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Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Princess and the Gobstopper

Willy Wonka almost killed my daughter.

The seconds that followed her abrupt inhalation was the realization she was choking. Willy Wonka's gobstopper had lodged in her throat. No time to remember the universal sign for choking when her last breath is counting down. No rational game of charades to explain that a marble-sized jawbreaker is wedged in her windpipe. Just time for her eyes to bulge. Just panic, shock and a timeless moment of uncertainty.

But then, just as quickly, it was out. She took a deep breath and tears filled her eyes. And my wife's. I was still in shock, like I'd just looked over the edge of a precipice, vertigo still swirling in my head.

I lay in bed that night, feeling the rise and fall of my chest, wondering if in some parallel universe the gobstopper never came up and I never heard her laugh again. If she stepped off the precipice instead of away, would an emotional hole open in my chest like a California mudslide? Could I survive that?

Some of you aren't as lucky as us. You've lost loved ones. I wish I could say I understand, but I can only  imagine. But you are still here and stronger than anyone will ever know because even imagining stepping off that precipice fills me with hopelessness. The actual drop... I can't imagine.

Once, when my daughter was six, she asked me what I would do if she died. "I would cry," I told her. "For the rest of my life." She laughed because she thought I meant spilling tears. No, not tears, Princess. But here, in my heart.

To love deeply, we risk grandly. One cannot be without the other. And I am willing to risk that sinking mud hole for the rest of my life. It's worth every tear.

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