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Posts Tagged ‘early death’

border-21On July 20, 1999, I am reminded to count my blessings.

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A LIFE BEYOND PERFECT

In four short days, I have learned of five deaths, most unrelated but all with the bitter taste of needless loss. They were young, distanced from the reality of their own mortality. I find myself dwelling on the loved ones left behind, and the agony they are forced to endure, because I have lived their pain. I am jarringly reminded that in the end, there is only birth and death that matter, that the charmed, happily-ever-after lives we so achingly strive for are just insignificant backdrop when death beckons.

The first death was the son of a beloved president whose public assassination shocked the world. I close my eyes, and see John F. Kennedy Jr., just three years old and the epitome of innocence, saluting as his father’s funeral motorcade drives by. I remember my mother’s words “God only gives you what you can handle” and “suffering makes you stronger.” I wonder why this family has been chosen for such sorrow, and I am sick that once again they’ve been broadsided by senseless tragedy. I tell myself that life is not a game in which moves are strategically planned by a master player, that there is no logic or fairness in the roll of the dice. I try to let go of the subconscious hope I have unknowingly held for years: that this son of a slain president, who had seen so much tragedy in his short life, would rise and carry on the reign of a slain and beloved king; that “Camelot” would be restored. I have been holding on to a fairytale, like so many others, waiting for a hero prince to return from exile.

His death is not solitary. With him are two beautiful sisters, one living a Cinderella dream in her marriage to John Kennedy Jr., the other’s life barely lived. I sense the pain their parents must feel, the cruelty of charmed lives cut short.

A day later, the eight-year-old son of a vice-president at my husband’s company wakes up with a headache. By mid-afternoon he lies in a coma. He dies a few short days later, never waking. They are strangers, these parents, living hundreds of miles away, but I think daily of their anguish. I am sick with the realization that they had no warning, no way to prevent or prepare. I dwell on how perfect their lives must seem to outsiders. They are young, affluent, successful. Without ever meeting them, I know they would relinquish everything for the return of their child.

This weekend, a young man, just twenty, dies in an automobile accident. Up too late at a party, he waits until completely sober to drive home, then falls asleep at the wheel. I recall the chubby, red-faced twelve year-old struggling to save goals on my son’s soccer team; his parents at every game, their precious Yorkies tucked inside their jackets.  I remember my envy of his mother, the founder of her own private school, an accomplishments teachers like myself can respect. Her son grows into a handsome young man, polite and full of promise. Her pride in her career pales in comparison to her joy in her son. It is a drop of water compared to the ocean of heartbreak she now faces.

It is near noon as I contemplate these sad losses. I have driven my eldest son to work and my youngest son of twenty still sleeps. The careless signs of their presence in our home often upset me. Today, my car holds empty pop cans, a pizza box, candy wrappers, and less gas. As I enter our home, my gaze wanders to the unswept grass clippings in the driveway, the shoes left scattered, yesterday’s opened mail on their placemats.

I walk down the stairs to the family room that is their favourite space. Dishes arae left on the coffee table, the unscraped food hardened. Video game’s controls are stretched across the floor, and clothes, once left folded on the billiard table for them to put away, are now askew, beds for our many cats.

Tentatively, I walk down the hall, ready to see the unkempt rooms that make me despair, but today, I feel different. There is no anger as I see the unmade bed of my eldest, or the disorganization of his pat-rack existence; and as I watch the still-sleeping form of my youngest son, I don’t feel my usual frustration. I glance at the evidence of what I have often considered an irresponsible life: the late nights after his restaurant shift, the clothes in disarray, a carpet that needs to be vacuumed. All I feel is relief, because this morning I realize how lucky I am to still have my sons. A sense of peace fills my heart as I quietly close his door, and turn to walk away.

In our country home, with two parents, two sons, and four cats, we do not lead charmed lives when seen under the daily microscope. But I have known loss, and this week has reminded me that sloppy rooms matter nothing when viewed next to the harsh reality of a child’s mortality. Today, my life is beyond perfect.

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