The death of Rehtaeh Parsons is a heart wrenching tragedy. I felt so sad when I read about her story but I am not sure it truly hit me until I read her father’s post on his blog entitled Rahtaeh Parsons was my daughter. He hardly wrote of the crime or the system, he spoke of heartbreak and intense love in a way that made me weep. As a mother I could feel his words carving a whole in his heart that will never heal.
I remember when my children were babies looking down on them as they lay sleeping in my arms and feeling the most intense love. When they were small I worried about schedules and meals and sleep. Their basic needs were sometimes overwhelming, a physical burden carried but balanced and usually overwhelmed by the love of a doting mother. I was in charge, controlling their world.
As they grew the intensity lessened and my worries and responsibilities became more of the counselling kind and the manager of schedules of a different sort. But the intensity of my love only deepened.
Now, as one of my babies moves towards High School and the other grows despite her desire to remain small, that burden returns but the difference this time is that the control is out of my reach. Unlike the ultimate responsibility I had when they were new, now their lives are becoming their own and I am more a sounding board as they navigate their own way. This is, of course, how it should be but the reality of it is terrifying.
He spoke of her kindness, her humour, her gentle touch. His words painted an agonizing picture of his daughter who was so lost and so disappointed by humanity. He wrote of their panic and attempts to do whatever they could to save her. He asked his daughter time and again what he could do to help, was he doing enough, and she reassured him.
“I tried my best to save my daughter’s life. I believe that in my heart.”
He did everything he could. Everything he knew how. He loved her in the very same intense, all consuming way that I love my babies. Yet, despite it all, he couldn’t save her.
This is what terrifies me. This is what haunts me and keeps me awake at night. It is the knowledge that they did everything they knew how and they still lost her. It is knowing that this is not unique to Rahtaeh Parsons’ dad. In fact, I hear of people around me, loving parents who did everything right, losing their children to addiction, depression and even suicide. Despite our love and best efforts the world seeps in, our babies grow up, and we are no longer in control. And in some cases, the world is unkind and they don’t yet know enough. Or they fall victim and are seduced by things they don’t yet understand.
This is what I fear the most. I fear these words of Rahtaeh Parsons’ dad as he faces the rest of his life without his daughter:
“The worst nightmare of my life has just begun. I loved my beautiful baby with all my heart. She meant everything to me. I felt her heart beating in my soul from the moment she was born until the moment she died. We were a team. We were best pals. We often sat on my couch and laughed until we could hardly speak. When we weren’t together she would call me or text me every single day, just to say hi, to say she loved me. The life I had with my daughter was a rare thing. It was wonderful, it consumed me. I was defined by it. It made my life rich and beautiful.”