Monday, March 31, 2008

"A mother buries her son out of season"

10 days ago, one of my older son's classmates, a young boy of 15, a 9th grader, died of complications of the flu. My son was friendly to him; they went to the same middle school and were in the same homeroom in high school, but they weren't friends. I didn't know him or his family. And I mourn his passing.

The death of a child is a visceral wrongness. Out of season, out of time. Our children are supposed to bury us.

I can't console myself with magical thinking. This young man wasn't in the wrong place at the wrong time, he didn't make bad choices. He just got sick and despite living in the city that is one of the world's meccas for health care, he died.

I have mourned the death of loved ones, given eulogies at the graveside of my Aunt and Uncle's funerals, my grandmother's funeral. I have made difficult decisions and been the one to bear the bad news to family members. But to lose a child is something I pray I never have to experience.

Thinking of this family's grief puts all my petty complaints to shame.

There is nothing but this moment. There is no immunity to the callous dangers of our lives. No magical thinking, no amount of money or power can protect us or provide armor for our vulnerabilities.

I am surrounded by people who love me and who I love.

I will lose them all.

There is no other truth than that.

Yesterday, I baked bread. When my children slather the fresh slices with butter and cram it in their eager mouths, they will swallow my love. When my husband comes home from work, I will stop what I am doing and hold him with the full consciousness of my being.

It is so easy to let fear decide. We are tiny creatures in an immense and hostile universe.

But I can bake bread.
And I can make love.
And I can walk the dog.
And I can catch the red blur of the cardinal as he wings.
And I can smooth the covers on my son's bed.
And I can hold my tongue when someone runs the light at the corner.
And I can be grateful for this fragile moment
and the next
and the next.


  1. there are no answers to the illogical questions that arise out of grief.. and the saddest part of the whole experience is.. that is all there is.. period... i wonder sometimes who's idea of a sick joke all of this is....

  2. This post brought tears to my eyes.

    I think any and every parent would agree with your take on how the death of a child is one of the worst things imaginable. My mind skitters away from the very thought. It's something I simply don't want to consider.

    Maybe I should go home and bake bread..