The Loop-Hole of Culpability – Sometimes There Is No Take Home

13 01 2012

I am so lucky to have life-long friends, women who I have known since we were girls.  Recently I got together with two of them.  M was eight months pregnant at the time.  And she had a 14-month-old as well.  And she is older than me (44 – shhhhh).

Just this morning I was drafting a blog post (while taking a shower- of course) about her energy level.  I use age and genetics as an excuse for my indolence.  But she, she’s got it going on.  And yes, her genes are on her side.  But you know what – she eats healthy 99.9% of the time.  And she doesn’t talk about how old she is (probably my worst habit).  And she runs, and goes to yoga, and stretches her brain.

Getting Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt to bless M's new baby (while I pose like a fool).

Well, last night her new baby arrived.  He was a few weeks early and a small peanut weighing in at four-and-a-half pounds.  But that is bigger than his brother was – and he stayed in the womb about 10 days longer than his brother.  Just like his brother, he is the picture of perfect health.  Life is good.

Except, it isn’t that good.  Because she was talking to her sister when her water broke.  The reason she was talking to her sister, their 11-year-old nephew died completely unexpectedly the night before in his sleep.

And there is no real explanation for it.  He had suffered a few night-time seizures.  His parents took him to wonderful doctors.  They followed the wonderful doctors’ recommendations.  These are thoughtful, organized, well-educated parents.  If you knew them – and I know them – you would know that there is no loop-hole of culpability here.

The loop-hole of culpability is what I look for as a parent every single time I hear about a child dying.  Well that kid’s parents were addicts.  Well they knew that there was cancer in both sides of that family.  They let him ride a bike without a helmet.  They were too busy with their seven other kids to cut his meat into small enough bites.  Those people lived in a bad neighborhood.  Those people had a pool.  This will not happen to my kid.  This can not happen to my kid.  This Can NOt HaPpEn To MY KID!!

When I got off the phone with my friend M I said, “Congratulations on the new baby.  I am so sorry about your nephew.  I love you.”  – three sentences that do not belong together.  Then I called our mutual friend S and shared the news.

And we talked, about M’s successful VBAC and the health of the baby and who was going to go and help her.  And we talked about spring break and skiing.  And we talked about the death of a child.  But we didn’t have much to say.  We talked about it.  Then S said, “What’s the take home?”  And I said, “I guess that is the point, there is no take home.”

I don’t think there is a single preventative thing that can be learned from this death.  We can’t build a well in a rural village in this child’s name.  We can’t lobby our senators for Universal Health Care  on this child’s behalf.  We can’t buy a smoke detector, a security system or a new car with side-impact air bags and say, “Whew, now I know my kid is safe.”

Sometimes the only take home is to know that there are no guarantees – not today, tomorrow or ever.

In our family I have made it a RULE – we always hug and kiss hello and good-bye when anybody leaves the house.  This can seem silly at times.  And it is certainly messy at times (yogurt lips anyone?).  I am sure SAG will admit to rolling his eyes on occasion.  But it is a good rule.  If you don’t have it in your house, maybe you want to – for Eric G – whose family loves him.




11 responses

14 01 2012
The Lost Planetista

I’m so sorry for your friend’s sister. Really, there are no words. We have friends who’s first baby was born a few months ago– a beautiful newborn boy in perfect health- and he died while they were still in the hospital. There’s still no reason given or answers…it just is….and it’s awful and terrible.

We have the same rule about always kissing before we leave. Always. No.Matter.What. This life of ours is so precious and so fragile. Sometimes I just hate that about it.

14 01 2012

I forget, in my warm, safe, regular life, that these things can happen. When I’m living somewhere closer to the edge, where risk is so prevalent that you learn to accept it and go on, I think I’d cope with this kind of news better. As it is, I’ll be haunted.
I cannot imagine the trauma to his parents and family. My heart goes out to them.

That is so inadequate, and I know it.

My grandfather was in a shared room in the hospital once with a man who’d fallen off a roof and broken his back. He just kept saying “I forgot to tell my wife I loved her as I left the house”. We do our best not to forget.

14 01 2012

This is a beautiful post. I’m so sorry for your friend’s family, but then happy about the baby. You’re right it’s very awkward to even type it as a stranger. We actually do not have a rule like that in our family, but maybe it’s time we instituted one.

14 01 2012

I loved the beginning of this post, hated the middle, loved the end. What a heartbreaking post. My thoughts and prayers to your friend and her entire family.

We have the hug and kiss hello/good bye rule as well. Or after you apologize, or really any time I want one. 🙂 So important.

14 01 2012

Oh God.

14 01 2012

It’s amazing how our first reaction is to go WHY. I can’t imagine the seering, profound pain Eric’s family must feel to not have that grasp for sense satisfied on top of the loss.

14 01 2012

Heart-wrenching. Pain. I’m sorry.

14 01 2012

This breaks my heart. I’m so so very sorry for his family and for everyone who loved him. I’m just so sorry.

15 01 2012
Scooping it up

i like your rule. and i am so so sorry.

15 01 2012

Very good rule.

20 01 2012

We have the same rule at our house! And, yes, my husband gets exasperated when I say, “You’ll feel really terrible if you leave and I die and you didn’t kiss me!” But he always kisses me.

When I was a much younger and more naive little thing doing my BSW internship at a NICU, a baby had died. I asked the RN why. She just looked at me, like only a veteran RN can, and said, “Sometimes babies and children just die.” It was a sobering lesson about the fragility of life that I’ll never forget. Sorry to hear you’re dealing with this now.

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