Yesterday, a little boy named Noah Biorkman passed away. I first read about Noah on the Snopes section of my homepage. I have seen many of these posts before, but for some reason, this one got to me. Perhaps it is because I have a five year old son or perhaps I was just in the right place to read about it. Like so many of these posts, this one was requesting that Christmas cards be sent to Noah since he would most likely not live until Christmas day. His family wanted to have one more Christmas with him. I didn’t have a Christmas card to send, but I did have a ‘Thanks a Bunch!’ card with a drawing of a bunch of bananas, so that is what I sent in.
I think what affected me so much was the thought of explaining to my child why they were going to die. When we lost our second daughter, Julia, that loss was more muted, though no less painful or profound. She only knew love, warmth and peace and, at least for me, that was a source of comfort. If the same thing happened to one of my other children, it would be markedly more difficult.
As an adult, I am conditioned to know that I will probably be here when my parents pass. I also know that my wife may die before I do. But I have a difficult time comprehending the notion that I may outlive any of my kids.
One of the articles I read about Noah quoted him saying that he gets to be an angel. In the context of the article, he seemed pretty excited about, too. I suppose that if you are five, knowing that you will be an angel would be a pretty cool thing. And as a parent, I would take no small amount of comfort in knowing that my child would view death in such a positive light. Having had my own experience with mortality, I can appreciate how having a positive attitude really makes a difference; however, I have a hard time applying my feelings about my own passing to someone I love.
I have an uncle, Marshall, who passed away from colon cancer when he was in his 50s. Shortly before he died, flew up and visited him at my grandmothers house. I don’t remember a great deal about the trip, but I do remember him telling me to love my little girl. The alpha child had come along a few months before and I was still getting used to the whole fatherhood thing. Since we both had a daughter it gave us a little bit to talk about. He wasn’t exactly a chatterbox, so I was grateful to have a conversation starter. I hung out by his bed for a few days and flew home to my family with a renewed appreciation for what I had. He died several months later.
I am not sure what motivated me to make the trip. I was still in my 20s and I recall having wanderlust during that time of my life. Whatever my reasons, I am glad was able to make the trip.
On that note, enjoy your Thanksgiving. I hope it is spent with the people you love in a place you love.
And so it goes.