Wednesday, November 28, 2012

There is no *better* way, no *right* way...

Heaven has another child.  Gone too soon.  It seems so unfair.

Sweet Kai transitioned from this earthly plane in his momma's arms last night.  No doubt he was surrounded by love.  I can think of no greater gift if you must lose a child, than to be there to hold them with unconditional love as they pass through you on their way to the next place.  To be there when they enter the world and to be there when they leave it.  The true circle of life.  You can read his mamma's blog and how she told her readers here Kai's Fight Club

This song is for you and for your family sweet one. Visitor from Heaven by Twila Paris

Although I don't know Kai or his family directly, I certainly know what they are probably experiencing right now.  There is no 'good' way to say goodbye to a child.  There is nothing at all comforting about watching your child take their last breath, no matter how prepared you might have been for the moment, when you live it, it's a bittersweet hell.  Relief that his suffering is over.  Excruciating emotional pain at the death of the very being they created and loved.

I remember what it was like leaving the hospital without my child.  What it was like to walk out into the crisp and cool air with only a box of mementos and the memories in my mind.  Hand and foot prints.  A lock of hair.  A brochure on grief.  My heart so heavy and my mind so numb that I literally had no idea how I managed to put one foot in front of the other.  Dread over having to tell her brothers.  It was surreal.  Knowing I'd never see that face, touch her silky hair, feel her skin, hear her voice, read her Pajama Time or Goodnight Moon, watch her and her twin together, see her grow up...  It was too much to bear.  So much so, it took a long time for the tears to fall.  Then there were her toys, her clothes, her car seat, looking for her and forgetting she was gone for the first few days...  Then, the anger...

I read of Kai's passing this morning.  I cried.  Not so much for him, for he is where he needs to be now.  No, I cried for the pain I know his parents are feeling right now.  I am one of the few that truly knows what it's like.  I weep for their pain.  For the depth of their sorrow.  For the memories they have.  For how this day much have been so difficult for them, to drive home for the the first time without him.  To go to his room, where he will never be again.  For the hellacious roller coaster they have endured and have yet to endure.  Planning his memorial service or funeral.  Celebrating the 'first' holidays without him.  The triggers they have no idea will blindside them, but they will.

In a way I can imagine their grief, yet in a way I cannot.  Meg's death was tragic and completely unexpected.  We had no warning.  I kissed her good night and the next morning I did CPR on her when she was found lifeless under her dresser.  I never got to say goodbye.  My baby died all alone.  That haunts me to this day.

As horrible and traumatic as Meg's death was (and I had PTSD from it) I can't imagine watching a child struggle with a terminal illness.  The roller coaster of joy and sorrow.  Watching them slip away little by little.  Making the decision to withdraw active treatment or life support.  Literally watching them die before your eyes, powerless to help them.  Simultaneously wanting to hasten the process for both of you and yet never wanting it to end because saying goodbye hurts too much, not matter how right you feel it is.

I can't imagine what the Bish family endured and still endures.  The parents of any child that disappears.  How do they do it?  No closure. Not wanting to give up but, oh, I just can't even go there.  Only a few of her remains found years later.  No suspect in custody.  Wondering what happened to her.  Was she scared?  Did she suffer?  OMG, just thinking about it makes me crazy.  How do these families cope?  I cannot even fathom.  I've had the tremendous pleasure of meeting John and Maggie.  Amazing people.  Amazing.  The foundation they established in Molly's memory does such good work to protect kids from abduction.

People say stupid things when a child dies.  Don't be one of those people.  "They are better off now"  "God needed a special Angel"  "They are in a better place"  Fuck that.  There is no better place to be than in your mama's arms. Period.  End of story.

We say these platitudes to make us here on earth feel better.  It helps us to make sense of it.  Sure, it may be a tenant of faith for us and that's wonderful.  But no parent wishes their child die.  It's ok for the parent to say any of these things.  It is not ok for anyone else to say it to them.  Anyone who has lost a child would give anything to get them back, whole and healthy and their family the way it was supposed to be, the way it was imagined to be forever.  God doesn't need children.  Mamas and daddies do. Siblings do.  Grandparents do.

