When I say his name, When you say his name

I wonder if most bereaved mothers have been there.  Some-one utters the name of your child gone too soon.  And there is a quick sideways glance, monitoring your reaction.  Breath held.  Will she be okay?    

The mother of a child gone too soon talks about her son.  Furrowed brows.  Concerned looks.  Is she sliding back?

A mother accidentally calls one of her living children the name of the baby who left.  Silence.  Is she delusional?

In the months immediately after Xavier died, I would talk about him all the time.  His name was burned on my heart and never far from my lips.  I would speak of him to ensure he was not forgotten.  I would speak of him because I needed to hear his name out loud.  I would speak of him, between tears, because I needed to articulate my pain and I needed to remind those around me that it still cut deep.   His name remains deeply engraved in my heart, but I speak of him less these days.   And when I do speak of him, it is for different reasons.  His memory and his legacy feels safer now.  I do not speak of him to remind people he lived, or that his death caused me immense pain.  I speak of him, because simply and beautifully, he is my son.   

When I talk about Xavier, I do so because I love him.  It has taken time to get a point where I can talk about him simply because I love him.  To a point where I can talk about him without the lingering sadness.  Where I can say his name without tears.  For any bereaved parent, this is a difficult and long-fought battle.  Talking about a child no longer in your arms is not a sign of weakness, or sliding back, but rather a testament to strength.   It is a part of integrating them into the fabric of life.  It is something to be celebrated and acknowledged.

If I choose to talk to someone about Xavier, I do so because I trust them with his memory.  I know that they will cherish him.  It is a gift, just as some-one speaking to me about Xavier is a gift.

When someone talks to me of Xavier, my heart skips with happiness.  When someone says, easily and happily, that Elijah looks like Xavier, I beam.  When someone tells me something reminded them of my son, I want to embrace them.

There is a beautiful piece of advice written by Elizabeth Edwards, oft quoted by bereaved parents:  

 “If you know someone who has lost a child or lost anybody who’s important to them, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died, they didn’t forget they died. You’re not reminding them. What you’re reminding them of is that you remember that they lived, and that’s a great, great gift.”

When a bereaved mother talks about their child, whether with a smile or with tears or with both, please accept it as a gift and a vote of extreme confidence in your understanding.  Do not be afraid to say their child’s name, but rather know that your remembrance brings more joy than pain.  Even if your kindness leads to tears – it’s only because you have given permission to drop the veil for a moment.

A dear friend of mine has written:

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A bereaved mother is, above all, a mother.  A child that has gone too soon is, above all, a much loved son or daughter.  And a parent, above all, loves each of their children.  In reality, it’s that simple.

Mothers Day

There are days in the year that tear me in two.   Christmas, Birthdays, Fathers Day, Mothers Day.   There is the joy and the noise.  The handmade cards and the sticky kisses.  The impractical gifts and the restaurant meal. Hugs and laughter.  One side of the coin.  The other side yearns for solitude in the midst of all the excitement.  Wishes for a moment of a peace and reflection.  And more than anything, wishes another little voice joined in the commotion.

Mothers day is hard for a lot of people.  Those that have lost their own mums.  Those, like me, that have a child or children in heaven.  Those that have tried and tried to fall pregnant only to face another mother’s day without a baby in their arms.  Those that yearn with all their hearts for a child but know it’s a wish that will never be granted.    It is a day filled with flowers, breakfasts in bed and handmade cards.  But it also a day filled with pain and yearning for so many.   And all of those people deserve a little love on Mothers Day.

I am fortunate to be celebrating today with my two earth-side boys, my mum, my grandmother and my mother-in-law.   Surrounded by beautiful family.  There is, as always, much to be grateful for.  There is, as always, much to turn my mind from Xavier.  The pain of missing him, now just a dull ache where once it was piercing, seems at odds with the day.  And yet, it must be part of the day.  I find it easier to reconcile my feelings on his birthday or anniversary.  They are clearly days to be in remembrance of him.  Clearly days when tears and reflection are appropriate.  Days that belong just to him.  The days that tear me apart belong in part to my living family and in part to the one who has gone where I cannot.  These are the days when I must learn to integrate the joy and the sadness.

