I poked around online this Saturday morning without interruption a little longer than I normally do.
My young one is a firm follower of Murphy’s Law. She is impossible to wake up on school mornings, but wakes at the crack of dawn on weekends.
This morning was different and I assumed she’d been up a bit later than normal on her iPad watching her favorite YouTube shows.
Friday evenings we grant a bit of leniency with bedtime, and my husband and I allow her to stay up later than normal and watch her favorite YouTube family shows/vlogs, “The Shaytards,” and “The Bratayley’s” (For those of you unfamiliar, they are two families who video tape their lives and upload them to YouTube for viewers to watch.)
I was pouring my second cup of coffee when I saw my little one solemnly walk out of her bedroom, clasping tightly to her iPad.
“Momma, you know that family I watch on YouTube?” she asked me as her voice softly cracked.
“The Bratayley’s and the Shaytard’s?” I responded
“Yes. The Bratayley’s….” as tears filled her eyes.
“What’s wrong, Haydan? What happened?” I asked.
“The older brother, Caleb, he died. Caleb died, momma. I just saw the video and he died” she said as tears streamed down her cheeks, yet tried her best to maintain composure.
I knelt down on my knees and looked her in the eye and said: “Oh Haydan, I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry” as I felt tears filling in my own eyes, and wrapped my arms around her tiny body.
I needed to show her that it was okay to cry about this. I needed to show her that, although she did not know this young man personally, it was okay to cry, it was okay to let that emotion out, it was okay to feel what she was feeling, it was okay to feel the immense sadness she was experiencing, and that she was entitled to let it out in whichever fashion she felt best.
I could feel her tears dropping one-by-one down my neck as she let out her sobs on my shoulder, and I knew, in that moment, that I was supposed to be her mom. I was supposed to comfort her and have the right thing to say, but I wasn’t prepared for this. I didn’t see this coming- I had no idea this young boy had passed away. So, instead, I cried with her.
To witness your child experience death, to watch them feel death firsthand— on their own, and know there is nothing you can do about it is absolutely heart wrenching. Yet, another thing as her mother, I have no control over.
To watch my daughter, someone I’ve raised, someone I’ve taught to love unconditionally, to care about people, to show empathy— to watch this all unfold right in front of my face in a matter of seconds was absolutely overwhelming, so, l wept with her.
She watched this family, along with hundreds of thousands of other children, as they filmed themselves in their everyday life, being fun and silly, and broadcasting it to their near 2 million YouTube subscribers.
They invited our children into their lives, and subsequently, our children felt a part of their life.
My daughter was no different.
Many evenings, I could hear her howling with laughter from my own bedroom as she laid awake past bedtime watching this family on her iPad.
I’ve heard stories of their travels, their silly jokes, their zest for life shining brightly through the screen of my daughter’s iPad and into her heart.
“Mom! You have to watch this!” — I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard that; I cannot tell you how many clips I’ve seen that have brought my daughter to her knees in laughter.
She loved this family, and as I learned today, so did many, many others.
While my daughter did not “know” this family personally, she did know them. She felt a part of what they put out there, she felt a part of their goodness, and the passing of their son, Caleb, was no different to her than someone in our own life passing away.
It just so happened that this was the first death that she has encountered in her (nearly) 8 years on Earth. This was the first time that a human being she felt a connection to had passed away.
I liken this experience to when Princess Diana died. I did not know her, but just as the rest of you, I felt like I knew her; through her humanity, through our television screens, through her children- we all felt like we knew her. Her death broke all of our hearts. Most of us even remember where we were when we heard the news that she had passed. My daughter hearing the news that the Bratayley’s son had passed is the closest experience I can relate this to.
She showed me a memorial video the Bratayley family had put together, and the two of us sat in the hallway, on the cold tile floor, side-by-side, and watched. Clips of Caleb being silly, clips of him smiling and laughing, clips of him with his family- and as we watched, my Barb wept. And I wept with her.
Upon completion, I looked at her and said “Haydan, we all live, and we all die. God decides when we are to come to Earth, and he decides when we are going to go. None of us know when any of this will happen, and a lot of times, it really sucks. It’s okay to be upset, it’s okay to be angry, even. We can pray for Caleb’s family, for his parents and sisters, and pray that God gives them peace, because I’d imagine that they could use that right now. As for Caleb, you know he’s in Heaven, and you always talk about how great it must be to meet Jesus- well, Caleb is with Him now.”
She tilted her head, looked into my eyes and said “I just wish Jesus could live here, you know?”
Tears were streaming down my face and I, barely audible, said: “I do know, Haydan. I do. I am so sorry. I wish I had better words, I wish I could take away the pain you feel, because I know it, and it hurts. I know how bad it hurts. Just pray for Caleb’s family, and know that where he is now is the best place to be.”
There are so many things we go through in our own in life that are absolutely heartbreaking to endure. Insecurities, personal struggles, death— yet, there are so many wonderful things we also experience: friendship, love and happiness, among many others. It’s bliss to watch our children experience all the beauty that life has to offer, and then on days like today, we are reminded that as they grow and age, as they experience that “happy” that comes with life, they will also experience the “sad” that comes with it, too. Today was one of those days in our home, and my heart is heavy.
I took Barb to Target to take her mind off of this today, and as we were driving home, a song came on in my car, Skylar Gray’s “Coming Home” and the chorus line sings:
I’m coming home
I’m coming home
Tell the world that I’m coming home
Let the rain
All the pain of yesterday
I know my kingdom awaits
And they’ve forgiven my mistakes
I’m coming home
I’m coming home
Tell the world I’m coming
I looked back on my little Barb as tears streamed down her cheeks, and I asked her “You okay?” and she said “Yes. It’s okay. They are happy tears, Momma.”
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