The Hardest Thing

My child recently had to write an essay about the hardest thing he ever had to do. For him, it seems to be trying to keep his damn room clean. It's mission impossible for a twelve year old sloth I tell you.

But this essay inspired a conversation between us that I have long since been thinking about. He asked me what the hardest thing I ever had to do was.

I didn't know how to answer him.

What does hard really mean? Gestating and giving birth to three rabid badgers who tore my insides out was hard.

Coming home with a disabled baby no one expected or prepared for was hard.

Trying to explain to people why my beautiful son never smiled was hard.

Spending endless nights, months on end, staring at a boy in a crib in a hospital and wondering if my family would ever be whole and under one roof together was hard. Dealing with one doctor after another in a never ending series of medical emergencies was hard.

Missing field trips and precious moments with my older two children because I had to be with their younger sibling was hard.

Driving alone, in the middle of the night, with a dying child in the back seat of my car was hard.

Looking into my husband's eyes when he arrived at the hospital and having to find the words to tell him I failed him and our son, was hard. Phoning our family to tell them our boy had died, was hard.

Walking out of the emergency room with nothing but a plastic bag of a dead boy's belongings was hard.

Mustering up the courage to walk into my childrens rooms, sit them down as their father stood behind me weeping, to tell them their brother died in the middle of the night and they would never have another opportunity to hug him was hard.

Seeing the mound of dirt heaped upon where my boy's body lie and having to walk away from that boy for the last time, was hard.

Hard doesn't seem adequate enough.

Facing every holiday and birthday and anniversary knowing my family is forever fractured, is hard.

Watching our friends and family's be able to celebrate together as a family with all of their children, is hard.

Opening the box of Christmas decorations and hanging a stocking for a boy who only exists in dusty picture frames and our hearts is hard.

None of this gets any easier. It seems to get harder as time ticks past and stretches out in front of us.

How does I choose what was the hardest when all of it is equally devastating and soul shattering?

Trying to adopt a baby boy, only to lose him and be accused of being a bad parent was hard. Fighting to clear our names and bring home another boy, our Jumby, was hard.

Fighting to get our family's to accept and love Jumby has been hard.

Keeping my marriage together in the face of all this adversity has been hard.

All of these thoughts swirled around me as my son looked at me with patient innocent eyes. It was then I realized what the meaning of hard was to me, what my answer is, what it will always be.

"The hardest thing I have ever had to do, will ever have to do, is to remember to live, Frac," I answered thoughtfully. "The hardest thing in the world is to choose joy. To remind myself that the scars we bear on our souls are just reminders of what we have been through, what we have lost. They shape us into the people we are today but they shouldn't determine what comes tomorrow, Frac. For me, setting the example for you and your siblings that no matter how hard life gets, it should always go on because where one joy disappears another will appear."

Frac fell silent while he stared at his lost brother's ornament glinting off the Christmas tree as he processed what I had just said. I sat quietly beside him, staring off into the ether of my own memories as I waited for him to respond.

"I wish life wasn't so hard for us. I wish we could just be regular people."

"Me too buddy. Me too."

"Thanks Mom," he looked at me, the twinkle of the lights on the tree reflecting off his glasses. "I love you."

"I love you too kidlet," I smiled as I ruffled his unruly hair.

"I was totally wrong, by the way."

"Wrong?" I asked, confused.

"Ya, I told Fric that you'd probably say the hardest thing you have ever done was get your nipples pierced. Boy was I wayyy off base," he snickered.

I didn't have the heart to tell him, so I just bit my tongue as he walked away and thought to myself, "Nope, dying the muff bright blue all by myself was waaaay harder than stringing ornaments through my boobs."

Sometimes staying quiet is the hardest thing to do.