Saturday your father and I attended a trivia night. It was a fundraiser for families of children diagnosed with cancer. Before the trivia began, one of the fathers thanked the crowd. Soon, his son would join him on stage, and although most had already started drinking and were having a pretty good time, when he spoke all was silent.
In all honesty, I didn't know what organization this particular night was to benefit until we arrived. Your aunt invited us and I simply assumed it was for her elementary school, but it wasn't. The night was for these amazing souls, these little people who have only begun their lives and now must fight to sustain them. It was for their families, the mothers and fathers and brothers and aunts who sit bedside, helpless and struggling to understand. And as this eight year old little boy thanked us I couldn't help but be angry. Really, really angry that he might die. And that any parent might ever have to do such a thing as to watch.
When you died perhaps the only comfort provided to me was that I never saw you suffer. I think about it all the time. People would say how you "only knew love" and "never felt pain". To be sure, I googled horrible things like "baby heart attacks" and fetal pain reception and "can a baby feel when its heart stops". I don't think I'll ever know for certain if you felt anything or if you were scared, but I like to tell myself that you didn't. And that you weren't. I like to think that, as a baby, you were so much stronger and braver than me, possessing some holy understanding that I'll never have. It may be dumb and it may be selfish but it helps me, so mostly I go with it.
I hate when people say I can't imagine. It's the single most repeated sentence after anyone finds out about you and I hate it. But when I think about those parents, the parents of the children with cancer that's what I feel. Like it's so horrible that I can't imagine. I look at your brothers and I envision all the times they are sick, with a cough or a fever and how I silently beg that their symptoms, no matter how minor, transfer to me and relieve them. And I think what if it were something like cancer, and what if I had to see, and I just can't imagine.
After trivia ended we went home. Your father and I had the night and the house to ourselves for once. What happens when this happens? Apparently he falls asleep on one couch while I watch SNL reruns on the other. What can I say? We like to party.
I happened to catch a recent episode where Miley Cyrus was the host and musical guest. It's not often that I listen to or tolerate Miley Cyrus. Most of the time I am distracted by her outfits and her seemingly desperate ploys for attention, but this time was different. I think.
During her second performance, Miley is sitting alone at a piano. I should note that this piano is clad in some type of "fake cloud" puffy fabric and twinkle lights, and that she is wearing a really long George Washington-esque blonde wig, but I digress. She begins by describing a dream where "David Bowie taught us how to skateboard" but "he was shaped like Gumby" and I almost changed the channel, but I was intrigued so I didn't. Then...
"...And I had a dream. Took a helicopter. Flew it up too high, got stuck in the clouds.
Don't wanna come down...
And I had a dream that you were dying, but I wasn't even crying,
I just sang you to sleep. I sang you to sleep...
...But what does it mean? What does it all mean? ...I just want to scream."
And she did. Screamed. Into the microphone. Repeatedly. "What does it mean?" Over and over again until she was crying and so was I, and when the final verse began she could barely finish the song.
Logically, through the tears my very first thought was that Miley Cyrus must have also lost a daughter, because in the incredibly bizarre and incredibly raw nature of this performance somehow I saw myself, screaming into your curtains that morning; however upon further research I would learn that the "Twinkle Song" was actually written for her deceased dog, Floyd.
I have watched the video several times now, and I've read the comments people offer. While some are appreciative, praising Miley for the honesty in her emotion, many accuse her of faking it for the cameras. Others seem more impressed by the busy decorum or the fact that she kept her tongue in place for the entirety of this performance, and before you, I may have joined them.
But this time, on this night I didn't care about the distractions because I could only see the pain. Real or contrived, I kept staring at the husky in the picture frame atop the piano, and I could only see the pain.
Maybe it's the thought of all those parents somewhere right now, sitting next to their sick children and stroking their hair. Or the ones like me who look for their babies in the stars. Or the many, many people who are forced to say goodbye to a best friend or a sister or a husband, or maybe it was the beer... but I didn't want to make fun of her this time.
It is quite possible that I am going crazy, but Saturday night I wanted to hug Miley Cyrus.