From the moment I read this on the Home page of In These Small Moments, I knew Nicole and I would be friends someday.
Her writing is eloquent, touching and magical. It doesn’t matter if she’s writing a letter to her daughter’s teachers, allowing us a glimpse of the beautiful love she and her husband have for one another, sharing her grief for a father she never knew, or showing us a small moment spent with her son, Nicole writes purely, deeply and from the heart.
I am very honored to have her here today.
I’ve known for all of my life that my father was dead.
I was told that he was in Heaven…that he loved me very much and one day I would join him.
I’ve also known for my entire life that my brother was dead…that he was with my father and they were waiting patiently for me.
From a very young age, I felt that tremendous, consuming weight of death.
It became my responsibility to care for my mother and younger brother, as I was petrified of losing them too.
I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t struggle with anxiety…with fear.
My father was dead and fear of losing my mother was truly paralyzing.
My older brother died as an infant, so losing my younger brother wasn’t an irrational fear.
Tonya asked me one day, nearly a year ago, how I will explain my father’s death to my children.
My mother was faced with the choice between telling me the truth, as appropriate to my age, and distracting me with half-truths.
She chose the former.
And I’m not sure if there was a right answer.
For as long as I can remember, I have known bits of the truth that came to form a whole by the time I was a teenager.
I knew that my father’s best friend shot him. Twice. At close range.
And for my entire childhood, death was real.
It lurked behind every car trip.
Behind every scary face.
Around every corner.
I lay in bed at night, nearly every night of my childhood, bargaining with God.
I’ll be a good girl, God…please just don’t take my mother. I have nothing else.
I won’t sass, God.
I will keep my room clean, be nice to my brother.
Just please don’t take them, too.
When my daughter turned two, I felt as though I could breathe a little easier…that she was finally at an age when she could begin to store her memories…just in case.
That’s how I’ve lived my life, gathering small moments and stocking them away, just in case.
So, as my daughter approaches the age where she’s making connections, seeing where she fits into a larger whole, her little wheels are spinning and it won’t be long before she asks me where her grandfather is.
And it will paralyze me.
Because he is dead and I’m not as certain of that Heaven as I once was.
What will I tell my children?
Will I be as honest with them as my mother was with me?
Will I tell them comforting stories of Heaven and being together as a family one day?
Or do I have some other choice that I can’t see in this moment?
As the months since Tonya’s invitation have passed, I hoped that I would reach some conclusion…that the answer would take shape in my mind.
But it hasn’t.
And as more time passes, I’m not certain that there will ever be an easy answer.