I don’t know what the death of a child means – its purpose really – nor am I ready to lay the cause for such pain and misery at the feet of some ostensibly benevolent entity.
Two former colleagues will be burying their son today. Their son: my son’s lacrosse goalie, two years younger. This is tragedy writ large across the small town landscape of the human heart. A tragedy that speaks to the lie that the cities are where it’s at. Maybe when I figure out the IT of everything I will be better able to make a distinction between the pain wrought by a life – and a death.
What I do know is that becoming a parent can be the most joyful experience two willing people can embark upon together – the endless dreams founded on faith in love and the innocent sounds of new names – mommy and daddy. It must be what an addiction is like; looking into the eyes of your child and succumbing to the bone-melting moment when you realize that there is nothing, no one in the world you could love more. It is the moment you watch your toddler waltz around the lawn in a spring rain babbling the language of sheer happiness, arms spread wide, head held high as if sipping from some celestial chalice of innocence, that you know you would lay down your own life for this moment to continue. Children, loved, cherished – as it should be – infused into your veins every morning, every handhold, every neck hug, every embrace of that small sturdy body that holds the contents of your elixir, the potion you need to survive. Liquefied, cooked love – injected in the open for all to see – the tracks of which you are proud to expose. Children can make us whole.
As children can make us whole so too can they lay us low. There is emotion that resides in the cracked plaster and glass of all adolescent door slams – an emotion whose power, we
forget, is as strong an elixir for the adolescent as our fresh-parent love was for us. But it is the road out of the nest, to selfhood that we keep our eyes upon – beyond adolescence – when the parent-child relation ship is supposed to right itself – the waters begin to calm, the phone conversations end in “I love you(s)” – both ways. But before the road untraveled, we believe we are cursed; what did we do wrong? Worry – the congenital parental condition beginning, not with ours but with our child’s birth. Even as we wrangle with adolescence we begin to paint pictures of that road out of the nest, putting our dream-child squarely upon it, smiling and ecstatically babbling that sonorous, personal language of sheer happiness – it is this emotional chimera that saves us when all hell breaks loose. It is what keeps us on the edge of the grave looking in even as our flesh and blood is lowered into the earth – buried.
I realize my tears are useless in changing the scenario. They will not revive the loved ones of the T’s, A’s and the F’s. – the first initials of those friends and colleagues who have all buried their young.
To be a parent is to expect to bring that child to a healthy adulthood – it is what you deserve for all the love and parent-hours spent keeping that child alive and well. What these parents get for all their love is not what they deserve. There is no crime that warrants such catastrophe.
And so I wonder what it all means? I think of my own son, the vessel that walks the earth holding my heart and dreams – for him. And now my frustration with him, for his comparatively minor infraction of the adult responsibility code, pales with the knowledge that this frustration could be easily trumped – any day, any time…