Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Outliving Our Children

A friend from Atlanta called this evening to tell me that the daughter of someone I used to work with died today. She was an only child so that makes the pain even more intense. The fact that it was suicide made it even more shocking.

It is not the natural order of things for parents to outlive their children. My father's mother outlived both her sons by a large number of years. I know that it weighed heavily on her. Once you have grown children you are at an age where having more children is not an option. Nothing can ever replace a lost child, although when you have more than one, you still have some children left to share your life with, whereas if you only have one, there is no other child to help with the healing.

It is often a challenge to put events like this into perspective. The age at which she chose to cross the veil is about the same age as her mother and I were when we worked together.

She was a good kid and the most important person in her mother's life. Why her life became what it did and what led her to make the choice that she did, we will never know. People can only speculate.

We will also never know for sure what happens to spirits after we die until we get there ourselves. Do people who commit suicide go somewhere different than people who die of illness or accident or get murdered or killed in a war?

The various religions all offer their versions, but they are all just stories to try and help us reach some kind of understanding of the order of the stages of life. Karma and reincarnation seem to offer good ways to understand such events. Ever since caveman times, people have had death rituals because they just instinctively knew that our spirits must go somewhere after the life leaves our body. And the rituals are to help ease the transition both for the one who left and the ones who are left behind.

Rituals can ease the transition to a degree but we also instinctively know that children should outlive their parents and for those who experience a young death, that semblance of natural order can never be put back into place. The best the survivors can hope for is to find some solace and peace of mind through their own form of spirituality and the comfort offered by friends and relatives.

Any death of a person we know can reorient our sense of perspective, and cause us to reflect on our own mortality.

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