He sits quietly with me at a small, old-fashioned school desk in the basement where we’re preparing a space for my office. He is six years old, writing a book, a book that is nothing more than printer paper folded in on itself, stapled to keep it from falling apart. But he works on this book for hours. Finishing it, he is as proud as I’ve ever seen him.
* * * * *
What I remember most about Leo’s birth begins two years before his actual birth, with a miscarriage. A long, painful day filled with blood and tears and contractions and a weary grief that was like a long needle, pushing the pain into my joints, into my bones. It led to a box we buried in the woods, standing around it as a family with four children, thinking it was set in stone. There were six of us, and that was good, a blessing. Something to be cherished. But never more than that.
Still, that miscarriage, Maile’s second, left us feeling empty again.
Hours after Maile miscarried, we attended my grandmother’s funeral.
This loss is where Leo’s story begins, at least for us.
* * * * *
Nearly two years later, Leo. Unexpected. Unhoped for, if only because we had stopped hoping. The kind of gift you can no longer bring yourself to think about.
And ever since he arrived, it’s like he knows what his existence came up out of, the light he brought. He is smiles and long hair and cleverness. He is light and kisses and spindly arms around my neck. Leo carries with him the kind of joy you feel when hope is regained.
A friend of our lost her son weeks before Leo was born, and I think of them all the time when I see Leo, and a different kind of grief mingles in me. It’s a what-if kind of pain, a wondering.
* * * * *
Leo sits at the small desk in my office. He confirms the spelling of words he is only just now learning.
“God is G-O-D?”
“You got it.”
“How do you spell guide?”
He works his way through the book, adding drawings, words that are arranged willy-nilly on the page. He asks if he can read it to me, so I stop working and swivel around, facing him. Every page has something on it, but there’s one page in particular that jumps out at me.
It’s the picture of a boy, a stick figure with large eyes and long hair. And written beside the drawing are three words.
“God guide Leo.”
* * * * *
I watch him work on his book and am suddenly aware of all the long years between us—him, 6 years old, and me, 44 this year. That’s 38 years. I have a few memories from when I was his age, but they seem long ago, like from a book I read and can’t quite remember how it goes.
When he’s my age, 38 years from now, will I still be alive? Will he have a little boy, one who asks him to sing “There’ll be a light for me at the river” or “Great is Thy Faithfulness”?
I hope he’s at least as happy as I am. I hope he has someone in his life who brings him as much joy as he brings me.
* * * * *
I keep his book in the bottom drawer of a desk my grandfather used, a desk that is now mine. I was around Leo’s age when that grandfather died. Such a strange world we live in, with so many twists and turns, so many unexpected crossings. What is this life, and where is it leading us?
How can we ever find our way, without a little guidance?
5 Replies to “What Our 6-Year-Old Leo Wrote a Book About”
What a powerful little booklet and ponderings you’ve added. P.S. To me he looks like the pictures I see of Maile and so full of everything! Loved this.
Shawn this is beautiful!! Leo is definitely a gift to all of us!!
A very well written comment on a devastating episode in the life of a family. Losing a baby is different than losing a child. To outlive your kids is the worst. Thank you for this posting.
I needed this this morning. Sometimes quarantining gets overwhelming. Thanks.
Beautiful from a kid whose parents are a role model to him
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