My son Mack found a firefly inside our house this morning.
In the haste of getting the kids out the door and into the car (yes, today is the first day of camp), I ignored his barrage of questions.
"Is it hungry?"
"Will it be okay?"
"Is it going to die?"
I honestly couldn't deal with his compassion for an insect that somehow lost its way and wound up inside our house. Pretending not to hear him, I just kept moving.
When I came back home, I discovered a jar on top of our patio table. Mack had taken matters into his own hands and had placed the firefly inside the jar with a leaf for food. He also found a lid with holes and topped the jar with it, despite it being two sizes too big. When I realized what Mack had done, I sat at the table and cried.
Children grieve so differently than we expect. When my daughter Masana learned of my Mom's passing, my husband Dave told me that she was matter-of-fact and rather cool. I think he was disappointed that she wasn't tearful or emotional, but that's just her personality. She's composed on the outside, but an emotional wreck on the inside. And during the wake and funeral, Masana finally had something to show for all her inner turmoil: she developed hives all over her arms and legs.
Mack has always been the child to wear his emotions on his sleeve. If he's mad or hurt, he'll tell you. If he's sad, you can see it on the expression of his face or his body language. So it was far easier to sense what he needed during these last two weeks.
But this morning, instead of asking for another hug or showing how sad he was feeling, he transferred his energy into caring for an insect that was lost and alone. And I was vacant. I couldn't give Mack any comfort despite how plainly he was asking for it. He wanted to make something live again. He wanted to take care of a living thing and make sure it would survive. And sitting at the table, looking at all his efforts for a stupid firefly, I cried for Mack.