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Friday, June 1, 2012

A Child's Funeral

In all honesty, I didn't truly know the sweet young girl our town buried yesterday, but my grief over her death feels as real to me as the grief I felt for Rosie.  I met her just a handful of times, but I adore her little brother - formerly Twizzler Boy, now dubbed Opie - and have a friendly acquaintanceship with Opie's mom, Aunt Bea.  Aunt Bea and I met during the Tongginator's and Opie's kindergarten year, as we spent many hours volunteering together in Ms. Confetti's classroom.  We were inching towards friendship when doctors first diagnosed Opie's then fourteen-year-old sister with brain cancer.

And their life changed.


Sitting in that church with the Tongginator by my side, I couldn't help but cry.  Tears slipped down my cheeks for the entire first half of the funeral mass.  I completely lost it on Wednesday night during the viewing.  I just could not bear to see the countless teens - so, so many teenagers - sobbing out their grief in such a raw manner.  I couldn't bear to see the gracious, yet stoic expressions on the faces of the family.  I couldn't bear to think about Squirt, and all of the challenges we've faced with her this past year.

Our pediatrician stood with me for a brief time during the viewing two nights ago.  I felt ridiculous because I could not seem to stem the tide of tears.  She patted my arm, and without a word of explanation from me, she showed such intuitiveness.  Because although the medical challenges we've faced with Squirt in no way compare to the challenges this family faced, life is different for us, too.  As she watched me cry, knowing that I was not particularly close to this family, our pediatrician told me, in a gentle voice, "In all my years of practicing medicine, I've learned their are two types of parents.  One type is not better than the other, or more wise, or more emotional... they simply evolve through their life experiences.  There are the parents who wake up every morning with the expectation that their children will be healthy... and there are the parents who wake up every morning hoping their children will have a good day."

That says so much, doesn't it?

Most of all, I couldn't bear to count the number of people I know well who felt this loss so much more profoundly than me.  Squirt's and the Tongginator's pediatrician is also the pediatrician for this family.  The Tongginator's second grade teacher taught all three of the "Taylor" children.  One of my friends from church is their close friend and next-door neighbor... when I think of all she's been through and done for this family these past two years, I know that her experience mimics my own with Rosie.

Except this time a child died.

A child.

There is not much one can say about the death of a child.  It is horrific.  It takes one's breath away.  To quote the acquaintance sitting next to me during mass yesterday, "it is every parent's worst nightmare."  Yes, it is all of those things.  It is also profoundly moving in its way.  Because most of the time life pauses when death occurs, but when a child leaves us, life doesn't simply pause, it screeches to a halt.  More than 700 people attend the funeral yesterday.

More than 700 people stopped.

They reassessed their life perspectives.

They considered faith.

When a child dies, people cling to the essentials because a child's death feels so absolutely senseless... priorities such as courage and kindness, love and commitment.  Hope.  The Tongginator summed it up beautifully in her bedtime prayers last night.  She prayed for the Taylors, especially her buddy and classmate Opie.  She asked that God help everyone to not feel so sad and for her to be a good friend to Opie in the coming months.  She also asked Jesus to be sure to welcome Opie's sister with open arms, so that she feels at home quickly in heaven.

Which tells me I was right to allow her to attend the funeral.  Bringing her with me to the viewing would have been a mistake, but a church service dedicated to saying goodbye?  She deserved to be there because she asked to go.  Not many agreed with me - most kept their elementary-aged children at home.  I don't know if that makes me different, or the Tongginator different, or a bit of both.  But I know my child, and I listened to what experts had to say, so I prepared her as best I could, and I took her with me.

Despite the challenges, I'm glad I did.

The sanctuary felt so crammed with mourners, the Tongginator never actually got the chance to speak with Opie.  But she managed to reach out to him anyway through a card.  We dropped it off on their front porch yesterday afternoon, along with a copy of the book Tear Soup, a Tongginator favorite.  The Tongginator wrote in the card, "Opie, I'm so sorry about your sister.  I know what it's like to lose someone very special. Love, the Tongginator."  She also instructed me to inscribe the inside cover of Tear Soup with the words "the Tongginator's tear soup continues to simmer, and she wants you to know that it's okay to let your tear soup cook for as long as it needs."

