As I fell asleep last night, I was filled the most immense feeling of gratitude. Now, this may seem like absolutely nothing to some, but to me, what happened was a huge deal. Let me explain…
My daughters are young. They are growing up extremely quickly – I remember the times when I was crying to my mum about the lack of sleep I was having, and how I was worried when they would cry and I couldn’t understand what they needed – and she would say, this part won’t last long, they won’t be little like this forever, they will grow up quickly. And I didn’t believe her. And I was angry because her wise words didn’t help me at the time. But looking back, when they were crying in the night, or when my eldest refused to sleep, or my youngest felt so poorly but couldn’t tell me what was wrong, she just felt miserable and needed comfort from me…I’ve blinked – I have literally blinked, and we’ve time travelled, where the girls are articulate, self-sufficient and incredibly grown up, to the point now, if I’m not feeling well, they will look after me.
My eldest is now 7, at the moment she is still a part of the ‘infants’, in September, she steps into the world of the ‘juniors’. The infants at her school always present their annual ‘Mother’s Day’ assembly, which I’ve never been able to go to before. My youngest started school in the September just gone and was really excited about all the Mother’s Day rehearsals that were taking place. I overheard them talking…my youngest was enthusiastically explaining to her sister that she couldn’t wait for Friday because Mummy would be coming to see the songs and poems that they had prepared. And then I heard the expression in my eldest daughter’s voice…it was so difficult to explain. She sounded so much older, like someone who has been through a lot of pain, can see that someone else is heading in the same direction, and decides to give them advice in order to help them through what they are about to experience. She softened her voice, like she has heard grown-ups do, and spoke very slowly and carefully to her sister, explaining that Mummy wouldn’t be able to come because Mummy had to work. There was a stunned silence as my youngest processed this information. Then came the denial from my youngest. ‘No, no! Mummy is going to come, it’s her assembly’ I couldn’t see her face, but I could tell from my eldest daughter’s voice, there was a sad, knowing smile on her face – ‘No, she can’t come, she’s working..’
Before matters got out of hand, I decided to interject and surprise them both by explaining that in actual fact, I was coming this year. With howls of delight they both leapt on top of me, my youngest was relieved, my eldest – her eyes shining with astonishment and disbelief. Once the news had sunk in, and the drama had subsided, we sat around the dinner table enjoying a delicious home-cooked meal prepared by my husband. Suddenly, my eldest turned to me said, in a very matter of fact way, ‘I never told you this Mummy, but last year when you didn’t come to the assembly, at the end of assembly I cried. My teacher had to give me a hug.’
I turned and looked at my husband, who cautiously looked back at me, searching my face, wondering what my reaction would be. There was a pain in my heart. It felt like a knot in the centre of my chest. All this time, to spare my feelings, this little girl didn’t let on how disappointed she was that I couldn’t come to her assembly because she didn’t want me to feel sad. She was trying to prepare her sister and make her understand that Mummy wouldn’t be able to go to the assembly in order to shield her from the pain and disappointment that she would inevitably feel.
However, I also reminded myself, that as a family, we had taken steps in our life, to ensure that we had choices. Never again, by the grace of God, would I miss a Mother’s Day assembly, or an achievement assembly, or a Sports Day, or a class assembly.
Those of you, who read my blogs frequently, or know me of old, will know that one of my most favourite mottos in life, is a couple of lines from a poem by Dylan Thomas.
‘Do not go gentle into that good night, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’
I read these words when I was 17 years old, and they had such a profound effect on me. Thomas wrote this to his father when his father was dying. He didn’t want his father to pass away in a gentle, weak way that was so unlike the way that he had lived his life. He wanted him to fight against death, die the way that he had lived – in a wild, defiant way….
Years later, those words, that sentiment remains with me.
I will not go gentle into that good night. I will not accept being in a situation where I cannot be there for my children when they need me. I will not let my daughters weep secret tears because I could not be there for them. I will rage against that. I will make choices where I can live my life according to what is acceptable to me.
And as my blood boils, and as I rage…I am also extremely grateful to God. I thank God for giving me choices. For being able to grab opportunities and be there when it matters before it’s too late. I am grateful that God gave the chance to not just accept fate, and not let me simply shrug and think to myself ‘what else could I do?’ I am simply grateful to God, for everything that I have.
PS: I went to the assembly. I saw both of them together. Singing their songs. Reciting their poems. My youngest had her eyes fixed on me for the entirety of the assembly. My eldest was the consummate professional, performing, and smiling with delight throughout it all. I managed to give them both a hug before I left for work – and walked on air for the rest of the day.