A baby has died. A teeny tiny member of our small community is gone.
I can’t, I won’t even try, to fathom what is going on in the hearts of his parents. It is too unbearable to imagine.
For everyone who is a parent, it is our worst nightmare; it is the possibility that keeps us up at night worrying. It is the reason why we yell at our child for crossing the street without looking. It is the driving force behind standing over a sleeping child searching for the rise and fall of gentle breathing.
For me, it is the fear that has given me cause to wonder if I really am cut out for this parenting gig.
With my children having reached the ages of 21, 19, and 17, that fear has not diminished even an ounce. The only thing that has changed is the possible cause of death; car accident instead of SIDS, fatal football head injury instead of choking on a Lego.
Instead of hovering over my sleeping child as I did when they were small, I now hover, waiting for them to return for the night and go to sleep.
Today, no one is sure what has happened, why this child has come and gone as quickly as he has. All we know is that he is gone.
Does it matter what happened? A very wise woman said that to wonder about the hows and whys distracts us from dealing with the fact that this baby is gone…forever.
My sadness is so very deep.
As it is within our small, insulated world. There is a collective grief that many feel and we don’t necessarily know what to do with that pain.
As I fumble around, remembering the weight of that tiny man in my arms (wailing, because I am definitely not a baby-whisperer) I also see something beautiful happening.
I see community. I see that what exists in our town is strong and unique and loving.
People everywhere are throwing around the catchphrase “community.” It’s hip and trendy to “create community.”
The reality is that if you open your eyes and your heart here in this valley, we already have it in spades.
Folks who don’t even know this family are crying tears and rallying to help in any way that they can. Food, money, childcare for the sister…it doesn’t matter what, how big or how small. What matters is that a child has died, there are people suffering, and the love that flows through our town is astounding.
One of my chickens was killed yesterday.
My son hit and killed a fawn less than an hour later.
Death of the innocent, death of the young.
I know that my chicken and that baby deer are not someone’s child and that my pain over my girl is piddly in comparison to my friends’ pain, but I feel surrounded by death.
And that is painful.
And, I appreciate living so close to the natural world that I can see that yes, creatures are born and creatures die before what we think is their time.
Today it doesn’t make this child’s death any less brutal, but maybe some day it will help with the hows and the whys.
I think that I am rambling here. I want to talk about this, I want to process the grief, and yet I don’t want to make this about me. I don’t want to presume to hurt anywhere near as much as mom and dad. And I certainly don’t want to be a gossip.
But death needs to be talked about and picked at and felt. Our culture is at a complete and utter loss when it comes to grief. If one is not devoutly religious then it is likely that there is no set of guidelines for how to cope with the unimaginable.
For anyone who has seen Rabbit Proof Fence, there was a scene where a grandmother’s children are taken from her. She collapses on the ground and beats her own head with a rock. It struck me as beautiful. In moments of intense agony, who wouldn’t beat themselves with a stone?
I loved that it was accepted.
We don’t have that. If someone saw me beating my own brains out they’d call the cops.
So we make food. We show up at friends’ homes at 9:30 at night to just have a little bit of company and not feel so alone. We accept the parents right where they are and do not judge. We worry; about the mother, the father, the sister, the grandmother. We talk about the child, the sadness, the hows and whys, because whether those things matter in the big picture or not, sharing those thoughts helps us to bond as an extended family.
We say the words coroner, autopsy, burial, in hopes that speaking them will take just a little bit of the power, the rawness, out of them.
If I can say autopsy, then hopefully it will help Mom and Dad say it too.
Because it is an unbearable word to use in the same sentence as your child’s name.
We gather together and pick at the wound – perhaps if we pick enough scar tissue will develop and the pain will lessen.
We create the container that will hopefully help this family in feeling loved and supported and not alone in this agony.