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When you’re six years old, the world is your oyster and your imagination is taller than you are. Nothing bad could ever happen because the toxic realities of life far surpasses our level of comprehension at such a young age. I always found comfort in the security of my parents’ arms. Whether that meant holding my dad’s hand through the gargantuan city of the Costco grocery store, or sitting on my mom’s lap in “big church,” I never doubted for one second that any fear could shake my faith or my family. Then June 11th, 2001 happened. The woman whom I loved, and who provided me with security, was taken away without any warning. This was a major violation of my expectations and my sense of the world and sense of control became assaulted. At the time, the only struggle I had was learning the choreography of tying my own shoes. Now here I am on a Monday afternoon drinking the poison of my own tears, trying to comprehend my dad’s words when he says “Mommy won’t be coming back. Jesus visited her today and they flew to Heaven hand in hand.”

No matter what your age, death is not easily defined. It has many befuddling attributes, but there was one in particular that trapped my mind in a triangular nightmare of utter confusion: Death’s irreversible ability. Once your body is dead, it cannot be alive again on this earth. Every plant, every animal, every person. This was a wild idea; I’d talk about dead people as if they went on a trip, took a nap, and trusted the possibility that dead things can come back to life with the help of water, food, medicine, or even a little pinch of pixie dust. It was as if certain groups of people were protected from their inevitable expiration dates. Teachers, parents, Mickey Mouse, and myself were “untouchable” until old age had its way. It’s funny how as children, we so often lace our fingers with the hand of our own innocence.

For twelve years, the answer to her death became my family’s Excalibur. Month after month, test after test, negative result after negative result and still no answer. I was afraid of finding comfort with this insulting mystery. Maybe I was dreaming? Would I wake up the next morning, rub my eyes raw and find time had stood still? Maybe I’d find her at the kitchen table with my dad sitting side by side, writing notes in the margins of her Bible. My sister and I would be getting ready for school and then we’d all gather for breakfast before we ventured off in our daily schedules. As much as I wanted to speak that dream into existence, I knew I had to return to my new reality: feeling alone in a familiar place, standing on expanding pavement with my hands in shallow pockets.

You’ve come this far in my story, and you may be wondering if we found our mysterious answer. If I told you in one post, we’d be seventeen paragraphs deep and your eyelids would be taped to your forehead like a Tom & Jerry cartoon. I can assure you that the sword in the stone does get extracted! It just had to take my own heart to free Excalibur…

(Cliffhangers… Am I right?!)