Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Defining a Moment

Moments are, simply put, brief intervals of time. Every moment that passes in front of our eyes will never return. That can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the moment. Time moves very quickly, although at times it can feel very slow. Sometimes it just swallows up every ounce of energy we have. Is it possible to appreciate every moment, really? And do you want to? Some moments are better left in past, right? If the good and the bad make us who we are, then should we accept the bad as a simple brief interval of time and leave it there? The past is a very current part of our human make up. Remembering the past can create a uniquely wonderful life as long as it does not consume us.

My most vivid memories of the past are sometimes not the prettiest. They haunt my thoughts at times. They rear their ugly head just as a reminder that life is not always beautiful. My youngest daughter, when she was 2 pulled a sofa table over and it landed on her face. She had multiple facial fractures and an intracranial hemorrhage. It is the most awful moment of my parenting career. I was only steps behind her in the bathroom when I heard the crash. It felt as if time had stopped. I have such a visceral reaction now just contemplating that moment. Could I have known? If I have been right there next to her it would not have happened. Maybe I should have anchored the table to the wall. Why was I not able to prevent it?

The ambulance and the police came to the house. I rode in the ambulance with her as she vomited blood and just held her close. The emergency room came to life as we walked in the door. I remember thinking: what if this is my last moment with her. They took such good care of my baby but they did ask me a many accusatory questions. They were required to make sure it was not me who caused the harm. I will never forget that feeling.

Now that it part of the past, my beautiful daughter is recovered to perfection. She is 6 and there are no permanent scars or issues from the incident. But I will always remember. I almost lost her. I realized at that moment what it meant to be a parent. I knew I was her protector. This moment reminded me that life is fragile. Every moment is precious.

The past is beautiful thing as long as it makes us stronger. I took this moment and have become a better parent for it. It changed me, it changed my husband, it changed our children. We became more vigilant of recognizing dangers. Sometimes to the extreme of being overprotective. Every piece of furniture was anchored to the wall in every room of our house by the time we came from the hospital. Even now that they are older and this memory is a distant part of the past I sit and look at that table and think; who would have thought that table could have affected us so much?

People are always saying to live in the present moment. Does this mean the past moments should be forgotten? Maybe that is not the point of living in the present but I think it does insinuate to forget the past. Trying so hard to hold on to the present moment feels like trying to clasp your hands to hold water. The more you try to hold on to the water, the more the water slips out.

There are no definitive answers to all these questions. The thread of our existence is one long continuous strand. All of our moments are a part of that thread. Knowing that we never get a new piece of thread can be discouraging. But that thread can always turn a new direction and make something new. The future is daunting, the past is part of our future and the present it what we make of it. I will never forget my past because it has led me to this moment.


  1. Oh - I do remember hearing about this.... didn't know you at the time. We've all had these "why wasn't I more attentive" moments, and.. the truth is - it wouldn't matter most of the time. We feed them, cuddle them, take them on vacation, fawn over their drawings, sit through their plays, and... we do remember to cherish moments. These awful accidents happen ... sometimes, like with you, they make us appreciate EVEN MORE what we have.... you know - those terrible but necessary reminders that life is fragile....

  2. Joely, what a gut-wrenching story. And what an important reminder to all of us - whether parents or not - to balance vigilance and an attention to the past's lessons with living in the present.

    On a practical note, your post just kicked me into gear: I must go now and finish re-baby-proofing our house. (Tiny Baby is about to start crawling.)

    Really enjoying your new blog!

  3. Can't believe I forgot to say earlier that.... the little beauty does not bear ANY scars from the incident :-) - physical or otherwise. And - truly an experience from which others will learn and take note (my little E pulled the TV console over on himself right before trick or treat this year - scary moment but just a swollen little cut on his nose - lucky). Thanks for sharing...