Today, I think of my mum, who is a beautiful, unique and talented soul.  She has given me everything and I love her more than she knows.  I think of my grandmother, who continues to live an enviably full life and is one of the most peaceful people I could ever meet.  I think of my mother in law, who never stops for even a moment and would do anything for her children and grandchildren.  I think of my boys.  My eldest, crazy and wild, funny and loving.   My youngest, gorgeous and curious, healing in his very bones.  My middle son, never far from my mind and always in my heart.

Happy Mothers Day to all.

 

Easter – when love triumphs

Easter is approaching. The time of the year we celebrate love and life triumphing over death. Even in it’s pagan incarnation Easter is about welcoming the spring, a time of growth and newness. A time for birth and rebirth. The tender shoots of hope finally peeking through the cover of desolate winter.

After Xavier died, I wished for resurrection. When people would describe Mary as a grieving mother my heart would harden a little. For she had her son returned to her. She was given the miracle every bereaved parent begs for. Xavier was never returned to me in a physical sense, but the lasting relationship we share is a form of love triumphing over death.

In the yoga class I attend with Elijah, our instructor will often tell us to take a moment to nourish the bond between mother and child – the most un-breakable of all bonds. Whenever she says that, my mind wanders to Xavier. The bond between baby and mother cannot be severed. Not even by death. I was robbed of the physical relationship I had with Xavier by SIDS. But I could choose how much was stolen. The heavy burden of grief and the constant longing for what could have been threatened our continuing relationship. It took time to nurture and navigate a different kind of parenting but I am learning. I feel him close.

There are beautiful people and purposes in my life that would not have come to me if it wasn’t for Xavier. For a while I would question my attitude towards them. That I could not feel gratitude for things that existed due to Xaviers death. I feel differently now – a slight change of perspective. The positive things in my life that have come about because of Xavier are part of my relationship with him. They are not causally linked to his death, but rather his life, lived in the short span granted to us. There are so many beautiful things in my life because of him – not because he died, but because he was here. I do not believe that as a parent you can every truly accept the death of your child. Acceptance is popularly heralded as the last hurdle of grief. I do not think it is true. I think you reach a stage when you integrate the death of your child within your heart and your life. Where you can come to a point of resolution. For me, it was when the magnitude of love I hold for my son finally over-shadowed the magnitude of my pain. That took time and it took hope and it took faith.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is Love.

I hope Easter brings you all three and the last in copious amounts.

Parenting in Absentia … the guilt and the reality of parenting living children whilst grieving

I remember the first time I ever paid for an iPhone app.   We were in the hospital not long after hearing the devastating news that Xavier would not be coming home with us.  Isaac was demanding attention I could not give.  I turned to technology as baby-sitter.  I relinquished  previous rules, gave him my phone and in a metaphorical sense, I never really asked for it back.

In those dark days after Xavier died I could not give Isaac the parenting he deserved.  He heard yes too often to requests for things when I had no fight.  He heard no too often to requests for my time and attention when I had none to give.   My wonderful sister in particular stepped in and looked after Isaac when I could not.  There was a period of time when I was completely absent as a parent.  My previous approach to parenting – to be present, to be fun, to be involved, to say “no” but then redirect attention to some brilliant new game or activity – all of it impossible.

Even in it, I knew I was being unfair to Isaac. I felt terrible guilt over it, yet I had no capacity to fix the situation.   He was never phsycially neglected,  but I feel like I missed the months of his life that followed Xavier’s death.   Like everything else, I went through the motions, whilst my mind was elsewhere.

Even as the darkest fog of grief lifted, my parenting had changed.  I was more permissive.   Isaac’s short term happiness, and even compliance, more important to me than the longer term effects.  It has been a hard Pandora’s box to try and close.   With the advent of school, some behaviours have crystallised as being of concern.   I look back to those days of absent parenting and wonder if I am now reaping what was sown.   And then I ask myself whether I am using grief as an excuse?

Most children go through a period of time when their parents’ attention and time for them contracts.  Whether it be a new baby or return to work, there comes a time when the best of parenting routines come unstuck.  And Isaac is certainly not the only five year old to be a little crazy, prone to the occasional tantrum, unhappy with the word “no” and fond of fighting games.

