19 February 2015

Of Children, Death, and Healing

A little boy died in Ontario today.

He had wandered out of his grandparents' apartment in the middle of the night into a twenty-below-Celsius night in a t-shirt and boots. They found him six hours later, still alive but not in good shape. And tonight he died. A little three-year-old boy died. It's heartbreaking to think that twenty-four hours ago, his parents and grandparents thought he had another seventy or eighty years left in his life -- his whole life stretching out before him -- and now it's gone. And he died alone, lost, probably frightened, freezing in the snow in a minus-thirty windchill. No-one to hug him and tell him they loved him and he was safe. And yet he had two loving parents and two loving grandparents. How awful this must be for them. How truly horrible. Twenty-four hours ago they were a normal family with a normal little boy.

Tonight I was at a voice recital at the college and as much as I tried to focus on the singers, my attention kept drifting to the director of my program sitting across the seating area from me, holding his little girl on his lap. He had his arms around her, rocking her in time to the music, dropping kisses on her blond head at regular intervals. She was resting her head on his shoulder and I tried to remember when I was her age and size, sitting on my own dad's lap like that and suddenly I thought, Enjoy it while you can; don't forget this moment, and I almost burst into tears right there. I could not remember specifically ever sitting on my dad's lap. I was never really a sit-on-a-lap kind of kid. I was too busy doing something -- playing a story or dancing. I don't remember being little enough for that and I don't actually remember the feel of my head on my dad's shoulder and his arms around me, rocking me. I'm sure all those things happened. I've seen it with my younger siblings. But I don't remember it for me.

They provide translations for the songs in the program. There was one, some German piece from Brahms, and the translation talked about names fading on old gravestones. The gravestones read 'we were.' So final, so dismal, so full of sadness and regret for things that could not be regained or recaptured or relived. We were, but we are no longer. It is over. It is gone. And then something poetic happened and then the gravestones read 'we were healed' and I could only think of my friend Brittney.

Grieving her death is a funny thing. I miss her. I hate knowing I will never see her or talk to her again before I myself die. But I know her breathing was tortured here -- to what extent I don't know, but I do know it was labourious -- and now for the first time she can breathe easily. She died, but it was death that finally healed her. Yet that healing came at the expense of furthering our collective relationships with her as her friends and family. I'm glad that she is healed, but I miss her so much.

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