The Funeral

I huddled under the large umbrella, wishing for a lull in the endless, gray rain. Goosebumps covered my bare arms, and I found my thoughts drifting to the jacket that I knew I should have brought along. Hannah's tiny hand clasps mine, and the Husband shifts his weight from one leg to another restlessly. I watch as dirt is shoveled solemnly onto the tiny coffin. Nearby, the forlorn sound of Taps signals that the time has come for us to do what we came here to do. I reach my arms out and hold him as he cries. With each wracking sob, my heart aches for my little boy and this loss. I hate for any of my children to face mortality.

Yes. Even the mortality of pet hermit crabs.

As I stood barefoot in the rain yesterday at the funeral of Chase's hermit crab, I grumbled at the absurdity of it all. I winced as McKay played Taps on the trumpet, hitting a particularly painful high note, one that pierced my eardrums to the core. I fought the urge to snap hatefully as Hannah hung on me and whined for dinner. I glanced around shamefully, hoping none of the neighbors were watching.

And then it occurred to me: Is this really my life?

I flashed back to my 15-year-old self and remembered wistfully some of the dreams I had for myself. I wanted to travel ALL. THE. TIME. I was going to be thin and rich. I would never have bad hair and would certainly not be scrubbing my own toilets. I may or may not have thought I was going to marry Johnny Depp.

No one ever told me about these kinds of days.

The days where you feel pulled like a rubber band - stretched in so many directions that you fear the sheer pressure of it all will cause something in you to snap. Wondering just how many more seconds you can take before you lose it and scream at them all.

But then, almost all at once, it changes.

It softens somehow, my heart.

I look at the tear-stained face of my sweet son, see that his heart is breaking, and I know that I would move heaven and earth to ease his pain for just a moment. I look over and smile at the thoughtfulness of my oldest child, paying respects in the only way he knows how. Not because he loved or cared for the stupid little crab himself, but because he knows it was important to his brother.

My eyes suddenly fill with tears at the realization of just how strong the bond between them is. That for all my failings as a mother, I know that these boys love each other fiercely, and maybe, just maybe, a small part of that is because of me.

I bend down and scoop up that hungry, scrawny, seven-year-old girl, getting an eyeful of her jack o-lantern teeth on the way, and remember what it was like to be her age. I briefly wonder if I drove my own mother crazy with my nonstop chatter, and feel pretty sure that I whined and complained while having to wait for dinner myself.

And all at once, I realize something wonderful. At age seven, waiting for dinner is pretty much her biggest problem in life. I silently pray in gratitude at the sheer providence in my life because of that.

Then my eyes meet the Husband's on the way inside the house, and we share a smile of understanding, of solidarity for these little creatures that have become our life. And I think, surely, he knows just how desperately I still love him after 15 years together. I vow that I will show and tell him more often, just in case he has forgotten it.

Maybe this wasn't the life I pictured as a love-sick teenager, mooning and dreaming over what would be. But do you know what?

It's so much freaking better.