I can spend time with my guilt over my absent parenting.  I can beat myself about it and wish things to be different.   Or I can choose to change our present behaviour into something more positive.

So I have decided to do the following:

  1. Every morning, we will dance to William Pharrell’s “Happy”.  You cannot help but start the day on a positive note with that song in your head.  And it was the first song Elijah clapped to.  So it must be good.
  2. Every morning, we will talk about our intention for the day.  We will spend a moment or two discussing what positive thing we want out of that particular day.
  3. The Star Wars, the Ninjago, the Chima – they will no longer be a part of our week days.
  4. Because I am taking away something important from Isaac, I want to give him something.  We will work on a project each week.  It might be an art or craft project, a building project, or something else.  But we will do something creative together.
  5. We will start each day with some gentle yoga.  Every week Elijah and I attend a yoga class.  I might go into that class wound up and anxious – worried about various aspects of my life.  I come out of that class and I am no longer worried.  My problems have not magically been resolved, but my perspective is more realistic after spending time connecting my body to my mind.  If Isaac and I spend some time with yoga, I think it will help us both.

At then end of the day, children are enormously resilient.  My parenting in absentia will always bother me more than it has Isaac.

For those parenting living children and living in the thick fog of grief – be gentle with yourself.  You can only give what you can give.  Somedays that may not be very much at all.  That’s okay.  You are an amazing parent – you have made the choice to still be here with your living family.

For all parents, we can’t be perfect each day.  We can do our best each day.  Some days are going to be better than others, and even when it all goes wrong, there is always tomorrow to look forward to.

Becoming the New

I’ll tell you a little shared parenting secret. Children don’t get easier with age. You just get better at parenting. It starts to sink into your skin and becomes an integral part of who you are. Children change your values, your viewpoint and your priorities. As a first time mother, I was faced with a lifestyle shock, an identity crisis, a love more intense than I had ever imagined and a fatigue I would never have guessed existed. All this whilst figuring out how to mother a tiny dependant being with no eloquent way to express his needs. It is a lot. Sometimes I think we forget just how much. But eventually I was reshaped and settled into motherhood. I no longer needed to analyse it or agonise over it. It simply became me – a much quieter and more assured part of myself.

The grief I felt after losing Xavier was the inverse of the joy I felt when I first held him. Where there was once hope, there was despair. Where there was joy, there was only pain. And where a baby once was, a huge, yawning, aching gap. But settling into grief and having it become a part of who I am is, in many ways, like the gradual acceptance of motherhood itself into my psyche. At first, there is violence and confusion. A world rocked and emotions displaced. People would tell me that the death of my child would change me – that it was inevitable. And I would nod and inside I would scream “No – I don’t want it to change me, I don’t want to lose who I am.”

“I will not let this loss define me,” became a mantra, an anthem, a steely promise. But children change you. Experience changes you. Xavier’s life changed me and Xavier ‘s death changed me. In retrospect, I was clinging to the idea “I won’t let this loss defeat me”. The darkest days of grief drag you down and under. Leave you gasping for air. And you fight. You literally fight for your life. The length of that dark time varies from person to person who has experienced the death of a child. But the weight of it, the almost unbearable weight, seems a consistent experience. Gradually it eases, the grief becomes gentler and the memories less intense. The double edged sword of distance, granting a measure of peace whilst at the same time blurring the memories of a much loved little face.

But the fact of his absence remains. That fact is no gentler. I have grown to deal with it in a gentler way, but the bald facts remain as horrific as they did at the start. That will never change. When he left he set my life on a different course. Everything changed in that moment. And forever I will be bereaved mother. He is not forgotten. He changed everything.

Not long after Xavier died, a dear family member gave me a silver X. I had his handprint stamped on a silver heart and I found a sunshine pendant. Those three charms hung from my neck and I vowed I’d never wear another necklace. But as time went on, I felt the need to wear it constantly lessen. Xavier had become so much a part of me that the physical talisman seemed to lose the grave importance it once held. Xavier moved into a safer place within my soul. A quiet and assured place that would never give him up. I still wear the necklace sometimes – now not so much to feel connected, but rather than to wear something of him with pride.

