Resiliency 4 Today: Conversations with Parents of Dying Children… Another Resiliency Tale

My greatest teachers long ago

Were Mommies pushing wheelchairs by

In hospital hallways we would share

Each low, and fragile high.

The walks we took for hours

With babies in a cart

Allowed us opportunity

To offer up our heart.

It’s been so many years ago

That I was in that place.

With two sick babies in my life

I earned this wrinkled face.

I kept the notes I took back then

Never planning that I’d share

The sacred moments, lessons learned,

From when my world was there.

But now I’m far beyond that life

and know it changed my soul.

There isn’t any day goes by

I’m not grateful for it all.


We’d spend weeks on end in hospitals, and

After a while a community of “insiders” would

Evolve and we would know all the stories.

Sometimes we spoke, and other times

Our reddened eyes, and the circles under them, told the entire story.

We exchanged smallest hopes and greatest fears in brief

Micro-bursts of love while passing each other

Walking marathons with wheelchairs.

Slogging through floods of unspilled tears

Our held breath was the dam holding back torrents.

The givings and knowings exchanged in seconds

Transcended words, or knowledge, or space, or time,

and when the mother of a dying child

Brought mine a toy and asked, “How is

Your precious one doing today?”

I learned how to go to my knees

And how to get back up again.

Sometimes we spoke:

What time is it?

“There is no time here.

It’s measured by memories

and all we have here are bad,

so we make good ones out

of Cheerios in a cup and the pictures

on the walls.”

What do you do when you feel sorry for yourself?

“I look at my baby.”


Hello again, what’s new this 5 minutes?

“Not much. Just wheeling and wheeling our cart, kisses on her bald head,

peanut butter fingers, IV’s in one tiny foot but now the other foot wears a very

fancy lace sock and one black patent leather shoe. And you?”


How are you today?

“I’m feeling so sorry for some of these people who have children

who are so sick. We’ll be done in a short while, she probably only has

a few days left, but those mommies will need to somehow go on long after.”

How is your baby today?

“Alive. In pain. I’m angry. I submit. I’m here. I’m there. I’m grateful. I’m waiting.”

How was lunch?

“Nothing has taste, but the cafeteria guy always gives me extra helpings now. He used to talk with me, now he knows there’s nothing to say, so he just gives me extra food.”


Want some coffee while you wait?

“Sure. Waiting. Waiting. Seeing the doctor outside the door. Furrowed brows with questions that have no answers. Even through the wall you can tell when it is your child they are talking about, even when they walk away, even when again they have no information. I feel invisible and transparent. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting has it’s own life, doesn’t it?”


How’s the news today?

“Not good. But look at that sunlight. I think we’ll try to go outdoors for a while today.”

How’s the news today?

“Good. He ate today!”

Okay. We’re leaving now. Stay strong.

“I’ll miss you in our hallway. I promise to remember her name and how much

Light she had. And how much love you gave. And how you never, ever, ever stopped standing up every day.”

And I never did forget.

My Resiliency Practice includes doing my best to “remember.”

Grief work doesn’t end after the crisis passes. It turns into something better and richer and larger and sweeter if we stay with it long enough to not fear it and let it walk beside us reminding us daily of the gift of each moment, the color of a leaf, the sound of a birdsong, the traffic, the old woman at the bus stop, the children in school uniforms, the sore foot, the amazing gift of a friend on the phone reminding you that grief is real and not something to be taken lightly, but to be taken as part of the Sacred Ordinary, the pathway to Light.


Aloha for Now

Dr. Vali

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