On the Death of a Child
She was also a wife and a mother and a sister. She was 41. She follows to the grave a brother, who died in a car accident when he was 18.
What does one say to her parents? How flimsy and impotent words seem in the face of these outrages, when the natural order of life has been confused and perverted. For anyone who hasn’t suffered the incomprehensible losses this family has endured, it seems preposterous to offer comfort and encouragement. What qualifications or insight could we have? Only they, we imagine, fully understand the intense grief that accompanies the death of a young son. And now the pain of losing an adult daughter. It’s really almost too much for words, too much for any parent to bear.
I have no explanations. I have no answers. I don’t understand. No doubt there will be religious professionals peddling their platitudes, reminding us that God works in mysterious ways and so forth. But right now none of that feels remotely right. It feels altogether wrong.
Their daughter didn’t deserve to die at 41. The family didn’t deserve to lose another child. How cruel, it seems, that Fate — or the Universe, or however you prefer to view things – could be so unkind. The only way to accept this tragedy is to convince ourselves that these good and decent people were the recipients of terribly bad luck, of random chaos delivering a horrible result. They got unlucky.
If you accept that assumption, then we might also say that they, for a time, were the recepients of some marvelous luck. They had the wonderfully great fortune to have created, raised, and known a child. To have basked in her smile. To have felt her innate goodness. On the physical plane, she is gone. But in other ways she’s still with us, still sharing her energy, still touching our lives – just as their departed son still does, and just as all our ancestors still inform our present.
I’m sorry we’ll not get to hug her again. And I’m sorry that I have no better words to heal the wounds of loss. But I’m very glad I knew her, and I’m equally glad to know that there are people in this world who bear far more than their fair burden yet still persevere and flourish. We the lucky ones, the folks who dance through the raindrops of Life’s punishing storms, are blessed with what appears to be unremarkable normality. Maybe with the grace of wisdom we’ll one day understand how to fully appreciate our magnificent and unearned fortune.