Lots of people seemed to think I needed to hear these things, along with "I'm sure (or at least) she didn't suffer".  Really?  How are you sure?  Were you there? You didn't see what she looked like.  You didn't see the mark on her neck where her airway was compressed by the weight of the dresser.  She suffocated.  For at least a minute or two, I'm sure she was scared as hell.  Helpless, unable to cry, unable to move.  I'm sure once she saw the 'light' she was at peace, but I seriously doubt it was without some pain and suffering, however short.  And it could've been prevented.  Try to live with that.

The truth is there is nothing you can say to a parent that is grieving the death of their child that will make them 'feel better'.  What they want is to be respected for whatever feelings they have.  Whatever they do or do not want.  To be supported in their space.  People told me to eat constantly.  I could've screamed.  I think I did a few times.  My daughter just died, eating is NOT what I care about right now.

Meet them where they are.  Offer to just listen.  Offer to do things for them, but respect if they say no.  Ask again later. Send a card.  Send another one on the first month anniversary, the year anniversary, birthdays, holidays, mother's day and father's day, send one just because you thought of their child today. Make a gift in memory of their child.  A scrapbook page. A  quilt of their clothes.  An ornament.

Even now, years later, I love it when someone tells me something they remember about Meg or something they like about a picture they saw.  Makes my day!  They think about their children every day.  They want to hear their names.  They don't want their child to be forgotten.  Don't worry about 'upsetting' them.  They know their child died.  They live with it every second of every day.  They want other people to remember their LIFE.

I remember after Meg died we got a card from an 86 year old woman who read her obituary.  She said she lost her only son when he was 3 60 years prior!  She said she thinks of him every day.  Every day for SIXTY years.  That it still hurt.  She has never forgotten.  That he will always live in her heart.  She wanted us to know she was thinking of US and sending her love.  To let us know she wouldn't forget her beautiful face even though we had no idea who this woman was.  It was profound.  Mothers never forget.

I find myself comparing the death of my child with other parents and the death of their children.  How ridiculous is that?  The mind is a fascinating thing.  While I couldn't imagine what Kai's family endured, being prepared for his death, having a chance to say goodbye, to prepare, to grieve before the grief were gifts I never had.  To be able to hold their sweet child in their arms while he took is last breath, has agonizing and painful as it must have been for them was a gift.  One they may not yet comprehend.  One I desperately wish I had.   I'm so happy for them they had the support they did through this journey.

There is no better way.  There is no right way.  It's just not right.  It should never happen that parents outlive their kids, ever.  Yet death is a part of life.  We lose children in utero, in birth, in infancy, in childhood and as adult children.  They are always our children.  The age at which they died or the circumstances they died from really don't matter to us.  We love them.  We miss them.  We were robbed of our parenting, of our dreams of our babies.  Our children were robbed of their lives.  No matter what your beliefs are, no matter your faith or lack thereof, no matter whether you believe in Heaven, an afterlife or reincarnation, no matter what there will always be love.  There will always be the memories.  There will always be gratitude for the time we were blessed to have with our children, no matter how short.  It doesn't take away the pain, but it helps to sustain us through the difficult times.

Sending love and light and tremendous prayers for peace and healing for Kai's family as they walk this lonely and difficult road.  They are surrounded by an amazing Village of care givers, family, friends and even strangers who are there for them in whatever capacity they can be.  They are so blessed in that way.

Children have the most amazing way of bringing people together.  In life and in death.

Rest in peace sweet child.  Fly high and fly free. Shine your light on your family and may they feel your grace today and always.

1 comment:

  1. You are right about it doesn't matter how old the child is, that a parent still grieves all the same. My aunt was 57 when she passed. My grandparents were 79 and 81. The pain as they said good-bye to their eldest child stays with me. The sorrow in my grandad's eyes cut me to the core. Three weeks later, he was gone himself. He had been declining for months, but after that, it was clear he just wanted to be with his daughter.

    It doesn't matter what a child's age is, or even what took them away. What matters is that they are gone and how much you loved (and continue to love) them.