Monday, November 21, 2005

Melancholy Monday: Losing a Child

Today was my first day back after a 2 week absence from work due to being hospitalized for meningitis (ugh!). I was planning on working a half day as I’m still feeling under the weather, but ended up working a 12 hour shift.

I was getting ready to leave for the day when I overhead a page that a trauma was coming in, it was a teenage boy who had gone into cardiac arrest with no previous medical history of a heart problem. I took off my coat, and waited along with the rest of the medical team for the ambulance to arrive. He died shortly after arriving in the ER.

I sat with his mother for hours while family members poured in and out to offer support. I was overcome with the haunting emptiness that was in her eyes. I sat with her in the waiting area, while doctors, parents, and patients sped by, going about their business on the other side of the glass door. It seemed almost cruel that this mother had to watch other people continue on with the fluid motions of their lives, while she sat paralyzed, stuck in this moment.

She talked to me about giving birth to her beautiful baby some 17 years before, and of how she didn’t sleep for weeks because of his terrible croup. She beamed as she spoke of his accomplishments; he was going to be the first one in his family to go to college she said. I sat and listened to this woman’s stories, I listened as she exclaimed how lucky she was to be a woman inasmuch as it granted her the opportunity to be this child’s mother. But even while talking about the happiest of memories she seemed to be choked by unfettered grief.

I was watching an old episode of Six Feet Under while I was home sick this week. The episode dealt with a mother who was burying her son who had died in Iraq. For those of you who are familiar with the characters, Brenda was sitting at the kitchen table talking to Nate and David about the situation and said: “men and women lose their spouses and are called widowers, children lose their parents and they are orphans, but what about parents that lose their children?” Then she said, “Maybe it's just too fucking horrible to even give it a name.”

Maybe we don’t give it a name because we don’t have words in our language that can begin to touch the utter despair that a parent experiences when they lose a child. There is no word that can adequately encapsulate all of the could have beens and the should have beens, all of the doubt, blame, and regret. I suppose that words are just not good enough to define the inperceptable experience of as losing a child.