Letters to Taylor: On Freedom
It was July 4, 1999. Your bouncy pigtails danced in the evening light as we walked the field where my mama grew up. I remember how busy and beautiful you were at age 3. When darkness fell and your Uncle Chip began shooting off fireworks, panic struck your sweet face. The dazzling night sky didn’t wow you at all and you screamed against the loud booms. There were no homes close by that we could enter, so my mom said, “Let’s hop in the car and drive out in the field a little way.” But even the distance couldn’t put a hold on your fear. Nothing soothed your cries until the last flash and final blaring echoes ended.
This week for the first time in many years on July 4th, I personally viewed the night sky lit up in celebration of freedom. For two evenings in a row, the flashes of light brought back flashes of your precious face. I could see your 3-year-old lifted eyebrows, anxious brown eyes, and protesting lips. Then the flash moved forward to that same face, 19 years older, on the day you took your last breath.
On Independence Day 1999, I wanted nothing more than to take away the fear of fireworks from my little girl. I didn’t know that all these years later, 6 months ago now, I would watch fear overtake your face once again as your breaths grew farther and farther apart. My mind has erased that split second when your face froze in panic because the breaths would no longer come. Although I know it happened, I was present, yet I can’t see it. It’s like my brain has blocked it out and the Lord is protecting me from replaying that moment.
But I can hear the groan of your body as your spirit left—a cry of freedom.
On the day we celebrate freedom in our country, I paid tribute. I reflected on the costly price of independence and humbly gave thanks for the men and women who died for freedom, as well as those who risk their lives daily. I proudly watched your brothers play in the marching band during the parade. I enjoyed spending time with friends and your Daddy and brothers and sisters. But in the back of my mind, I thought of you and smiled through tears.
You are finally free!!!!
Free from the fear of fireworks. Free from seizures. Free from headaches. Free from pain. Free from dysfunctional internal organs. Free from neurological degeneration. Free from medical testing and educational evaluations.
You’re free from struggling to walk and chew and swallow. You are totally free from strollers and wheelchairs and assistive devices. You’re free to eat any texture of food and free to enjoy any level of noise. You’re free from sensitive skin and free from fluctuating body temperature.
You are free to speak, to laugh, to run, to sing. You can see like you’ve never seen before and speak like you’ve never spoken. You are stronger than I can imagine and faster than I can blink.
You are truly free.
Since the grass has grown over your grave, I run by to polish your stone at least once a week. Your sisters usually go with me to clean it and they’ve taken over the task. It replaces your personal care they’ve helped me with for their entire lives. They miss you so much.
We are all trying to figure out how to transfer the devoted care we gave to you to others, as well as one another. It’s taking longer than I thought it would, but we are getting there. Thank you for teaching us the true meaning and value of freedom.
Freedom isn’t merely a gift to be treasured.
Freedom is a gift to be shared.
This morning I’m imagining you and Mom, sitting in a field together, watching the most spectacular heavenly fireworks, the blended laughter of you two echoing louder than any boom.
Enjoy your freedom, sweet Taylor. I’ll see you again before long.
I love you,