Puzzled and curious, I walk out to my mailbox. I look inside and see a small slip of paper. As I read the brief message, a deep sadness washes over me.
I learn that the little 5-year old girl four houses down from me has died, leaving behind a 3-year old sister and two very distraught, shell-shocked parents.
Neighbors organize meals to deliver to the grieving family for the weeks ahead. In a poignant show of solidarity, white ribbons speak in silent support from all 100 mailboxes in our subdivision, from the street signs, and in the entrance to our neighborhood.
Newspapers regularly report children dying - in some faraway country, or at times in my own city. It's sad but almost abstract. The day I read the words on the slip of paper in my mailbox the death of a child becomes deeply personal. I can only shudder inwardly as I imagine this unspeakable, unfathomable loss. In the same breath I feel immense relief and gratitude that my children are alive and well.
Immediately I find myself transported back in time - to December of 1982. I have just given birth to my first-born. I lay in my hospital bed, over-joyed at the miracle of our new daughter. At the same time I feel concerned because my girlfriend has not delivered her baby yet, and now she is three weeks late.
Before I am released from the hospital I learn that my girlfriend's baby has died in utero - the amniotic fluid has dried up. She has to deliver a dead baby. I feel horrified. And guilty. How did I win this crap shoot that gave me a healthy, living baby while my girlfriend lost out?
A few days later we attend the funeral mass for this stillborn child. We leave our 5-day old baby at home with friends. I don't recall anything sadder than seeing that tiny casket carried up to the altar during the funeral procession. I find myself unable to sing any of the hymns because of all the crying. I feel sad, guilty, and relieved that it isn't me suffering this loss. I can't wait to leave the service and return to hold my baby in my arms.
Many months pass by before my girlfriend can bear to come and see me and our baby. It becomes a time of healing for both of us. Happily I can tell you that my friend later went on to give birth to three children over the ensuing years.
Some things we can never understand. The death of a child is one of them. May I ask you to consider doing something? Take a few seconds to send some form of positive energy to this family - it can be white light, or a prayer for example. Out of respect for their privacy, I cannot reveal the names of the grieving parents. But that doesn't really matter. God knows how to direct your loving intention.