One word we would often use to describe Levi was "fearless."

He had no fear of anything--big machines, big animals, dangerous things, strange people (although he was often quiet around strangers--I think he was studying them, not afraid of them.)

That wasn't entirely true, though. Levi would often wake up in the night, sometimes several times, and when he did he was usually crying and afraid.

Jason had a magical dad super-power--he could go into the room, lay his hands on Levi and gently ease him back under his covers and say, "It's alright, buddy. I'm here. Go back to sleep."

And Levi would. That was usually all it took.

Not so with me.

During the day, while he was awake, Levi wanted my comfort. He would love to fall asleep for his nap snuggled on my lap in our rocking chair.

But at night, it was like I was the enemy. If it was me who came in to comfort him (say, if Jason had gone to bed and I was still up working), he would fight me tooth and nail, hollering louder and louder until he was finally awake enough that he could accept my comfort.

I think it was because of the adoption.

When we got Levi, I read a book called Attachment in Adoption by Deborah Gray, and in it she describes a young girl who bore fear and resentment for her adopted mother for years. Finally, at age five or six, the mother was able to get the reason out of her--she had vague memories of her mother abandoning her in a European orphanage when she was around 18 months, but in her memory, the "mama" that abandoned her was the same "mama" who was now raising her.

I had hoped that, as Levi got older, we would be able to get to the root of his night terrors, which are common in adopted children.

During daylight hours, though, there was nothing that could intimidate that boy. I actually considered it a goodly part of my job to instill some healthy fear of dangerous situations into him (without quenching his adventurous spirit). That's a fine and tricky line to walk.

Staying back from vehicles. That's one we were working on. Not quickly enough.

I am a firstborn child. A rule follower. I play it safe.

I had my share of mishaps as a child. And these only reinforced my penchant to stay safe, stay back from the edge, keep all possible outcomes in mind and go with the safest way.

Oh, I am a risk-taker, but not in ways that endanger my life. I am fearless in experimenting creatively, trying new skills, knowing that I can learn to do just about anything that I try to as long as I acquire the proper tools and skill set to do so.

But I have no interest in applying that to situations and skills that are likely to endanger my life. I get an adrenaline rush I enjoy from completing a beautiful garment or playing a song well. But true fight-or-flight situations (such as jumping out of airplanes, bungee jumping, or even a wild roller coaster) hold absolutely zero appeal for me.

Shucks, I rarely even break the speed limit anymore when I am in municipal boundaries. And if I do, it's accidental.

I've watched exactly one horror movie. I've read one horror book. I have watched a couple more suspense thrillers (usually in response to major peer pressure). I regret every one of those decisions. (Well, the suspense thrillers not as much, but I'm sure I would have been fine without them. It's been a long time since I watched one for a reason.)

And now I know why.

How can I learn to be brave again? I don’t want to always be afraid.

Since Levi died, I keep reliving the moments of the morning it happened. Each moment seems to stand on its own, and can be triggered by the strangest things. Once it is remembered, my heart races, my breathing quickens, and I am back in that moment--and that one, isolated moment replays over and over like a video loop.

Sometimes, the triggers are external things--a scream in a movie reminds me of the moment I screamed as I saw my limp son in Jason's arms. A ride in the truck reminds me where he was when he died, how it happened, how it could happen to anyone. To one of my other boys.

Sometimes it's internal.

At first, I couldn't remember anything but the Day It Happened. I couldn't remember happy things, or anything else, just that day.

I started searching through photos, finding videos, making myself remember. And eventually, memories from Before started to return on their own.

But often, I can be thinking about one of those beautiful, happy memories of my boy, and it suddenly lands on the picture of him, grey and cold, in a hospital room. Or breathing his last breath in my arms. Or in his casket. (We had a private viewing before cremating him.)

Fortunately, it doesn't always trigger the fight-or-flight response. I am actually coming to think it is my mind's way of helping ... all this ... become real. This is the reason you don't hear him in the hall... This is the reason he's not playing outside... This is the reason you haven't seen him in a while...

I may not always panic. But I am still more afraid.

And it is hard to let the other boys still be boys. To let them go do things, live their lives. I force myself to not show the fear I feel. I try not to panic when I don't know where they are. I try to squelch the terror when my husband's truck roars up the driveway.

Because my other boys are older. They don't need their mama protecting them from things they don't know better than to be afraid of. They know.

But still, I over-caution them.

"Be careful." "Be safe." "Check for cars." "Don't run, walk." "Pay attention to your environment." "Stay back from the edge. No, farther."

Sometimes, it's necessary. Usually, it's not.

How can I learn to be brave again? I don't want to always be afraid.

I'm still afraid of turning left from a highway after being rear-ended while waiting to do so over two years ago. I sometimes have a near panic attack at a corner if it looks like the vehicle behind me isn't slowing soon enough.

And that accident wasn't even lethal.

When I had my fearless boy, I had to be afraid for him all the time. Now I wonder if I wasn't afraid enough.

But you can't go through life afraid, and I didn't want him to. Nor do I want my other boys to do so.

I always trusted that God would take care of my children in the moments I wasn't there to do so. Right now, I am having a hard time renewing that trust.

Even though I firmly believe that Levi is happy in heaven, and wouldn't want to come back here to this place of sadness if he could, I don't want to lose any more of my children before they have had their chance to live their lives and make their own choices. But I can't protect them from everything.

Learning to let go is its own sort of bravery. And I need to learn it, all over again.

For the sake of Jude, and Noah, and Jabin.

For the sake of me.


Written by Josh Groban, Thomas Salter, and Chantal Kreviazuk.

Wake up, wake up, the sun cannot wait for long
Reach out, reach out before it fades away
You will find the warmth when you surrender
Smile into the fear and let it play

You wanna run away, run away and you say that it can't be so
You wanna look away, look away but you stay cause' it's all so close
When you stand up and hold out your hand
In the face of what I don't understand
My reason to be brave

Hold on, hold on, so strong, time just carries on
And all that you thought was wrong is pure again
You can't hide forever from the thunder
Look into the storm and feel the rain

You wanna run away, run away and you say that it can't be so
You wanna look away, look away but you stay cause' it's all so close
When you stand uṗ and hold out your hand
In the face of what I don't understand
My reason to be brave

O oh oh oh oh
O oh oh oh oh
O oh oh oh oh
Go on, go on

You wanna run away, run away and you say that it can't be so
You wanna look away, look away but you stay cause' it's all so close
When you stand up and hold out your hand
In the face of what I don't understand
My reason to be brave

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Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.