He was ten.
January 19, 2010

The thing that really sticks out in my memory of that morning is this: it was immensely difficult to pick out an outfit.  The days have marched on, one after another, but I will never forget that.  I opened my closet and ran my fingers along the hangers.  A pink dress for date night.  A yellow top for work.  A brown skirt for interviews.  A white negligee for my husband’s birthday.

It took me nearly an hour to decide.  I chose an outfit that I knew he would like.  A white scarf to represent his innocence, but a blue blouse for him, since blue was his favorite color.  Then I wondered why I’d bothered; he was gone.

When I first heard the news, my voice vanished.  My eyes stung.  My knees buckled.  My vision clouded.  My hands shook.

There was horror.  There was disbelief.  There was pity.  Fear.  Guilt.  Shock.  Astonishment.  Pain.  Sorrow.

And when I thought about the blouse, I thought about that.  About how this could happen.  About how she could keep breathing, how air could keep filling her lungs, how blood could still course through her veins.  The thoughts that followed were horrible thoughts.  Normal thoughts.

There was anguish.  There was confusion.  There was so much relief.  A desire to take his place.  A suffocating, overwhelming fear that it could happen to me.  A shameful gratitude that he was not my child.

The thing that really sticks out in my memory after those thoughts is this: her knuckles were frighteningly pale.  They clasped the edge of the pew and I thought that maybe the blood had stopped running in her veins after all.  Then she collapsed, a whimpering, moaning heap on the ground.  She screamed at the heavens and while I held her, felt her tears warm and sticky on my neck, I thought about how pale her knuckles were.

For other people, I guess it was just another day.  They brushed their teeth.  They drove too fast.  They picked up dinner on their way home.  They watched their favorite show.  They read a bedtime story to their kids.

I brushed my teeth that day too.  But while they plucked weeds in their garden, we gathered in black and whispered our farewells to a boy we all loved.  The thing that really sticks out in my memory of his service is this: you are ten, the pastor said, and ten is too young to go.  Years have passed and the days have marched on, one after another, but I will never forget that.

Do you have a treasured memory of a loved one you lost too soon?


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  1. By Melissa on January 19, 2010

    My husband just left for work.  We barely spoke to each other this morning, arguing over something ridiculously stupid. 

    Then I read this beautiful post and realized I really don’t have problems.

    Thank you for this bit of perspective this morning.

  2. By Cambria Copeland on January 19, 2010

    I can not imagine losing my child.  I don’t know how life could possibly go on.  My condolences to you and the mother you wrote about.  Your post, as always, is beautifully written.

    I lost my dad almost two years a go.  Jan 27th to be exact and that day, that last week of his life while we cared for him at home, is burned in my memory forever.  The way he looked.  The way he sounded.  The last thing he ate.  The last things he said to me.  The moment he exhaled his last breath while Van Morrison, an artist we saw on stage only months before, played on the CD player and the snow started falling outside.  How he looked after he passed, looking so peaceful and sleeping comfortably, finally.  And finally, when they took his 60 year-old frail body away.

    It’s strange to go your whole life without anything completely tragic happening and suddenly in the course of five months your whole world flips upside down,  I have so many fond memories of my dad, that quirky fellow.  And even the memories of his passing, as gross as they may seem, are ones I really don’t want to forget.  He chose to pass on that Sunday afternoon, with my brother and I at his side.  With Van Morrison playing on the cd player and the snow falling outside.  He was witness to our first breaths and we were witness to his last.  While at 60 he was not a young man, but young enough, it was the circle of life. 

    While I would give anything for him to be here right now, watching his granddaughter (his namesake) twirling and singing (I think with a poopy diaper), I know he is much more comfortable than the lymphoma ever allowed.  And while it’s against my sensibilities, I secretly believe that he is watching and with us.  It’s amazing what loss can bring out in us.

    Anyway, sorry about the book.  It’s an emotional time as the day approaches and writing/talking about it seems to help.

