Most any parent will tell you, "I would gladly die for my child." It's true. I remember in my earliest months of motherhood, not wanting to leave Kate with anyone but grandparents. My criteria was that no one who would not jump in front of a bus for my baby would be entrusted with her care.
I had to get over that, for the sake of a date night now and again (we lived in Clarksville at the time, so grandparents weren't quite so close at hand) if not going back to work, which of course I did. But the anxiety and fear of something happening to your child never goes away. I remember describing it as "almost debilitating" during Kate's first few months, and it was renewed with Claire's infancy.
That fear of losing a child is perfectly natural and to be expected, even if I certainly didn't understand the magnitude of this new definition of "worst thing that could ever happen to me" before having kids. Who does?
What I didn't expect, though, was to view my own mortality differently. I've never been more willing to lay down my life for someone—and yet, at the same time, I've never wanted to live more.
I do not fear my own death. I would wish for preparation time to write letters and buy gifts and those sorts of things, rather than an unexpected death, but I don't fear "what comes next." Before parenthood, if I had been diagnosed with a terrible disease, I think I would have chosen quality over quantity, forgoing any treatment that would have been too risky or drastically reduced my quality of life. Not that I wouldn't fight at all, but when things were looking truly bleak, I think I would have peacefully accepted it.
A couple years ago, a guy I knew in college was diagnosed with cancer. It was bad, and round after round of chemo did not help. "Why does he keep fighting it?" I wondered. "Wouldn't he rather enjoy what time he has at home with his wife and son, rather than enduring debilitating treatments and traveling for clinical trials?"
Similarly, I used to take an "I'd rather just die" approach to debilitating injuries like paralysis, amputations, etc., they now would certainly not stand in the way of my being there for my kids, seeing them grow up, knowing my grandchildren, and so on. And if it were my child enduring such a trial, by God I'd just be thankful they were alive, whatever physical ailment they may face.
I think parenthood makes the difference.
If there was any chance of beating the cancer, to live to see your child grow up, you would strive for that. Reason might say that there is no chance, but the desire to live would make you keep trying. My friend from college died almost a year ago, and he fought right up to the end. He died mere days after the doctors told him there was absolutely nothing more they could do. That girl in Atlanta right now losing limbs and organs to a raging infection—she might say "just let me go" if she were conscious, but her parents are fighting for her, wanting to know her and be with her as long as they can.
I want to be there for my girls. They'd be fine without me (I tell Matt he'd have no trouble attracting a new wife, with daughters as adorable as ours :0) but I want to be there to experience all the conversations and consolations of growing up. I want to hug them through childhood's boo-boos and talk them through the trials of adolescence, to take them to college, be there for their weddings and know my grandchildren.
It's such a scary world. Stories of freak infections, children and young adults with cancer, massive accidents, kidnappings, and so on hit me harder than ever these days. It's hard to watch the news. I can only assuage the fear of losing a child with the resurrection promise that Life has the last word, and I can trust in the one iota of selflessness I have in that I would do anything in my power, even give up my own life, to save my child if ever in such a situation. But even with those comforts, I just want to live, to live life together and love my children for as long as I can.