i carry your heart with me


If you’ve never read the poem, “i carry your heart with me,” by e.e. cummings, then please do so now. If you have, read it again.

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
                                  i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

I first read this poem about 5 1/2 years ago when I was searching for sweet somethings to say to my then boyfriend (now husband).

But now, five days after the school shooting in Florida, it has taken on a whole new meaning.

When I was six-years-old, I got lost on the army base in Germany on my way to school. I got really scared, but then I saw a lady in an army uniform putting her infant in her car. I thought, “Oh, this lady is safe. I can talk to her.” So, in between tears and gulps, I managed to tell her I was lost and the name of my school (which was literally two blocks away). She let me get into her car and she drove me to school. Later that afternoon, when my mom picked me up, I told her what happened and I remember her spanking me, in between tears and gulps, and telling me to NEVER get in the car with a stranger again. I tried to tell her that I was safe, that I had picked the army lady who had a baby, but that didn’t seem to matter.

I didn’t understand her anger at the time, but years and motherhood have taught me about her anger, which was actually the deepest of fears: the thought of losing her daughter.

We do everything in our power to equip our kids with the tools to stay safe. Our kids are taught from the earliest of ages not to go anywhere with strangers, not to get into the car with strangers, and not to take candy from strangers. Our kids know how to use crosswalks and how to stop, look, and listen before crossing the road. Our kids are taught to hold our hands and stay close by when we’re in busy places. Our kids learn to wear helmets when riding their bikes and seat belts when riding in cars. Our kids are taught to leave situations that make them uncomfortable and to talk to adults they trust when they need help. And now, our kids have cell phones, so that they can call any and every time they have an emergency. 

But there’s something they don’t have, and it’s something we can never give them: Complete and utter protection against death. 

Going into this parenthood thing, we know there’s the chance something could happen to our kids at any given time — SIDS, drowning, car accidents, etc., but the chances of those things occurring are small, so we live in a kind of persistent denial. And then madness happens again, in a small town in Florida, and we are all left reeling, holding our little ones tighter than ever and wishing there was a way to make it stop.

Sometimes I wish I could wrap my son in a bubble to keep him shielded from all of the “what ifs” of the world, from all of the danger, the madness, the insanity, the violence, the horror, the sadness. But then I’m reminded of Finding Nemo, when Marlin is telling Dory he promised he wouldn’t ever let anything happen to his son, and she says, “Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.” 

And so I choose to let everything happen to him. My son is the beauty in this world that gives life meaning, and that meaning gives him life. I can’t always be there for him, and I can’t always protect him, but I can always, and infinitely will, carry his heart with me. I carry it in my heart.

We can’t always protect our children, but we can fight for them. If you want to reach out to or connect with organizations advocating for social justice issues related to improving the lives of our children, our friends, our neighbors, and our communities, there are several options from which to choose in Chattanooga: Chattanooga Family Justice CenterConcerned Citizens for Justice, Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in AmericaMoms for Social Justice, and Pilgrim Congregational Church are just a few. Know of other organizations that are good resources for advocacy? Please share them in the comments.