  3. By won on January 19, 2010

    My beautiful daughter, Olivia Grace was 11.

    I miss her with every part of me.

    11 was too young, also.

  4. By Andrea on January 19, 2010

    I couldn’t fathom the loss of my son.  The sheer pain of even thinking about it is too much for me to handle.

    My wonderfully beautiful Dad, on the other hand, we lost him just over five years ago.  He had just turned 50 years old, 13 days prior to the accident.  Best health of his life, the doctor said, one of the healthiest 50 year olds I know.

    He had the Midas touch.  My dear ol’ dad.  He was genuine.  He was passionate.  He was every trait I hope my son has.

    On the day we (my then fiance and I) told him we were engaged (two months before his fall) he told my husband he deserves a purple heart for choosing to stay with me for the rest of his life.

    My most treasured memory of his death would be sitting in the hospital, it was just after 9pm.  There were no less than 9 of us in the waiting room.  Family, friends, co-workers; just waiting for the surgeon, the doctor, anyone to tell us my Dad’s prognosis.  Paralyzed?  Brain Damage? A ruptured spleen?  Death wasn’t an option.

    My Dad an energizer bunny.  He was unstoppable.  The man had a 327 big block fall on his chest, he was okay.  A grill exploded in his face, he was okay.  He got a piece of scrap metal in his eye, he was okay.  He fell off out 13 foot room into a snow bank, he was okay.  Unstoppable.  Unbreakable.

    Back to my story, the doctor finally came in.  Did the doctor dance.  The ones where they ask useless questions because they have no want to tell you the truth.

    ...“How high was the fall” “Eight feet?“  “Well, that’s high”...

    Then after the dance he said it.  “There is about a 10% chance he’ll make it through the night.  I’m sorry.“

    It was like someone shot me in the chest with a cannon.  Unstoppable.  Unbreakable.

    Then it was said, by my dad’s business partner of 17 years. In immediate reply to the doctor’s morbid statement.  “No fucking shit” he said.

    No fucking shit indeed.

  5. By Alicia S. on January 19, 2010

    My and my husband’s best friends just delivered their first child stillborn Saturday. I don’t think I took a single breath through this whole post.

    “A suffocating, overwhelming fear that it could happen to me.  A shameful gratitude that he was not my child.“

    That just says it all.

  6. By on January 19, 2010

    We lost my Father last February, suddenly and shockingly. He was only 63 and we had no idea when my parents left for vacation that only my mom would be coming home.
    hmmm, My memories are all treasured. I was going to write about a particular one but I will just say that instead. I didn’t mean to get all emotional and yet..

    My heart hurts for this mother, you write about it beautifully.

  7. By kbreints on January 19, 2010

    Beautiful Post. Tears welled in my eyes.

  8. By on January 19, 2010

    I’m sorry for your loss, Sarah, and for all of you who have commented.  Mine is a little different:

    When I was 5, my 16 year old second cousin died in a car accident.  She was the driver, and she was alone.  I’m certain I met her, but I can’t recall.  To me she was just a picture on my grandparents’ table and a story about how tragic her loss was.

    Fast foreword 10 years.  I am fifteen and all excited because I’m learning to drive and soon I will be 16, and I want a car.  Something cool.  Something that will make my friends envious.  Something as far removed from my parents’ baby blue Ford Aerostar minivan as you could get.

    We’re all at a wedding, the cousin’s younger brother’s wedding.  There are flowers on the alter in the church dedicated to her, and I read about them in the bulletin.  I think, gee, how sad.

    We’re at the reception and my mom and I are talking to the groom’s dad, and we’re talking about my imminent 16th birthday.  My mom says that I’m angling for a car, but they don’t really know what they’ll do yet.  The dad says, “get something with lot’s of metal around her.“

    And I, in an act of thoughtlessness that only a 15 year old girl could possibly manage, with visions of inheriting that awful minivan, say, ‘hey, whose side are you on?!“  “Yours,“ he said, with the saddest look I have every seen on anyone’s face.

