My father passed away after struggling for almost a decade with a number of chronic illnesses. My mother died suddenly and traumatically a little less than two years later.
I’m not sure I ever really processed my emotions following the deaths of my parents. There was so much going on. My father died three weeks before the birth of my child and a month before my wife and I purchased our home. My mother died on Christmas day, I had just finished graduate school and was looking for a new job.
I was sad, but they taught me to keep plugging. There was much to do, so I did it. The world didn’t stop spinning.
One lesson I didn’t get was how to deal with the death of a child.
My parents lost 2 infant sons. Their names were dutifully listed in the family bible. Paul Vincent was born between my brother Dave and My sister Paula. Michael was born a year of so before me. When I was little I used to fantasize about having Michael as a brother, he’d have been close to my age. He would have been a built in playmate. It took me a few years to realize that if Michael had lived, I probably wouldn’t have existed.
I remember asking my mother about my lost brothers. She told me that they had each been born pre-maturely suffering from Hyaline-Membrane Disease, exactly as I was a few years later. She explained that she had allowed the babies to be autopsied, and that perhaps what had been learned had helped me to survive.
It hit me in the weeks after Kevin’s death that my own family had experienced the loss of not one, but two children. I asked my siblings if it had ever been discussed. My oldest brother Ken said no, mom went to the hospital to have the baby and came home without one. If my parents discussed it at all it was only between the two of them.
I don’t know that they could have told me anything to prepare for this. I doubt it. But it’s an eye opener to think they dealt with the same kind of emotions. The need to move on and do the things that need to be done even when your heart is screaming, the questions, the anger and pain, my own parents must have experienced all of it.
At Kevin’s funeral I was in a panic as the time was approaching for me to stand up and speak. My breathing was rapid and shallow, I was sure I couldn’t get through it.
First I asked Kevin for help, then my mother-in-law, then my father-in-law and my mother. I was working backwards through all those I’d lost. Finally I thought “Dad, I need your help”. In an instant I was calm. I was sure I could do it.
I felt him up there with me, his hand on my shoulder as I spoke.
Thanks Mom & Dad, for everything.