When I gave birth to my oldest there was a bunch of us all having babies at the same time. Some of the group were first time mothers, like me.
Most of the group were pregnant their second child. One of the great thing about having your first while hanging around with more experienced mothers is that you learn how to be a mother from some really good teachers.
Susan and Michael’s first child, Eric had a rare blood disorder that made him often very, very sick. Their second child Rebecca was just younger than my daughter. The two girls used to hang out together in synagogue, as did that whole batch of babies until Susan and Michael moved to the burbs.
When my oldest was quite small, Susan told me that when Eric was small she took him to the park every day. He was so sick that he couldn’t get out of the stroller to play like the other kids. So every day Eric would come home from the park perfectly clean. Day after day Eric sat in the stroller and watched the other kids play.
Susan said that the first day Eric came home dirty she was so happy, because that meant that he was healthy enough to play like the other kids. When Susan told me this story my oldest was too little to get dirty in the playground. But I thought about the gift of getting dirty, and all that it means to have a child who is healthy enough to get dirty.
So from then on, whenever I would leave any of my kids I would say to them “Have fun, play hard and get dirty.” This was our going away mantra. My oldest said it to me when I went to give birth to her brother. I said “ Have fun play hard and get dirty.” when they went to day care, when they went to school and to summer camp.
Every once in a while we would see Eric and his family. Sometimes his face was swollen from medications. Sometimes we heard news that things were grave in deed. But we also heard that Eric went to summer camp. We heard that his bar mitzvah was incredible, because it was a miracle that he lived to see that day.
We saw Eric during his time in college. Eric had a job. There were times that he was sick, and times that he wasn’t sick.
Yesterday I ran into one of the women who was part of that group that was pregnant together twenty six years ago. She told me that Eric died last week. He was thirty years old.
Clearly each day Eric lived past babyhood was a miracle. But I also know that each day that he is no longer alive is just such a heart break.
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