I believe he is safe within my story and my story safe within his. He has thread himself through the fabric of my narrative and the narrative of others. He will be remembered. He will live on. For my words belong to him and when I write, it feels like his words whispered in my ear.

Working through it – a forever journey

This past weekend has been charged with emotion.  I was given the very great privilege of speaking at a grief conference about Xavier.  As someone who has always enjoyed public speaking, I relish those opportunities.  They mean I can talk about my son with people who truly want to listen.  They mean that Xavier’s name is known by more people.  They give me an opportunity to mother my son in a very public way.  Not only did I speak about Xavier, his death and the wake of it, but my mother and a dear friend spoke.  I knew that their words would affect me much more than speaking my own truth.  And they did.  The cumulative effect of three different perspectives on one loss was very powerful and there certainly wasn’t a dry eye in the room.   Yet, I still found it cathartic.  The tears that flowed were healing ones and the gifts that both my friend and mother gave me through their words and their grief, profound.   Those in attendance thanked me for my words and called me “brave” and “amazing”.   I didn’t really feel I was either of those things – but rather just mothering my baby in the best way I know how.

The following day at the same conference I was part of a panel talking about first responses and responders to child death.  There were paramedics, policemen, counsellors and myself, representing parents.  I didn’t really prepare myself for this panel – I thought I would be fine.  Talking about Xavier brings me more joy than tears, even when talking about the hard stuff.  So I was surprised to find myself feeling flat and confused when that session ended.   The paramedics were beautiful souls, world weary and the kinds of eyes you could immediately tell had seen too much.  Even when they used their clinical terms, that medical mask, you could sense a sadness.  The police officers were kind and spoke measured words.  They talked about the heart breaking balance between being an advocate for the child, assisting the parents, assisting the coroner and doing it all within limited resources.  They too had a certain heaviness about them.   I had painted them in my mind as professionals that donned hardened hearts to protect them against the realities of their jobs, but the horror of child loss is sharp enough to pierce even that armour.  They were human and raw and real.  And I wasn’t quite prepared for that.

I was able to ask the paramedics are few questions.  I have always wondered about those that were able to help us.  Whether they went home knowing what Xavier’s fate would be.  Or whether they clung to the chance of a miracle.  Whether they shook off that early morning or whether it stayed with them.  The paramedics at the conference explained that they rarely find out what happens after they attend a scene – that they rarely get that closure.  That all too often one critical situation rolls into another, before they barely have time to process it.  I gave each of the men a hug, a thank you in lieu of being able to pass that gratitude to those present that morning.

The paramedics also said that they didn’t trade in false hope.  They only attempted resuscitation if they thought there was a chance of life returning.  To know that Xavier was that close, that the gap between him staying and leaving so very narrow startled me anew.  I know how SIDS works.  I know that there have been babies that have died by SIDS literally in their mother’s arms.  That the mechanism that stops working in SIDS babies cannot be revived through resuscitation.  Yet at the same time, it had me wondering yet again, what if I had woken just ten minutes earlier.  For the most part I have given up on what ifs, they are not helpful on this journey.  But with this new bit of information, they snuck back in again.

When I find myself in the darker places of grief, the places I thought I had left long ago, I set time aside and I do something creative for Xavier.  I remind myself that he has his story, I have mine and we have our relationship.  And I do something to nurture that relationship.  I created a text butterfly for him, and I will share how I did that in separate post.

Xavier

Grief can take us by surprise, but as with all things within this journey, we can choose what we do when she does so.  Love and Light.

The things that stay the same – Mothering after loss

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Motherhood is a strong bond.  Not even death can sever it.   And there are certain things about mothering a child no longer here that are exactly the same as mothering a living child.  I wanted to write a list of them.  To provide comfort to those also missing their children.  To let those that surround the grieving know how important this most invisible of motherhood remains.

1. You love them a little more each day
The first moment I held Isaac, I could not imagine my heart could accommodate any more love.  I was bursting with it.  But each day went on and each day I woke up surprised to find I loved him a little more.  It was the same with Xavier and now with Elijah.  But loving them a little more daily does not cease with death.  Every morning after Xavier left, I loved him more than the day before.  In particularly that first year, where the mounting love seems exponential is its growth.  That love that begins when you learn you are pregnant, expands with each scan, each kick, swells when you hold them for the first time, grows each time you even think of them.  It does not go away.  I do not miss him less each day, I miss him more.  I do not love him less each day, I love him more.  And this is perhaps the crux of why it takes a very long time to arrive in a place of peace after losing a child. The passing days do not take away the hurt.  For the first few months, they only added to it.  Just as I do his brothers, every day I love Xavier a little more.

