Nobody should ever have to.. ever. But some do.
“Muriel Stonewall; 1903-1954. She lost both of her babies in the second great war. Now, you should never have to watch your only children lowered in the ground. I mean, you should never have to bury your own babies.”
Dave Matthews “Gravedigger” 2003
I’ve spent my lifetime hearing of children dying. It’s something I read about on my social media feed weekly. Sadly, it happens all-too-often to children born with the same health issues I have. In fact, in the past three months, I’ve read of five babies with my skin condition passing on. Five. Baby Quinn’s funeral is this weekend, as a matter of fact. But like most I read about, I shook my head in sorrow and moved on. Maybe over the past thirty-something years I’ve become conditioned to it. Desensitized, if you will. I’ve come to expect to hear such news now. I remember being quite aware of the fatality rate of EB when I was my own daughter’s age.
But, the death of a child brings about a completely different emotion when it is the child of someone you personally know.
On the morning of September 18, 2009, for example, I had the day off work. It was early on a Friday morning when I got the text message: “Tell our supervisor I won’t be in for a while. Sawyer passed away.” Sawyer was only five and a half months old. His cause of death could only be determined as “unknown”, or SIDS. I ached for my friend. I cried as I told our supervisor what happened. I wandered around Target aimlessly for at least an hour that afternoon trying to find a card that most fit her situation.
But, there are no cards that adequately express “I’m sorry to hear that you lost your child”.
My daughter and I attended his funeral. There was no coffin for little Sawyer; just a photo of him at the front of the chapel. His big sister still remembers him and tells stories about when he was on Earth.
On Wednesday, I read via social media that someone I knew from High School was preparing to bid her final farewells to her son, Ty. Ty was diagnosed a year ago with leukemia. Though he no longer had any trace of cancer in his body, he lost his battle this morning. I’ve known Heather and her twin sister, Heidi since 1989. Ty was exactly a year older than my own daughter. My heart broke into a million pieces for Heather, and I cried when I read what she was going through. I was moved by her journal entry tonight as she described her last moments with her only child, which took place coincidentally, just down the hall from where Quinn took her final breath just two days before.
Like many, I cannot imagine what she is going through. I don’t even want to. I just know that all 675 of us who graduated with her are thinking of her and her family tonight.
A wife who loses a husband is called a widow.
A husband who loses a wife is called a widower.
A child who loses his parents is called an orphan.
There is no word for a parent who loses a child.
That’s how awful the loss is.
– Jay Neugeboren – An Orphan’s Tale – 1976