Because there is no time limit on grief.

Especially when a child dies.

But life goes on, differently of course, but go it does.  And eventually hope will come again, somehow, someway.  My prayers go out to the "Taylor" family and all of those who have grieved the loss of a child.  I am so very sorry.  And that's all I can say.


Aus said...

Wow - what an insighful post, and your doctor is very wise - not to mention correct - no one type of parent is 'better' than the other - but I well and truely believe that those of us that 'evolve' with our children have the richer rewards.

The loss of a child is absolutely the worst thing that can happen because it's not the natural progression...and while there are no words to express the sadness...no words are really necessary. Simple presence says much more.

Bless you for allowing your daughter to be there - I couldn't agree with you more...

Prayers for peace for all - and hugs -

aus and co.

Laura Lee said...

I just had to take a moment to say that I am always so blessed by your words here. You are such an intentional mother and a gifted writer. Thank you for sharing some wisdom.

redmaryjanes said...

I completely understand what you are saying. As mothers, I think that we cannot detach ourselves from the grief and loss of a child, even when it is not our own or close to us.

Casa Bicicleta said...

I have nothing to add, just sending you a big hug.

Cedar said...

Praying for this family and yours.

prechrswife said...

Beautifully written post...

The Gang's Momma! said...

Such a beautiful post... Praying that those who have this gaping hurt will find peace and comfort. Including you and The Tongginator. Hugs to you, my friend.

Diva Maman said...

Beautifully said.

On so many levels.

Shari said...

I have so much I want to say that I don't know where to start. Tears are streaming down my face as there really is nothing more heartbreaking than a life cut too short.

I applaude you for taking T; many parents shy away from taking their kids to funerals, but I think it's good for them to be able to see how loved ones are remembered.

Your pediatrician is so so wise - and T's words to her friend, so perfect.

Thank you for sharing.

MommyBrec said...

I came here to thank you for the idea you posted on my blog about blue tortilla chips, and found myself nearly in tears as I read this post. I don't know you or this family, but I was truly moved by this post. Any time a child passes away, it changes all those who knew about it. I am thankful I was changed today. Lots of love to your family and to this family who has lost their precious daughter.

The Byrd's Nest said...

(((hugs)))) to everyone. I am praying for Aunt Bea and Opie and the rest of their family. My heart is broken for them but so thankful our Lord is in the business of mending broken hearts. Love you!

Tricia said...

"Two kinds of parents..."

Claudia said...

I think for a kid like the Tongginator - she has already known a lot of grief. Shielding her from the funeral would not have shielded her from grief. It was absolutely the right thing to let her go. And I hope that she will be able to comfort Opie as a fellow-traveller on that hard road.

Beyond Normal Mom said...

I'm choking up over here. I love your girl.

autumnesf said...

I'd say you are one of the wisest mom's I know. Always striving to do what is best for each individual child. It doesn't get any wiser than that.

So sorry for the loss of this child and all that it has touched.

Ashers g'ma said...

After my grandson was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor we met a woman whos son was battling cancer too. Her son was 3 days older than my grandson. 11 months old. While my daughter and g'son were out of state for his treatment that little boy passed away. He was 15 months old. My daughter asked me if i would go to the funeral since she couldn't, i told her i just could not. I wanted to be there for the family but it was something i couldn't bare to be part of at that time, not while my grandson was still battling his fight with cancer. The boys family was such an inspiration to all of us, still is and we've attended rides in memory of that boy just to let the parents know what we have not forgotten their son. It's such a tragedy, so emotional, so senseless, it challenges your faith like nothing else i've ever experienced.

3 Peanuts said...

Such a sad, sad post. I will pray for the family. I simply cannot imagine. I have not been here in a while and am very curious/concerned about Squirt.I see y'all are doing gluten free too. You know we have done that for YEARS (8) if you need any guidance. I will pray for Squirt too.


Cavatica said...

What a wise pediatrician. I see this in my work with the families of brain injury survivors. I get taking T to the funeral. Children are capable of a lot.

Cavatica said...

What a wise pediatrician. I see this in my work with the families of brain injury survivors. I get taking T to the funeral. Children are capable of a lot.