For those of us who have lost a child, acceptance is the holy grail we rage against in the agony of the early days. We want an end to our suffering but to accept a situation that is so outrageous, wrong, so desperately unfair is impossible. We just want our child back.
It’s nearly ten years since Juliette left us, and in that time the elusive peace of acceptance has come to me only gradually. I will always miss her; always wish she had stayed, but now I spend more of my days being grateful for the time she spent with us. The children we lost chose us for their lifetime, and no one else. You start to remember more laughter, happy times, and love.
Love. Our precious children were brimming with it – to love and be loved by everyone lucky enough to meet them. Why does that always seem to be the case? We start to see that although too short for us, their lifetime was an entire lifetime for them. You can’t feel this at first, because there is nothing ‘right’ about a child dying. Nor do you feel it all the time, and there will always be moments when the pain of losing them is as sharp as it ever was – just read my last post, before Juliette’s birthday in March.
I’m thinking about this at the moment because a friend of mine emailed me this quote yesterday. Of course I cried, but when I’m at my most serene it’s what I feel to be true. What I can’t agree with is the assertion that the death of a child is meaningless. Philosophically, intellectually it makes sense but emotionally and spiritually, losing my own child has meant everything.
Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up. But a child’s purpose is to be a child. Nature doesn’t disdain what lives only for a day. It pours the whole of itself into the each moment. We don’t value the lily less for not being made of flint and built to last. Life’s bounty is in its flow, later is too late. Where is the song when it’s been sung? The dance when it’s been danced? It’s only we humans who want to own the future, too. We persuade ourselves that the universe is modestly employed in unfolding our destination. We note the haphazard chaos of history by the day, by the hour, but there is something wrong with the picture. Where is the unity, the meaning, of nature’s highest creation? Surely those millions of little streams of accident and wilfulness have their correction in the vast underground river which, without a doubt, is carrying us to the place where we’re expected! But there is no such place, that’s why it’s called utopia. The death of a child has no more meaning than the death of armies, of nations. Was the child happy while he lived? That is a proper question, the only question. If we can’t arrange our own happiness, it’s a conceit beyond vulgarity to arrange the happiness of those who come after us.”
― Tom Stoppard, The Coast of Utopia