Growing up our mother used to read us bedtime stories every night. We had piles of books beside our parents bed mixed with stories that were special to each of us. One of my favourites as a child was “The Runaway Bunny” by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd. I remember being torn by both perspectives as my mother would read the tales of the daring little bunny and the clever, protective mother. As a cautious but outgoing child, I was excited by the adventurous nature of the little bunny. As a child who loved her family so deeply, I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to runaway from my mother or leave her behind. As a child I didn’t overthink it. I left it there and enjoyed the story and beautiful illustrations for many years.
"The Runaway Bunny” held new meaning as I became a mother and would read it aloud to our first son as an infant. It also became one of my favourite gifts for friends starting their families. At this time in my life, I became a fierce supporter of the mother bunny’s perspective. That silly little bunny should have great fun and adventure but always come home to mommy.
Days after our second son was born, our lives forever changed. I was told by the NICU doctor "mommy your son is very sick and I am so sorry but he will not be coming home with you". Two weeks were all we would have with our little angel. Living out everyday knowing that the end of his time with us was drawing near. I was determined to help him have as many life experiences as I could. I would read to him everyday. We played music, sang, danced, prayed, played cartoons, anything to help him have a taste of what life would have to offer in such a short time. There sat a copy of "The Runaway Bunny” next to his hospital bed. The story I loved now filled my heart and mind with great fear and sadness.
I tried to be strong and get through the words for my son, but with each line I had to fight back tears. For the place my little bunny was going, this mother was not able to follow. The words felt like a lie. As a mother I felt like a failure as I could not protect my little bunny or fix the fatal illness within him. My instincts were fighting for a solution, a safe path forward. A gripping desperation that eventually released as we surrendered to reality. I prayed every moment that he would not suffer or be afraid. I prayed that our undying love would surround him every step of the way. I prayed that he would be at peace here on earth and in heaven. I prayed that we would be together again one day.
Since our son’s passing I am still not able to read through the book fully. I still have that copy that now sits on the bookshelf in our daughter’s room as I can’t bear to part with it. It is a love and pain relationship with the story. I still love the wonder, the illustrations and the message from the innocence of my childhood and would recommend it to anyone. However, the new me, or the mom after losing her son, often feels frustrated by it. Jealous of the mother rabbit able to follow her little bunny high into the mountains and sailing across the sea. It can a be a bitter reminder of how some mother’s aren’t able to follow their little bunnies in the way we had imagined. The harsh reality creates a skeptic in me that shakes her head at how naive that mother rabbit was.
Ironically or perhaps just as it was intended, the night we pulled up at home in the bitter cold early morning hours after Marshall passed away, a little white bunny sat in the snow. The little bunny watched us as we parked and almost followed us up to the door. I felt his spirit and it was like he was telling me he was OK. I believe Marshall is at peace in heaven and we will meet again one day. In the meantime, I believe his spirit takes many shapes and forms and I get delighted every time that little bunny follows me around. Whether it be a bunny, a butterfly, or a shooting star, I hope little reminders reach your awareness and remind you of your angels.