It’s a little ironic that Kathy Glow from Kissing the Frog sent me this particular post for this particular time. Kathy lost her son Joey to cancer when he was five. She is a contributor to Sunshine After the Storm and a blogger I have followed for a very long time.
So, the timing on this was weird. She actually sent it to me over the weekend, but I didn’t get a chance to read it until today as I prepared to post this. Just this morning I actually posted on my Facebook page: “Some days I just really want to know WHY???” And then a few hours later, I opened the email from Kathy, and read this submission. It gave me chills, and provided me with comfort, that I am in a place with so many other grieving mothers.
I am normal… and I’ll never know the answer to that WHY??? question… but what I love about Kathy’s post is that she talks about what you do AFTER you’ve asked the why? and how you handle not having an answer that matters the most. ~ Alexa
A Question with no Answer
“Why do we all have to be here?” I wondered last weekend as I sat in a small meeting space on the fourth floor of the Children’s Hospital in our city. I looked around at the 75 or so other faces, all with somber expressions. We were there for a remembrance service. We all had a child who had died in the past two years.
The “why” question is one I have been asking myself since April 22, 2009, the day my five-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer. Why did it have to be him? Why does it have to be terminal? Why didn’t we know sooner? Why now? I could drive myself to the brink of insanity trying to figure out the answers to those “whys”, so I only allow myself to ask those questions on really dark days, down moments.
But I don’t linger too long on them because they are questions with no answers. I mean, really, why do children die? Why are some babies not even allowed to take their first breath of life? Why are small children made to suffer? Why are babies born with birth defects? Was it something their parents did? In my darkly depressed, irrational moments I tell myself that the reason that one of my twins is dead and the other one was born with a birth defect and lifelong “issues” is because we underwent fertility treatments to conceive them.
But that’s crazy, right? A lot of people have conceived children with the help of fertility treatments -namely IVF – and their babies are perfectly fine. So that can’t be a reason, can it?
Some people would say that it is. There is a huge group of people who sincerely believe that ‘everything happens for a reason,‘ so much so that this phrase is thrown into every conversation, for every situation. Your child didn’t get into your first choice preschool? Oh, it happened for a reason because you found an even better one. You didn’t get the first job you interviewed for? But you got an even better one.
In everyday situations perhaps there is some force at work in the world that keeps us going on to “something better.” But I challenge anyone, dare them, to say this phrase to someone who has just lost a child and see if they don’t at least get a kick in the shins, or worse. A parent who has lost a child would never consciously say, “It’s okay, there must be a reason for this.”
But yet, if we open our hearts and minds, we can learn from the bad things that happen and make choices.
Like the people who donate their child’s organs after his death.
Like the people who start a foundation or scholarship fund in their child’s name.
Like the people who work to raise money to find cures for deadly diseases.
Like the people who lobby our lawmakers for better laws, health care, and funding for research.
And yes, even the people who write blog posts and books raising awareness of a certain issue.
But what of the people who simply become bitter, mean, and angry, delving themselves into the depths of alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, and suicide? Then what of the ‘reason’ for the awful event in their lives? What of the people who just go on with their lives and never make any significant changes? What good has come?
As for me, when I do try to make sense of my son’s death, when I do try to come up with the “reason,” sometimes I think I wouldn’t be writing if Joey hadn’t died. Keeping a journal on Caring Bridge and having people comment on how it made them feel, inspired me to start my blog, which I use sometimes to help spread the word about the severely underfunded area of pediatric cancer. But did he really have to die for me to do that? I can’t be sure.
What I can be sure of is that it makes me understand other people’s pain a little more. It makes me understand that no matter how big or how small, everyone carries a burden with them that is significant to them. We can’t discount another person’s suffering just because it is unlike our own. It has made me kinder to other people, more willing to listen, more available to help in even the littlest way, and to hope that inspires others to do the same.
So, is that the answer? Do things really happen for a reason? I think I’m still going to have to say that is a question with no definitive answer.
Kathy Glow is a freelance writer, blogger, and mother of five energetic boys living in Nebraska. When she is not driving all over town in her mini-van, wiping “boy stuff” off the walls, or trying to find the bottom of the pile of laundry, she is writing about what life is really like after all your dreams come true on her blog, Kissing the Frog. Infertility, depression, grief, and the loss of her oldest son from cancer are some of things she never expected to find in her fairy tale happy ending. A 2013 BlogHer Voices of the Year Honoree, her writing has been featured on Huffington Post Parents, Mamalode, and Mamapedia. She is also a feature writer for Nebraska’s online women’s magazine, Her View From Home.