Lately I've found myself drawn to writing by women who have experienced great pain like children who are severely disabled, children who died. I don't think I'm being voyeuristic in the way I imagine people stopping to stare at accidents are. I feel inspired by these women's strength and perseverance and grace. And I try to put myself in their place, imagine myself there, wonder how I would react, what I would do, if I had what it would take to keep moving forward with life. I can never quite get myself there, either through a failure of imagination, or a block on the mind’s ability to conjure pain.
Last night one of C’s oldest friends was severely injured in a fire in his house. Today he is on life support in the hospital. All day I have been trying to imagine—the wife, standing in the snow, in pajamas, with two kids, watching her husband being rushed away in an ambulance to a place where the helicopter can land, wondering what to do next, who to take care of first. The children, bewildered, wondering where there daddy is and when they will see him again. The mother, at the bedside of her son, unconscious, burned, kept alive by machines at what should be the prime of his life. The man, fighting to put out a fire, to save the house he built, his family’s home.
My mind goes close, but it doesn’t get there, because I haven’t been there. My heart goes near, but scuttles back when it senses the pain. And I get selfish—I can’t wait to get home and tell C, “If our house is on fire, save the kids and let it burn.” I’m going to order a second-story fire escape ladder—which I’ve been meaning to do since we moved here six years ago. When what I need to do is imagine what this family needs, and what we can do for them.