I kissed Sage's soft, chubby baby girl leg today. Because I could. She was there, warm and squirmy, giggling. Alive. So very alive.
She might not be tomorrow.
The most profound lesson I've learned about motherhood came courtesy of what must have been a deafening sound of crunching steel. I wasn't there. I can only visualize what it felt like, to be in the driver's seat, with Grandma strapped in the passenger seat, the tired but happy children secure in their car seats in the back.
Maybe the conversation was about the carousel ride, or the water fountain the kids splashed in. Maybe one child dozed. Or there was a squabble over a toy. Maybe everyone was singing.
It wasn't even rush hour. But the traffic was backed up, as usual, to the exit for home. Waiting, the minivan all but parked behind a Tahoe. An ordinary day.
In an instant, it was over. A bigrig plowed through the back end until it became the back seat. Mom and Grandma turning around in horror.
The children. The children.
Emma, age 4, and Katie, age 2, died soon after being airlifted to local hospitals. Kyle, who turned 5 the day before, died later that evening in his mother's arms.
Unimaginable. Unfathomable. Unexplainable.
I have cried often about this since I saw the accident pictures in the paper Saturday morning. More so the next day, when I saw for the first time pictures of the smiling, warm-eyed beautiful children.
I studied the photos on their website. They looked so familiar. Could I have met them? They live in the next town. Or is it just that they are a version of the Everyman - in this case, the Everymom. I feel like I know her because I could be her: a mom returning in the early afternoon from an outing with her kids. I've gone to the same places they have. Driven the same highway. It could have easily been my car that was hit, my children's lives ended before they'd begun.
The pictures show a life full of birthday parties and sunny days at the park. Smears of 1st birthday cake surounding a toothy smile. Christmas. A grinning Dad. The two older kids gazing at their newborn sister. Emma kissing Kyle on the cheek.
Lori is a stay-at-home mom with no children to take care of. No pretty hair to untangle, no warm top of the head to kiss, no soccer uniforms to wash, no urgent cries of "Mommy!" to hurry and come see the lizard on the patio.
I'm sure she did what we all do to try to keep our children safe. We put them to sleep on their tummies from the moment we meet them. When they start to explore, we cover outlets, pad the sharp edges, gate our stairs. Carseats are safety-inspected and always buckled tight. We slather on the sunscreen. Tighten their helmets when running just isn't fast enough and they master scooters and bikes.
We do all these things and more, but the truth is, there is no way to completely protect them. There are terrible illnesses, maniacs with guns who think college students make good target practice, trucks that don't stop.
That is the risk of becoming a mother. The only emotion that can possibly match the overwhelming love you feel for your child is the equally intense sorrow of losing them.
The family has a website with a guestbook. Coble Memorial Website
Many of those who have signed are like myself, women who feel a connection because we are mothers. Many also talk about faith, often writing about the children being in a better place.
I hope the family does find comfort in the religious sentiments. They don't do much for me, though. I wonder if those who say the family should not ask "why?" because "only G-d knows" believe it simply because it's less terrfiying then the knowledge they live in a world where three precious, beautiful children are killed for absolutely no reason.
I can't imagine being Lori and Chris Coble today. Or in the days, months, years to come. What can silence the scream that must continuously eminate from the very core of their beings? How are they not reminded with every breath of those that no longer breathe? The house is full of not just toys and clothes but memories. Of the musky smell of Child. Of children.
Can they look at the kitchen and not see the first gummy mouthful of rice cereal? Be in the living room and not see the first of many steps? Finding a small hidden sock in the couch, seeing a girl who walks just like Emma or Katie - our children become our lives, how can they no longer be?
So I must become a better, more gentle, more tolerant mother. I must laugh more, scold less. Delight in the small things. To do less would be to dishonor the lives of Kyle, Emma and Katie.
To my own Sawyer and Sage, sleeping as I type, I love you more than any words can say. All the way to the moon - and back.
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