Babies die. Children die. Teens die. Young adults die. No one hates these facts more than I do, no one. Because I was once one of the mothers who walked the interminable shadow of death of my two year old, so yes, I know of what I say. It is impossible to accept and more unfathomable to understand but it is in fact true
My two year old found his way into a swimming pool and drowned without anyone witnessing his ending. Her teen son decided to swim the rushing brook during a hurricane for kicks and was never seen again. Her son was driving home from the beach when a gust of wind flipped his jeep and he was gone despite all the riches and fame that family owned. Didn’t save him. Her daughter decided to switch drivers while driving home, no one survived. Her adorable, freckle-faced son was found lifeless in his bed with the heroin syringe still in his arm. Her four-year-old son got a rare form of brain cancer and didn’t die from the disease but from the treatments. Her tween daughter had a terrible headache, only it was really an aneurism that killed her before she reached the hospital. Her baby was healthy and strong but developed a fever that the docs dismissed as no big deal despite her lethargy as she died from this simple fever within a day or so leaving her mother to grieve and write about her forever. Her baby was finally here, full term and perfect but when she emerged from her womb after a good birth, she was in fact, lifeless and not redeemable. Last week her daughter was driving home for her wedding when she and her fiancé were hit by a drunk driver. The bride’s funeral was on her wedding day with guests in attendance who’d planned instead to celebrate.
I remain firm in my belief that these are NO acts of God in any way and that they are random, out of control events that remain completely mysterious and without blame or cause. I believe that the God of my heart has his/her heart break each and every time. I work with new parents day in and day out. They are scared of everything – the fragile new baby, the diapers, the crying, the breastfeeding, the baby’s spine, the baby’s fingernails, the baby’s tongue, the baby getting enough sleep, too much sleep, what to eat, what not to eat, how to burp, to stay in or go out, to sleep with or without and a million other fears that set their minds into chronic panic. It is none of these things. None. Period.
And then, last night the breastfed baby I’d worked with, the one with the kindest, most loving mother met his end. He was 7.5 months old but when he was 4 months old his arm began to swell and darken. No one knew what it was but when referred to specialists they raced him into neurosurgery where they worked on his tiny brain for over 15 hours determined to remove the vicious, aggressive, very rare from of cancer that had moved in. They couldn’t get it and his prognosis was nil. His loving parents set into a whirling time warp taking his little, giggling, darling self through as many rites of passage in record time that included monthly birthday celebrations, horse back riding, smelling flowers, attending weddings and more. The race against time had begun and the determination to cram life in was relentless. This baby still felt his greatest comfort however, at his mother’s breast and this remained the unbreakable connection of love and nurture until his last breaths were drawn, last night. Her breasts ached and were full and yearning to attach but there was no more strength for baby to do this. Like Jesus on the cross however, he was offered drops of her milk on a sponge touched to his lips as he lay eyes closed, weakening and passing, still sensing and smelling his mother’s interminable love.
And so I cried last night for this precious one, whose parents will be forever changed and for the love that could not save one more. I fell asleep crying but awoke in the middle of the night, convinced that my right breast was leaking milk all over the bed. I jumped up thinking I needed to change the bedding but then realized, in fact, none of this had happened. I hadn’t breastfed in 14 years, so there was no milk at all.
But in my mind, my milk flowed along with my tears for this devastated mom, with leaking breasts still trying to find the soul she sustained. It is done. He is gone. She remains along with his father so very lost and wondering how the sun still rises and sets, Halloween dawns this day, the other children still laughing and the world continues to spin.