This weekend I played piano and led the choir for the funeral of a friend’s son. He was 24. He died of a drug overdose. This young man grew up in our church. He was a little kooky but beloved. Every pew in the church was full. Everybody knew him and his family. But we didn’t know he battled depression and anxiety and turned to drugs for comfort. As with any young person’s death, a life cut so short is a tragedy. I keep seeing his mother’s ravaged face and his grandfather sitting in the front pew trying not to cry. He’s battling cancer, and everyone thought he would be the one to die next.
The three remaining children, in their teens and twenties, all spoke at the funeral, sharing memories, laughing, and fighting tears. In the choir and in the pews, many people wept, especially those whose children grew up with the one who died. They too have sons and daughters who could die.
I keep thinking that I don’t know how to help, except with my music. To be honest, I’m also thinking I’m glad that I can never feel that pain because I don’t have sons or daughters to lose. It seems as if from the moment of conception, mothers and fathers worry about keeping their children alive. If they can avoid miscarriage or death in the womb, if they can avoid premature birth, if they can have the baby safely and avoid losing him to sudden infant death, disease or accidents, if they can get them to adulthood . . . No, even then, their job is never done. When a child dies, a human being created by the parents in the mother’s body, how can anyone bear the grief? They will always feel loss, emptiness and failure.
Although we wish we had children, sometimes it is a relief that we don’t.
On the same day, at the 5:30 Mass, where I was at the piano again, a little boy was baptized. Colby. Little blond kid with stick-up hair, wearing a suit, accompanied by his handsome parents and godparents. New to the parish, they were probably unaware of the funeral that had happened earlier. They just know they have this precious gift they will do everything they can to protect.
Being childless, I won’t experience the joy of that little boy either. But at least my son won’t die.
I’m on my way to spend Thanksgiving with my father and my brother’s family. Being on my own, I can travel wherever and whenever I choose. I only have to worry about getting time off from work and hiring a dog-sitter. That’s probably a blessing, too.
This Thanksgiving, count your blessings. We all have them.
I’m blessed to have you.
2 thoughts on “Sometimes it might be a blessing to not have kids”
Thought of this post today. A high school student in our small community died in a terrible accident. Today was the funeral.
From my office I could see the mourners. Young kids, instead of jeans and hoodies, wearing their Sunday best. Teenage girls teetering on heels that they probably had worn at the homecoming dance. Handfuls of young men spilling out of a shared ride. Smoothing down ties. Red faced, quiet.
I'm not a mother, I didn't even know this kid. And still, today there is a sadness I can't shake. It's been hard to concentrate. The is the way of us humans, we feel even when it's not us.
Tomorrow I'll be okay. I'll probably laugh a bunch, go out to lunch and goof around on Facebook. But it will be awhile before the parents of that young man will do the same. This first Christmas, a new year. A graduation party they won't be throwing in the spring. Nothing will ever be the same for them again.
I can feel (and have felt) a level of pain when someone close to me dies. But I will likely never experience the pain of losing a child. And for that I'm grateful.
Oh Anon S, How sad. You described it beautifully. I know how you feel. The mother of the young man whose funeral I played for that Saturday called yesterday. I honestly didn't know what to say to her. But I hope she knows I feel her pain. In some ways, we are all mothers and sisters.