Saturday, July 26, 2008

Heavy Stones

Nothing hurts my heart more than the death of a child. Hearing about the death of a child permeates my chest with heavy stones of sadness, uncertainty, confusion, fear. As my chest fills, stones clinking me aware, each breath becomes more shallow, and then deeply more deliberate. Each breath forces me to acknowledge the weight pulling from within, the heaviness threatening to pull me under.

Years ago--although I can recall the tiniest details of the day, I can't recall the year--I attended the funeral of a coworker's little boy. He was Moosie's age when he died. He triumphed through many heart surgeries, but he slowly lost his life after being on life support and receiving a heart transplant.

The funeral home was filled with poster after poster of a happy, amazing little boy. I remember the line for the viewing being painfully, uncomfortably slow, each slight step forcing me to look at another snapshot of this marvelous little boy. I don't know why, but I specifically remember a small picture of him in a body of water with an orange lifejacket on, his smile firm, his little body bobbing slightly. And then suddenly I was embracing his mother and all notions of "What should I say? Not say? What should I do? Not do?" disappeared.

As I left that night, the image of his tiny peaceful body forever in my mind, I contemplated how a family grieves the loss of a child, especially a child requiring a spectacular level of care. This little boy had medical needs, therapeutical needs, spiritual needs--his parents keenly aware of the possibility of death, struggled to give him a balanced but rich life, the just in case purposely tucked away every morning.

I imagine their first conscious breath often a decision or thought regarding their little boy, early morning appointments with the pediatrician, lunch appointments with the heart specialist, after work predinner appointments with the physical therapist. I try to imagine the quick e-mails sent and received, the medical research conducted, the impromptu blood draws required, the worried phone calls, all infiltrating the work day. And then the so-called trivial aspects of parenting-- feeding dinner, giving baths, reading stories, applying bandaids and emphasized kisses--when bits of marvel, hope, and love leapt out or even just inconspicuously leaked out. I try to imagine all of this, and then having not just the child but the tightly woven tangles and lovingly tied knots of the parents' lives ripped out in a flash.

And I can't. I can't imagine it at all. All I can feel is despair.

I read about another child dieing this week, discussed on some of the blogs that I read regularly. I did not regularly read the mother's blog and thus did not have a connection to her or her little boy who died suddenly. But the stones continue to fill my chest, and with each breath I helplessly think of this little boy and his family. I am reminded how we are all connected, intentionally or not.

Each time I come across the memorial bookmark I have kept from all those years ago, as I finger the soft recycled pulp, I will not just think of Spencer Kult but also of Evan Kamida.

Nothing hurts my heart more than the death of a child.


Niksmom said...

Ters are falling on my keyboard, Ange. Your description of the day-to-day...that's my life in a nutshell. Though Nik is healthy now, the fear is always just under the surface.

My heart aches so much for Evan's family.

Ange said...

Ah, Niksmom, I can't stop thinking of when your life's purpose is so entangled in your child, how do you recover from that loss? When your joy, your work, your pain, your exhaustion, your pleasure, your hobbies, your fear, your time, your marriage, your future is all so woven in what is your child... I don't know how some one can survive that. But I've seen someone perservere, to reshape her life while still honoring and loving her little boy. I don't keep in contact with Spencer's mom anymore, but there are parts of her mourning and recovery (that I saw publically) that amazed me, inspired me, and left me in awe. For the part of the story she was willing to share, I am grateful.

Stimey said...

I know what you mean. Heartbreaking.