Wednesday, 17 August 2011

On the death of a child (2)


Five days ago a member of St. Boniface Church asked to talk with me after the mid-week Eucharist.  She had a question “What is heaven like?”

In response I burbled on a bit with vague statements about heaven being a state of being and not a place, or about heaven being the experience of total bliss.  I knew that I was not being helpful.

In spite of my burbling she persisted in conversation until she came to the nub of the matter.  She told me that she had come to terms with the death of her husband, but that she still felt raw, hopeless, even despairing following the death of her (adult) daughter.

“Aye, there’s the rub”.  The death of a son or daughter, (whether a child or an adult) brings with it a burden which parents, siblings and grandparents find all but impossible to bear.

My conversation with that good parishioner has led me to think a great deal about these unbearable losses.  I’ll write some more about this in the next two days.

In days gone by the deaths of infants and children were so common and frequent that they were almost expected or anticipated.   Of course that’s still par for the course in many parts of our world. 

I cannot believe that the grief is any the less in places where infant and child deaths are frequent because of poverty, disease, malnutrition or famine.

But who could imagine that any parent might believe that the death of his or her child could in some senses be desirable as did Abigail Adams?  (see yesterday’s entry)

I use the word “desirable” with great care. 

I can certainly imagine that some parents who have a child whose body is wracked with incurable disease or pain would have a deep sense of grieving relief should that child pass from this life.  

But the grief would be no less, indeed it might be more.

I suspect that at the death of a child a part of her or his parents also dies.  I can only but imagine the heartache.  It is surely deeper than deep.

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