By the time I graduated college, I had been to more funerals for people my age or younger than for old people. Car wrecks. Suicide. Cancer. If I ever had the misconception of invincibility that often accompanies youth, it was very short-lived.

Today I went to the funeral of a 13-year-old girl, a member of my husband’s extended family. Apparently she died in her sleep of the flu. I didn’t even know you could still die from the flu. We got to the church early but not as early as we intended and arrived to find the room already quite full. I managed to locate 2 seats next to each other; they happened to be on the center aisle. My direct line of vision included the girl’s mom, which I thought would be pretty tough to watch. As the service started, I discovered I was wrong. It was heartwrenching. The service began with a song and before we made it to the second verse she was curled up in her seat, heaving with great wracking sobs, and I struggled to maintain my own composure. I don’t know her very well but I am a mom…and I cannot, cannot, cannot imagine what she is feeling. I try to envision a grief that deep and am met with a blank wall. As the family did their best to comfort each other I felt my own child next to me, warm and moving and alive and ohGodnotmybaby. Not ever.

A few minutes later I had to leave to take my wiggly, squawking, alive little boy out. I sat him on my lap and looked at him. Give me more than thirteen years, I whispered. He looked back at me with his wide, alert eyes, a little smile ready. That is not good enough, I decided. Give me lots of years. Give me all the years you can.

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