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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.
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Reader Comments (117)

Here's to less hard, and lessons learned . . .

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertysdaddy

You are amazing. Your family. Your writing. Your spirit. Your soul. I just love how you share with us. Thank you for the reminder that life has turmoil, which you've seen, and yet find humor and joy and love.


December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Flinger

You are amazing and a fabulous mom. I hope my kids like me half as much when they are older.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tanis Miller, Mrs. Flinger. Mrs. Flinger said: {possibly the best post I've read} RT @redneckmommy: New post at my place. This was hard to write. I am wrung out. http://bit.ly/5QIUzD [...]

I do love that "the hardest thing is to choose joy", very true.

Was it joyous dyeing the muff blue? Even if it was hard?

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEssie

If you only knew how much hope, inspiration and belief I have because of you. How much it meant to find someone else who "got" what it meant to lose a child and have to clear your name of horrendous accusations. Someone who keeps on living, loving, remembering and moving forward.....your kids are lucky to have you. Our blog community is lucky to have you. I am lucky to have you.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCJ

Beautiful post. I have tears in my eyes.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteramandashea17

I love how he totally thought the nipple rings were the hardest part. Good thing you didn't share the blue muff story with him, it might have been hard for him to ever look you in the face again without picturing it!

(((hugs))) you totally rock girlie. I am so thankful that I havehad the opportunity to meet you. Thank you for sharing parts of you with us.

It may be hard, but you make it look fairly easy. I am completely amazed by your strength.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynette

The last thing I EVER expected to do at the end of this post was audibly snort. You toy with my emotions, Tanis. I'll still say it was a beautiful post.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBusyDad

My heart is in my throat.

I don't even know what else to say.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTwoBusy

wow! amazingly beautiful! and also, uh your so much more brave than me..nipples in the boob??!!! OUCH!

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjenn

Way to take me from crying to laughing out loud in mere sentences! Choosing joy is HARD, but you're doing it Tanis, you really are. xo

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpgoodness

You just made me bawl. I know how your son feels ... every day I long to just be "regular people." On the outside, we look fine. But this family is a crisis in motion. Daily, I wonder if I will survive. I do not understand the loss of a child, but I understand the loss of what could have been had a different hand been dealt. But we play the hand we have and hope we'll win. I am thankful for all I have, but a little jealous that others don't have to walk in my shoes. I fantasize about walking away from all of this and starting over, but know I could never do that, because I love my fucked-up family. Anyway, just wanted to tell you that your essay made me cry; and that my reasons for not blogging anymore are stupid and I'm going to write today. God bless you and your blue muff.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMimiRuse

Choosing Joy.
I hadn't thought of it that way. But if you can do it, anyone can. You are such an inspiration!
My family has been through a tough year, and I think maybe thats what I'm trying to do this Christmas, choose Joy in preparing for the holiday.

(btw - I never thought about using my nipple rings to hang ornaments. they're gone now. B'feeding two kids)

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermonstergirlee

Wonderful post, want to share it will all the teachers I work with, well, the women mostly. You made me practically stop breathing for the lump in my throat, but then giggle....thanks.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Like a punch to the gut, I've lost my breath. Beautifully painful and honest writing.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChibi Jeebs

great post...you brought me to tears.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

I could barely read this on my tiny iPhone screen when my eyes were so blurry with tears. I see your witty side so often on Twitter, I really had no idea of all the rest. Wow. You are an inspiration to stop complaining about the little things that I so frequently whine about. Thank you for sharing.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterD_Zaster

Totally started crying... And then you HAD to bring up the smurf muff!

You have a gift for keeping joy and I am sure your kids will benefit from that all their lives. :)

Wow. I have no words. You are an inspiration to us all.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarci

Thank you for this. Thank you.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnna Marie

[...] just read an essay called “The Hardest Thing,” that made my reasons for taking a break from blogging seem … stupid. I have been [...]

You're amazing.
That's all.
Thank you.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMinnie

a beautiful post that had me laughing through my tears at the end. this encapsulates you fully for me, tanis. the joy (does your blue muff give joy?) & the heartache in your life bundled together.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermommymae

This is what makes you awesome.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

You are amazing Tanis. That is all.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterIssa

beautiful post. you are an amazing writer. i need to remember your story when i think moments in my life are hard. thanks for sharing your story and take care.

btw, i had to read the "blue muff" a couple of times to figure it out.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterstina

This is my first time here and THIS is one of the best posts I've ever read. Glad to have found you.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErika

Holding back the tears while I read this was hard.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

Once again I'm crying and laughing at the same time (and at work as well)! At least I've learned not to drink anything while reading your post. It was a beautiful piece and brought back memories of one of the funniest posts ever written.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMimzy

Writing like this inspires me to be more open on my own blog and in my own writing. Except I could never match your ability to touch emotion like you do. Your words here are amazingly beautiful just like you and your family.

This post inspires me to love my family just a little more during this season. I am in awe of your strength and perseverance. Your children are so very fortunate to have such a strong woman for a mother. We, as readers, are fortunate you share your stories with us. Thanks Tanis, you're awesome.

Next time you should try super bright orange. Just cause it would round out your Oilers colors. Or perhaps my Islanders! ;)

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHockeymandad

I am snickering through my tears.

(I would so like to meet you sometime when I get back home. Does this sound weirdly stalkerish? Or just normal stalkerish? I've never actually stalked before...)

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoy

Wow, you should warn us we will cry when reading this! I have been reading awhile, not sure I have ever commented before. But, I wanted to let you know I appreciate your willingness to share. I have a sick son myself so I understand and relate to a lot of what you write. Thanks for your bravery!

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Tell him that regular people's lives are all hard. Maybe not his-much hard, but hard the same.

Tell yourself I love you.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMr Lady

Thank you for ending that on a funny note, because I was in tears at my desk. My thoughts are with you and your family. I can't even imagine.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle

Best. Post. Ever.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCountessa

You. are. amazing.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLolita

Thanks for sharing your lesson.... you are the only one who can make me cry and laugh all in the same post!!

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Simply. Amazing. God's Blessings!

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterchristine hamele

I think that you gave Frac an amazing answer, and that you are setting an incredible example for your children. It would be great to have less hard. But the real testament to anyone's life is how they handle the hard when it comes.

Here's to more easy in the year ahead.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

what a wonderful post-even though it made me teary eyed! ahhh man life lessons ....

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergeorgie

Choosing joy is so often the hardest thing to do but once we decide that's how we want to live, it becomes more and more automatic.

This post was heartbreaking yet inspiring all at the same time. Lots of love to ya, lady. :)

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHilly

What a wonderful blog entry.

I have a feeling that this is how regular people live, stumbling from one hardship to the next, grasping and enjoying those fleeting moments mirth and/or joy...

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDudge OH

"To remind myself that the scars we bear on our souls are just reminders of what we have been through, what we have lost."

Delurking to say, thank-you. I needed this today.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

good grief... between this post and Herbadmother's hoarding post I am about to lose my shit. beautiful. and funny.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergirlvaughn

i was really hoping you would say it was getting easier. will you teach me to find the joy? because everything is way too hard right now.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergorillabuns

What a fantastic piece from a strong woman with an amazing heart and soul. <3

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarcastic Mom / Lotus

"...to choose joy." Oh my god, that was perfect. What an amazing post. I'll be thinking about it for a long time.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGinny

loved your answer to Frac. amazing insight to life considering what you have been through/daily living through.

i still laugh out loud when i think about the blue muff story. sorry about the pain you went through to do that but it was damn funny.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertony

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