The above is not a photo of tragedy, neither kid got hurt. But I can’t help looking at my son flying through the air and imagine crash landings and disaster. There’s been a lot this week reminding me how fragile and precious life is.

Oliver Sacks’ essay on learning he had terminal cancer was like a kick to the heart. I remind myself I’ve never met him, but it feels like a very personal grief. His personality comes through so clearly in his writing.

In the world of people I actually know, my brother’s house burned down. He, his girlfriend, their dog and cats all survived, and they’ve been showered with love and support. But just about all of their possessions were gone in just a few minutes, their house destroyed. It’s impossible to get my mind around.

My daughter suffered a fortunately-minor but still scary burn, from scalding hot tea water. Despite hours of cold compresses and the initial sense that it was fine, the next day the blisters required an urgent care visit for dressing. I’ve been unable to stop replaying the moment just before it happened, as if I could go back and move the cup out of the way, secure the lid tighter, change the future.

I feel like a failure, those I love vulnerable to all this danger and unpredictability. How can things be so out of our control?

I guess it’s not surprising that for the first time in many, many years I woke up panicked last night, sure I was dying from a concussion. (I’d bumped my head the other day in a humiliating fall, and it’s definitely been sore, but in daylight I can assure you it won’t kill me.) There’s no arguing with fear, no logic really helps.  For a few minutes I was as sure of my imminent demise as Betty Davis in Dark Victory, the medical tragedy just as vague and relentless. Though less cinematic. I felt heartbroken that I’d be even less able to protect my family than I am now. I must have been still partly asleep, though I remember I told Jay he should remarry if I died in the night, and he told me he’d get another dog. Thank heaven for a husband with a sense of humor.

Of course the light of day made it seem ridiculous.

But having kids makes me feel more vulnerable. I’ve got so much more to lose, and I’m no more invincible than I ever was. It’s a good reason to hold tight to those we love, and be thankful. Every beautiful thing we enjoy is ephemeral, everything can change at any moment.