2. You worry about them
I worry about Xavier.  Worry if he is happy.  Worry where he is.  In the early days of grief I felt that if I just knew where he was, just knew he was okay, the pain would be so much more bearable.  I worried about burying him.  That he would be alone at nights.  I worried about leaving him in the hands of the funeral home.  Worried that they would treat him tenderly.  I worry that others won’t treat his memory as gently as I do.  As he has grown, and my understanding of him has changed, I worry less.  But, just as I do with his brothers, I will always worry about him.

3. Sibling rivalry and jealousy still exist
Whenever I make Xavier something, Isaac wants me to make him one too.  The Christmas after Xavier died, I made him a stocking and Isaac immediately wanted one.  If I buy a toy or ornament for Xavier’s grave, Isaac wants one for himself.  There are some things that bind brothers, no matter how far apart they reside.  They will always be brothers, and they will always demand the fair share of my attention.

4. You get mother guilt
I often feel that I am not a perfect mother to Isaac and Elijah.  I sometimes watch other parents and I am concerned that I am not measuring up.  I have guilt about certain decisions.  I watch other bereaved parents and they way they honour their children.  Through amazing creativity.  Through inspirational fund-raising.  Through words and deeds.  And I wonder if I am doing enough.  But how can we ever feel we are enough for our children?  I will never reach it for Isaac or Elijah.  And I won’t for Xavier.  Because I want to be perfect for them, and I am imperfect.

5. You are proud of them
Every parent is proud of their children.  I so love watching new parents with their firstborn.  The absolute pride is tangible.  They are walking a well-trod path but they act like the first people to discover how amazing starting a family is.  I know we did.  Parents want to share photos, tell stories about their children.  It is no different when your child lives somewhere you cannot go.  I share photos of a beautiful, living Xavier.  But there are those whose only photos of their precious ones are after they had passed.  How privileged I feel when I get to see those photos and share not in that parent’s grief, but in that parent’s pride.  I feel proud of what Xavier has accomplished through his journey.  Each of my boys will do amazing things that will make my heart soar with pride – the two on earth and the one in heaven.

I parent each of my boys according to who they are and what they need.  But I will always be mother to each and love them to eternity.

When the family tree has fallen leaves

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This week Isaac’s prep class is discussing family.  It makes perfect sense.  It’s accessible and universal for four to five year olds.  It lends itself to numeracy and literacy concepts whilst  paving the way for discussions about diversity.   It allows children to learn that families come in different shapes and sizes.  It makes perfect sense.  Unless the shape of your family includes a large heart-shaped hole.

When the prep newsletter came home, stating that the coming week would include discussions about family, I talked to Isaac.  I told him it was up to him if he wanted to share Xavier with his class.   For me personally, sharing Xavier has became an issue with varying shades of grey.  There are times I choose to remain silent about him.  Not to deny his existence, but to protect his memory.  I have become more select regarding who has the privilege of knowing my son.

But when I told Isaac he had a choice, he looked at me in that way only five year olds can and said, “Of course I will include Xavier.  He’s my brother.”    And I was reminded of the black and white world children live in. There was never any question in his mind.  My concerns are not his concerns.

I worry about him having something in his life that sets him apart from the other kids. I worry about him being ostracised or people not believing him.  I worry that he will be perceived in a certain light due to his history.  I am angry that he even has to deal with something most adults would struggle with.  I am concerned that Xavier’s story will be taken home by a child and it will become sensationalistic talk over a stranger’s dinner table.  From a selfish point of view, I am worried about people I do not know learning about Xavier and making inevitable judgements before they even have a chance to meet our family.

Yet Isaac takes it all in his stride.

And I am quietly confident the children in his class will too.  Children have a beautiful and amazing way of bringing things into their simplest and purest form.  Isaac will simply say that he has a brother in heaven.

