Wow – sorry, but no better words right now for how I felt after reading, “Children Don’t Always Live” by Jayson Greene. An essay so powerful and hit so close to home, which even if you haven’t experienced, any parent would find so relatable.
In his post, he talks about a freak accident which killed his healthy, happy 2-year-old Greta. Two years old. A freak accident. Two years old, healthy and happy. A piece of scaffolding from 8 stories above just randomly, for no reason fell and took the life of his one and only child. Somehow, he and has wife got to the point of having another baby…Greta’s younger brother.
“With his birth, I have become a father to a living child and a spirit — one child on this side of the curtain, and another whispering from beneath it. The confusion is constant, and in my moments of strength I succumb to it. I had a child die, and I chose to become a father again. There can be no greater definition of stupidity or bravery; insanity or clarity; hubris or grace.”
It is true of anyone becoming a parent. I have felt and lived his words. My husband has felt and lived those words. But to become a father again, a mother again…to risk the experience of loss again. There is no greater definition of stupidity or bravery; insanity or clarity; hubris or grace. And especially for parents who have lost in a tragic way…a way in which you could not, did not have the time to prepare…there’s a whole other level. What does the loss of one child mean for the one who survived or any subsequent children that we as the parents were so brave to have?
“After a child’s violent death, the calculations are murkier. What does my trauma mean for this happy, uncomplicated being in my care? Will it affect the choices I make on his behalf? Am I going to give a smaller, more fearful world to him than I gave to Greta? Is he doomed to live under the shadow of what happened to his sister?”
Speaking from my own life. My son, Jai survived. His twin Kush did not. For Jai, this means that we have been super cautious his whole life….loosening up slowly over the years. But especially in the very beginning, cautious. Checking monitors, checking to see if he’s breathing…did he fall? What if he falls and hits his head? Oh all the what ifs. I make no apologies for it and would live the same way again and again five hundred times over. But I know that our experience of losing his brother shaped his experience of being alive. He survived…but would he stay? We didn’t believe he would stay. What if didn’t stay…oh my god….those thoughts of doubt. I was in doubt for so long, at least in my heart. I suspect many first time parents and parents to newborns question the existence of their baby and keep the fragility of this new life very much in the forefront of their thoughts. But I also know that most of my doubt, my questioning of faith came from tragically losing one child already.
But time passes by and:
“The part of you that used to keep calculating the odds of your child’s existence has mostly fallen dormant. It is no longer useful to you; it was never useful to the child; and there is so much in front of you to do.”
Your thoughts change to more concrete than abstract. The what if’s of infancy dissipate.
But when a child is taken from you…you know all too well that a heartbeat can stop. That life can end. When you lose a child, you are constantly reminded:
“Children – yours, mine – they don’t necessarily live.”
Just like Jayson, my husband and I decided to be stupidly brave and try again. Not to replace. Not to fill a void. That void could never be replaced…Jai has a missing other half, his twin and Shailen another older brother who is not here. And just like Jayson, when I am 50, my heart will ache just as it does today. He couldn’t have said it better:
“Children remain dead in ways adults do not, and on bad mornings, in the wrong light, everything from here on out feels like ashes.
I talk to him about his sister, whom I think he met before arriving. ‘Your daddy will always be sad your sister’s not here,’ I tell him. ‘But you fill Daddy’s heart up with joy and he loves you more than everything.’ I also want to say, but do not: I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I’ll never be the same father I was before. I’m sorry that you will live with me, to some degree, in grief.”
But life is good. I feel it too. I have tried to find the joy and the love in every minute that I have been so lucky to have Jai and his little brother here with us. It will soon be five years since their brother had to leave us. But we feel him, his energy and his spirit in different ways. There are signs of him with us. I continue to believe and make my boys believe that it is in fact a beautiful world. That:
“We are here to share it.”
For full article by Jayson Greene: