That weekend, half of me wanted everyone to leave us alone so I could crumble into pieces and sit in my pain. The other half knew that my family and friends being around was the only thing keeping us from falling apart. At some point on Sunday, my cousin pulled me aside and said, “T, if you want to break down and cry and crawl into a corner and stay there forever until you’re ready, I hope you know everyone will understand. We'll be here. It’s perfectly okay.” I looked up at him from my chair because I knew he knew that was exactly what I wanted to do. Hearing those words was as if I had permission for the floodgates to open.
But, I know my cousin. So, I looked up at him with a tear on the verge of coming out, waiting for him to finish.
“Everyone will understand. No one will ever question it and we will all be here by you guys for anything you need. That's one choice. But…”. I already knew where this was going. I started to feel the fire of pain turn into energy rising.
“...you have another choice.” I looked down and barely mumbled the words, “MADD, right?” “Yeah, MADD.” he said.
My head barely nodded up and down. “Yeah… not another child.”
Years ago, my cousin and I talked about Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Specifically, we tried to understand how is it that one mother can lose their child to drunk driving and, understandably so, be distraught, broken, and in pieces nearly unable to carry on with life for a significant period. And then there’s another mother who, with a similar situation, loses a child to drunk driving and turns her loss into a national movement to make sure no one else loses a child to drunk driving--never again, not another child. Walking around the city, we went on for hours about this trying to understand how does one person lands on one outcome and another person lands on another. We had theories that all seemed half-baked at the time but on that Sunday after we lost our baby boy I was never closer to understanding both mothers. If you would have seen me then, I seemed vacant, lost, immovable--because I was. A pain felt so deep and hurt so much that no other feelings can register. I wanted to fall to pieces and I was ready to because I didn’t think I had another option. Then, my cousin reminded me. There was another option, another choice.
Three years later, with Elijah’s Law passed in NY and making its way through IL, PA, and MA; with members of Congress discussing taking Elijah’s Law national; with thousands of childcare workers trained in knowing the sign and treating the symptoms of an allergic reaction and anaphylaxis; with thousands of epinephrine auto-injectors donated to schools and childcare facilities; with educational resources, online training, and in-person certifications be accessible to childcare workers around the country for free or low-cost; with more and more schools and students signed up to be Ambassadors for the food allergy community, helping to build the next generation of food allergy allies and alliances; and so on, one thing I know is true from this experience is that CHOICE is one of the most powerful tools we have available to us.
In any given moment--be they unremarkable mundane moments, deeply passionate and joyous moments, or paralyzing heartbreaking moments--every single moment we have an opportunity to choose.
With the close of 2020 here and the start of 2021 upon us, may you choose the empowered choice; may you choose to be authentic; may you choose to live in contribution, in service, and with grace; may you choose to live with passion and purpose; may you choose to live a dignified life, and may you choose to have a kickass time while doing it; may you choose to be present to loved ones; to step into your health, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual; may you choose to mentor someone; may you choose to be honest with her feelings, and if moments of incomparable pain rears its ugly head, may you choose to resolve that no one ever feel that pain again by committing yourself to be the difference. Here's to 2021!