I believe children are the most precious things on earth. Not just my children, but all of them. I have heard the stories of how mothers and father, friends, neighbors, boyfriends and babysitters have injured, abused, and killed children. I have wept for those children and for the people who committed those crimes. I cried for them because they do not understand the joy of a child’s life, they cannot or injuring a child would be beyond their ability.
I did not always feel this way. I learned this lesson at a high price. I became a mother at eighteen, too young to realize how foolish I was, too late to change it once my daughter was growing inside me. I chafed at the burden I placed on myself, the responsibility of caring for a tiny human being, being her only source of food, warmth, life. Many people remember their 21st birthday vividly. My 21st birthday is etched into my memory, burned into the core of my being. My 21st birthday taught me how precious my children really are to me.
Hurricane Katrina taught me this lesson, one that I am ever thankful for. I spent the morning of that day, August 29th 2005, huddling alongside my family in our attic, trying to keep my small children from wandering across the ever increasing holes that were appearing as the ceiling tile in our home was being disintegrated by the warm gulf water. At the height of the storm, we had a surge of about 16 feet at my single-story home. I watched the water lap at the edge of the opening to the attic as my house floated, growing higher as the storm grew fiercer. I screamed inside my head, terrified of what was happening. I wasn’t afraid of death; I never begged to be saved. I certainly did not want to die, but I remember praying, not for the strength to survive but for just enough strength to make sure my children would not die alone. At that point, I no longer questioned whether we would survive or not; I knew we were going to die, and I prayed with every fiber of my being that my daughters would not die alone, that I would have the strength to hold them to me so that their last thought would not be ‘Where is my mommy?’
I realized that day what my children really mean to me. When I finally climbed out of the attic, I still would not let them go. I clung to them, they were my lifeline. They taught me what it means to be a mother, what it means to love and what the joy of a child truly is. I believe all children are precious, more valuable that the Hope diamond, more beautiful than the Venus de Milo, no matter whose child they are.