introduced Ezra to a new girlfriend.  I waited for Ezra’s dad to tell me about her, something he eventually always does with a new love interest. 

Not this time. When I finally asked Ezra’s dad about “my sister Abby,” he told me he had been meaning to ask me about it.  None of us have a clue who Ezra is talking about.  We don’t know an Abby, and there is certainly not one who is his sister.  It is a mystery because he insists he has been to her house.

And he brings her up all the time. At least once a week. 

Today after seeing that rabbit in the front yard Ezra told me a whole story on the way to school.

He said the rabbit was lost.  I thought Ezra meant from its rabbit family and tried to explain that it was probably a mommy or daddy rabbit out looking for food for his baby rabbits.  But no, Ezra did not like my idea. This was not a responsible bunny out foraging for his bunny family.

He had something better in mind. (I put the Beatles 1 album on the in background, because Ezra was obviously not in the mood to allow me to listen to Morning Joe today)

Ezra sits back and tells me that it is his rabbit that he had at his “sister Abby’s” house in a cage.  He used to feed it and pet it and hold it.  It was brown and could run really, really, really fast.  But one day it got out and got away and got lost.  And now it is at Mommy’s house in the yard.  But it is still lost. 

He then changed the subject to the fast trucks on the road and how they go faster than the rabbit – and faster than my car.  But Lightening McQueen is even faster. 

Then he talked about the rain and asked where the sun was.  I explained it was still there but the clouds with the rain falling out of them were in the way and we just could not see the sun. 

And then he surprised me even more by saying, “When the rain and water disappears, it is called vaporation.”

I was impressed.  I told him I didn’t know that he knew about evaporation.

Then he told me, “No, Mommy, let me teach you.  Say ‘Vap.’”

“VAP”

“Very good, Mommy.  Now say, ‘Oration.’”

“Oration”

“See, Mommy, ‘VAPoration.’ It means the rain is disappeared. Did I teach you, Mommy?”

Yes, Ezra, as a matter of fact you did.  Thank you.  I needed it.

It is serious what we do.  I know it is not what we choose to talk about most of the time, but there is a reason for that. 

This is just one of the many, many, many mommy blogs out there. 

I try to post things here that are thoughtful and (hopefully) a little bit funny.  I want people to come back, after all.  And I try not to make it all mommy all the time.

But mommy blogs give an outlet to both the writers and the readers – a much needed one. 

The reason?

Because raising your children is one of the scariest and most serious things you will do in life. 

One of my friends told her husband once not to get all high and mighty with his job and his responsibilities while she is a SAHM.  He may very well be doing something important and serious, but she is making people.  People who will one day be well-balanced, well-adjusted, responsible, happy human beings who will then go on to do good things with their lives.  Top that. 

She is so right. 

You worry and fret.  You model and teach.  You set boundaries and rules.  You hand out rewards and punishments. 

You above all pray for their safety, because someone always knows someone else who has been struck with tragedy.

And all mothers know it can happen to them. Even if they are vigilant and responsible there are always sicknesses and accidents – the randomness of life – in addition to the danger and evil inherent in this world. I look back on my own life and know that there were a few times that, if things had gone just a little bit differently, I might be just another sad story. 

And the fear of becoming a cautionary tale or a tragic story of loss is something mothers live with all the time.  No mother will ever let her kid go off to camp or play football or drive without thinking about all the news stories she’s heard about a kid going missing or being injured or having a wreck.

But if we dwelled on this fear we would be paralyzed and damage our kids with our overprotectiveness. So that well-adjusted part would be out the window.

And that is why mommy blogs mostly talk about the funny and the inspirational parts of parenting, because not one of us need to be reminded of the Fear.

But a lot of moms take being moms so seriously that they forget to have a good time.  Put up the dish gloves, let down their hair and just have a good damn time. 

We need to laugh and enjoy what is right now because, although we give assurances to our kids that all will be fine and things will work out in the end, we know that happy endings are only a sure thing in fairy tales. 

Real life is more unpredictable than that. 

But as uncertain as it is and as scary as it can be, this life that we live and the children we raise are worth the risk we take by allowing them to carry our hearts with them every day. 

That is why I put off dinner and threw the football with Ezra last night.

It is why so thoroughly enjoy t-ball games. 

It is why I want to take the boys to Disney World and Washington DC and the beach and the mountains. 

It is the uncertainty of life and the fleeting nature of it that gives deep meaning to having a good time and enjoying the people you love as much as you possibly can. 

It is why we all need to make sure we have a good dose of fun to balance the responsibility of life. 

Now, go have a good time with someone you love.  I am.

CONNER!! I have to find him!!”

Elaine woke with a start with David’s arms wrapped tight around her. He was whispering in her ear, trying to calm her.  It was the way she usually woke up now.  Poor David.  It must be hard on him to have to console her like this every morning.  She was ripped, sometimes screaming, from nightmares.  Other times out of blissful dreams where the five of them were together. Either way it really didn’t matter.

She was thrown out every day into the living Hell of not knowing where her son was. 

Well, she knew where his body was now, of course.  Somehow, people seemed to think that should help. 

Reigning in her grief, Elaine kissed her husband and thanked him for his comforting arms as she did every morning now.  As she sat up on the side of the bed, the deep ache settled into the place it had carved in her heart and she rose to greet the day. 

It was the 157th day she had woken without Conner in her life. She would live through another day without seeing his face and hearing his laugh. 

Elaine slid her feet into her slippers and she went to wake her remaining sons.  The days she had left with them were numbered, so she took a deep sigh, masked her grief and walked out of their bedroom.

