Death intruded into my life twice last week. Shockingly. Wrenchingly. Unexpectedly.
All deaths are not equal. The impact is not equal. As I grieve the loss of a family member, someone I have known my whole life, I have a visceral feeling that part of my family’s roots have been torn up too early, violently. It is a searing pain. The other death was more abstract, someone I have never met but who was loved deeply by good friends. I am overcome by what her death represents - her very young children who will grow up never knowing their mother’s boundless love.
These were not old people. When someone dies after a long and full life we miss them, but we celebrate a good life lived, a life in which they fulfilled their earthly promise. When someone dies after a long illness we feel the loss, but perhaps offset by relief that the physical pain that they endured has finally ended. There are abstract deaths, someone we did not know personally, or did not know well, and we acknowledge their passing, the grief of their loved ones, and perhaps a pang that they died in a way that hits too close to home.
I don’t know that there is ever a good time to lose one’s parents to death. They do their best to prepare you for the world, but at what time do we stop needing that advice, reassurance and unconditional love?
And then there is the death of a child. When your child first entered your life were you prepared for that onslaught of emotion? The intensity of that love? The protective instinct that leaves you speechless with it’s ferocity? Children should not die. It is a mockery of life, to enter the world full of promise, but to leave before that promise has a chance to germinate, much less bloom.
UNICEF reported recently that for children under 5, mortality rates are dropping. Excellent news and a testament to the many effective programs. But every year 8.8 million children die before their 5th birthday. That is one child every 4 seconds.
Look closely at your child today. Hug them. And do something, anything, to help one other child to live.