I didn’t live long. I was not even three when I died. Plagued by health problem from before I was born, my time on Earth was full of doctors and hospitals and surgeries which only prolonged my suffering and postponed the inevitable.
I took it in stride. I didn’t know any better. Life, for me, was pain and discomfort.
It was worse for my parents. They worried constantly. They felt guilty and scared and depressed. My older brother suffered from neglect while my parents hovered over me, taking care of my every need; trying to give me as much joy and comfort as they could in what they knew would be my very short life.
It was a life I chose, but not for myself, for what lessons could a child of three learn about life except that it was full of pain and suffering? But this is hardly a unique lesson. Most humans learn it, in one form or another, in every lifetime.
No, I came for them, all of them. My parents, my brother, the sister who was born after I died and lived her life in my shadow and with my legacy; my grandparents whose pain was as acute as my parents’.
Their lessons were learned coming to grips with senseless loss and all its emotional manifestations.
I go to my mother sometimes and offer her my comfort. She seems to feel me, and finds peace in it. My father is more stoic. I know he sometimes (rarely) thinks about me and cries alone, away from everyone, but he composes himself quickly and continues to move through his day.
My brother was happy when I died but I don’t blame him. He was only five and needed love and attention that he wasn’t getting. There were so many, many nights when he went to sleep without seeing our mother and father because they were at my bedside in the hospital. With me gone, he was the full focus of their attention.
Initially, he was happy for that. To him, I was nothing more than a broken toy, to be discarded. But my parents became over-protective and that soon stifled him, and dogged him, as well as the new baby who came a couple of years later.
I know they all still suffer from the emotional aftermath of my death, each in their own way, but they have also learned a lot – about themselves, about their strengths (both personally and as a family.) They are more compassionate to the suffering and pain of others. My parents’ marriage went through some rough times but ended up stronger for it.
I am grateful they have taken many positive lessons from my death, but I suppose even if they hadn’t, even if they’d broken up and fallen apart, there would have been lessons in that as well, although perhaps not understood until they, too, had passed on.