    I have never, never forgotten since then.  I still can’t remember her in life, only as that picture at my grandparents.  But I remember how sad her father was even (only) ten years later, and how ashamed I was to have said something so terrible.

    So, even if people went on with their lives, totally unaware that the world had changed for an entire family the day of that child’s funeral, Sarah, the story will matter, eventually, to everyone to whom it is supposed to matter.

  9. By Meg on January 19, 2010

    I actually haven’t lost anyone close to me and the thought that it will happen makes me incredibly sad. I feel for people losing loved ones, but even more so when that loved one is a child, I went to a child’s funeral to support a friend of mine who know the little boy (he was 9) and it was heart breaking.

  10. By on January 19, 2010

    Sometimes I feel like I remember every single detail of when my mom told me my 30 yr old cousin had been killed by her ex-husband. But still 5 yrs later it’s like I’m still in a fog. It was one of those crimes that I’ve seen reinacted a million times on Law & Order.  Now it’s my family. It’s our life now.  My cousin, who only came into our family at 13 after being adopted by my aunt, was brutally murdered.  God how I wish I would’ve gotten to know her better.  She always talked about how she wanted to be a paramedic when she grew up & that’s exactly what she became.  I remember at the visitation listening to her best friend talk about the babies she had saved. Babies! It took me by complete shock that she actually saved the lives of children. Someone’s children are alive today because of her. And it makes me so mad that it took her dying for me to find out those things about her.

    Thanks for letting us share these stories. It’s good to know we’re not alone.

  11. By on January 20, 2010

    This post took me back to a day in my life 8 years ago. I was expecting my third child, only 10 weeks along. We had just celebrated my son’s 1st birthday. There were lots of people around. I began spotting, and knew something was wrong. I let my husband know, but tried to keep my emotions in check until everyone had left. That was a Sunday. I wasn’t able to get an appt to see a Dr. until Tuesday. Monday evening as I started cleaning up dinner it started. My husband was at work. My two little ones were in the living room playing. The pain was unyielding. I knew it was over. I lost the baby. I sat there in a heap, and noticed how white my hands were. No color. I felt dead on the inside, and looked dead on the outside. I called my husband. I was cruel, I was angry, I was broken. I went to living room and held my two little ones. They were too young to know, but they understood the pain. They snuggled close and allowed me to cry, no questions, just quiet. My husband came home broken, and pale. He scooped me up and held me, no words, tears and pain.

    The next day I took the kids to the grocery store, I needed to get out of the house. I remember that day so clearly. Everyone was so inconsiderate. I had lost a child (no one knew). I was just another person shopping. I was at the register, and the person behind me ran into me with her cart. I remember in that moment thinking…we walk around going about our business and we have no idea what has happened in the life of that stranger next to us. Have they just had the worst day of their life? Is their soul aching? That changed my life forever.

  12. By on January 20, 2010

    Last week, my boys lost the 5th of their childhood friends. Corey drowned while snorkling. Keely, bi-polar, died by her own hand. Jenny, died in a car accident, Becky died in a bicycle accident, Aj’s brother died in a dui. I pray that that is it. It’s too much for them to have to bear.

  13. By farmer on January 20, 2010

    I lost my husband suddenly 5 years ago.  Just last night I was looking at pictures and notes that he wrote to me.  He was only 23.  I have many treasured memories, the night he proposed to me, laughing at his new food fetish of waffles and peanut butter and jelly, drinking coffee in the backyard together, mostly I remember his laugh.  I am re—married now and we are talking about having children, I look forward to it very much but I have to say, the thought of possibly going through that pain again and even more so with the loss of a child is my greatest fear.  I will never forget picking out my dress for his funeral.  It was a beautiful yellow summer dress, the last thing he bought for me.


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