“Rise and Shine, Sleepy Heads!” she said loudly and cheerfully. 

There had to be a way to show them how to live through the grief of loss.  They would be doing it again soon, she thought with deep regret.

David was a wonderful husband and father.  She could not imagine what life was like from his perspective.  He was working through his grief as well.  At the same time he bucked up and supported her, Sam and Jake. She loved him with all her heart. 

She felt such sorrow for David and prayed once again that he would understand her plan and not hate her for it. David may not ever forgive her, she knew.  But then, his acceptance was not necessary, either. 

Every day at breakfast they said a prayer for Conner.  They had done it every morning since the first morning after he’d gone missing.  The fact that his body was buried now did not seem enough of a reason to stop. 

Besides, Elaine knew that Conner was still somewhere.  What haunted her was that she was sure he still needed her.  Just like he had when he was lost and wondering.  Just like he had needed her to be there to catch him before he fell to his death. 

She tried and tried to stop herself from imagining his cries for her and for help.  She never could stop imagining that, though.  At times throughout the day his cries and pleas broke out of her imagination and she could hear him with her ears as well as her mind.

Elaine tried to tell her dead child that she was sorry for it all and she would be there with him soon. She prayed he could hear her. 

It seemed like Elaine prayed a lot – and to everyone. 

It would not be long now, she knew.  All the letters had been written.  All the plans had been made. 

She had seen the priest, a lawyer and a financial advisor.  While none of them agreed with her and all thought her plan insane, two were barred from sharing her plans by confidentiality.  The other did not really know the whole truth. 

Elaine had explained it as best she could.  She knew where Sam and Jake were.  She knew that David was capable of raising them and being there for them. 

But who was there for Conner since he died?  Was he with her grandmother who’d died a couple of years before?  What about her recently deceased uncle, was he there with Conner?

How did that work when you died? She had no idea.  She knew what she’d been taught as a child about the afterlife.  But she did not know if that was right or not.  And there was only one way to find out.

Had Conner been on a trip to Europe and needed her, she would have packed a bag and gone immediately without question.  David would have put the trip on the credit card and told her to call him when she landed.  If Conner or any of their sons had ever needed her in life, David would have understood.  Elaine did not know if David would understand that following Conner into death to find him and be with him and make up for the last days and moments of his life when she was not there made just as much sense. 

And if she was wrong?

What if there was nothing after death? 

Then she would go into oblivion. She would never find Conner and would have abandoned David, Sam and Jake for nothing.  But then, blissfully, she would never know it.  That was selfish, she knew, but there was a big part of her that simply couldn’t accept that would be the case.

What if Heaven and Hell existed?

Would she be sentenced to Hell for killing herself in order to find her son? She hoped God would not be that cold and callous, although, she also knew that there were plenty of Hell-worthy sins in her life to atone for.   At the very least before banishing her He would have to let her see Conner – even if it was the last time for eternity.  Conner would know that his mother would go through death to find him. She could tell him she was sorry.  She could let him know she should have been there when he needed her.  She could tell him she would always love him and he would know that if there was a way for her to prevent it, he would never be alone again.

She could go to Hell after that and be ok, she thought.

But then there was hope. 

Hope that she would find him.  Hope that she would be able to still see David, Sam and Jake in some way after her death.  Hope that her grandmothers already had found Conner and were keeping him safe until she could get there.  Hope that Conner would still love her and not hate her for letting him go camping and get lost and fall and break his neck.  

Hope that David, Sam and Jake would be ok and know she loved them and was waiting for them. Hope they would be able to forgive her over time and have good lives before they joined her and Conner.

Elaine realized over the next few weeks that a calm had come over her. 

She enjoyed Sam and Jake. She spent time with them together and alone.  She told them the things she though it was important for them to hear from their mother. 

And she loved David as best she could.  He was beginning to think she was getting better.  He was enjoying the time with her like they had years before, both before and after the boys were born.  They were happy.  

She had chosen a date that she hoped would not ruin any happy times she had with David or the boys.  It was just a Wednesday.  She’d been saving up the pills and would take them one night and leave quietly to go find Conner. 

Her parents and the rest of her family would be devastated, she knew, but there was nothing she could do about that. If her letters could not explain, then nothing could

Her biggest fear (besides not finding Conner) was that Sam and Jake would hate her for abandoning them.  She hoped one day they would understand how she could leave them. 

She knew where Sam and Jake were and she trusted they would be okay with David’s guidance.  She’d left letters that would come to them on different occasions in their lives from the lawyer.  She hoped they knew that if it had been either one of them instead of Conner she would have gone after them, too. 

David had agreed with the idea that Sam and Jake would have a good week split between their grandparents.  She had tried not to cry too hard when they left.  Elaine did not want them to think anything was wrong.  Her mother had known something was wrong, though, and Elaine knew she would not be shocked when they got the call. 

Later on in the week, after a few (last) nights together, Elaine confessed to David what she had done when it was too late for him to stop her. She begged his forgiveness and told him she loved him as she drifted off in his arms for the last time. 

All of a sudden, the light was blinding.  The feeling of falling and flying at the same time made her feel nauseous, or would have if she still had a body. The near-death experiences she’d heard had been accurate, she supposed. 

Elaine stopped in the light and looked back.  She saw David panicking – screaming and shaking her.  Voicelessly, she once again she told him how much she loved him.  To her surprise, Elaine saw David look up at her instead of down at the body he was holding, his eyes wide with shock.  He’d heard her. Maybe he would understand one day after all. She drank in what was possibly her last glimpse of him, filled with hope…

Then she bolted though the light into whatever was beyond Life screaming for her child.