I take my glasses off to wipe the tears streaming down my face. I have just watched a memorial video of a young woman who died 18-months ago. Pictures chronicling her growth into the beauty she is, family members surrounding her with love throughout the years. Affluent neighborhood, material goods, vacations – nothing that anyone would recognize as the life of a heroin addict.
Our neighbors try to give their 10-year-old son a normal holiday, but what does that mean now that his 12-year-old sister is dead? It is the second Christmas without their daughter and this one seems more painful, the grief somehow more real, more raw. So they do what many grievers do, surround themselves with family and friends – but the elephant is looming large in the room.
The young first-time parents are thrilled to be pregnant, but news that “something isn’t right” comes early in the fifth month. Testing, conferences with specialists all show the same thing – heart and lung abnormalities, not compatible with life. The tiny baby boy, perfectly normal on the outside is delivered and given a name. His parents bathe and dress him, take hand and foot prints and a memorial service is conducted 2-weeks before Christmas.
Even after working with grieving families for twenty years, these scenarios take my breath away.
Is it because I am a mother? Of course.
Is it because these losses involve children? Yes, I admit, when the natural order of what we describe as life is altered in an unfair way, it seems more painful.
Honestly, I suspect it goes deeper than that. All of these stories touch an exposed nerve no matter how old I get, no matter how thick my scabs are from loss.
For the truth rears its ugly head every time I hear stories like these.
Life is risky.
It isn’t fair.
No one is safe and no one is ever given a card marked “nothing bad will ever happen to me.”
And yet, despite our knowledge of this, the human race continues. We decide to have children, we do the best we can to raise them, protect them and teach them right from wrong.
But our world is flawed – babies die before they have a chance to grow, children get cancer, and despite all our love and guidance, addiction kills.
The good news is that the resiliency of the human spirit is stronger than any loss experienced. Looking at each of these parents, I applaud them for their attempts to survive their loss. They are working, they are getting dressed and leaving the house, and continuing to do the mundane tasks of daily life.
All this while their hearts break.
All this while they reconstruct a new life without their child.
Many of them would disagree with the word I would choose for them, but only one comes to mind…HERO.
Do you know anyone who has had to say “good-bye” to their child? In what way do you see them as a hero? If you have lost a child, what is the most important thing you would want to share about your experience?