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When Isaac came home the other day, he said used a wonderful turn of phrase – that the class were “celebrating” each other’s families.   That he chose to celebrate Xavier.  And that’s a beautiful thing, because Xavier is worth celebrating.

The endless pursuit of Happiness

I am not sure when it happened, but somehow we have arrived at a place in time where happiness has become our birth right and everyone else’s expectation.  Joy is the perceived equilibrium.  Happiness is not a high on a scale of human emotions, happiness is apparently where our feelings should sit the majority of the time.  Countries are measured by the happiness of their inhabitants, we are constantly admonished try to be happy and if we aren’t wearing our gleeful faces, someone is likely to ask you what’s wrong.

I am a positive person.  I would say that I am genuinely happy for a good percentage of the time.  But through grief, my own and watching others, I have learned how violently this particular society reacts against emotions other than happiness.   No matter what has occurred, not matter how tragically a life has been turned on it’s head, happiness remains the goal to aspire to.  You are allowed a brief pause in sadness but dwelling there is self-pitying behaviour.  The expectation is to “buck up”, “count your blessings” and “try to be happy”.  

Trying to “jolly” some-one when they are in grief is not helpful.  Some-one very close to a person who is grieving died.  It’s okay for them to be completely devastated by that.  It’s okay for that devastation to reach into weeks, months and years.  It’s okay for them not to be happy.  We seem terrified that “not happy” is a quick and slippery slide into the realms of deep depression and even suicide.   We seem so very scared of emotions that we are taught are not positive.  Yet we are all human.  We are all capable of huge ranges of emotion.  Our hearts have great reach, perhaps even more so when they are broken.  

We need to be as comfortable with tears as we are with laughter.  We need to accept there are situations that we cannot “fix” but that company and silence would go some way to mending.   Sometimes we need to be okay with not okay.  It goes against the grain of our modern world, but we need to make room for sadness. 

 

 

Brave new worlds – the first day of school

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Today was a milestone day – my eldest son starting school.  No hiding from the fact that he is growing up and entering into worlds I cannot follow.  Already a bundle of emotions I find hard to fathom.  Energy, frustration, eagerness, imagination, wildness, joy and longing bundled tightly into a body too small to handle the range.   Coiled.

This beautiful baby of mine, growing up and away.   Yesterday, I held him helpless in my arms.  Tonight, I watch him sleep.    His still full cheek, the deep breath of sleep, there are echoes of the baby.  He will wake tomorrow morning, full of boundless energy and enthusiasm.  Impatient to live every moment.  And in that bounce, is the boy.   He will tell me things that he has learned.  He will unknowingly utter wise things and I will see the promise of the man.

He is on the cusp of a new chapter.  Entering into realms that I can still remember of my own childhood.  Not just vague and dream like snippets – but years and events I can recall with clarity.  I am no longer a “new” mum.  My little one is getting older and I with him.   There is such promise ahead but I look back with a tinge of sadness.  I will no longer be his world.   There will come a time when I occupy just a small part of it.  But he will always have my whole heart.

I get to watch him grow.  Watch him discover passions.  Watch him succeed.  Watch him struggle.  Be there when he soars as he falls in love and there to catch him if he falls.  And this day feels like the beginning of all of that.

So many mums this week will be feeling similarly as they bravely hug their boys’ and girls’ goodbye and leave the school gates feeling a little empty.   And then there are those whose arms have been empty for a long time.  And for whom the fresh new school year heralds a new ache.  Those that should have been sending their little ones into the school yard for the first time but instead feel a new pang.   For their little ones, frozen in time.  Forever tiny.  Wishing their tears were falling because their child was growing up.

Today, I was brave and did not cry.  Tears threatened but I beat them back for my son.  But on the day Xavier would have started school, I will not have to fein bravery for the sake of him.  And the tears will fall for a milestone that never was.

I am reminded, both for Xavier, and today for Isaac, of Khalil Gibran’s poem

Your children are not your children. 
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. 
They come through you but not from you, 
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. 
You may give them your love but not your thoughts. 
For they have their own thoughts. 
You may house their bodies but not their souls, 
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. 
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. 
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. 
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. 
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; 
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable. 

So as my eldest lets go of my hand and flies, I will forever strive to be the stable bow.