On the loss of innocence

Craig is a co-worker of mine, his daughter Addyson born just three days before Isaac. The proximity of time and vocation connected the two births, and had connected the two pregnancies, beginning in November when we first found out.

I went to Addyson’s funeral today. She was nine days old.

The proximity of the two births made her passing so jarring. So close. It’s clouded my thoughts since it happened, my mind imagining what I’d do if it was ours, my heart bruised from questioning why it had to happen to someone so cool. So genuinely caring. To someone who, despite my knowing only on a work level, had quickly become a friend.

Let’s be honest. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than the funeral of a baby; the white casket wheeled in, padded and adorned with teddy bears, small enough to leave nothing to the imagination. There is no doubt that we’re all there to mourn the death of a child. There is no question that it’s going to be hard.

Through the beveled walls and wooden pews, a wave of sadness quieted the room. Nothing – nothing at all, not a single word – can comfort a parent during this. There is only time. And as time hadn’t made its way into their lives, we could only sit. And hope.

Because so few in attendance knew Addyson on a personal level, I suspect we were all thinking the same things. About how horrible it must be to be in that position – to say goodbye to your own daughter, to attend the funeral of a person you had nurtured and raised through the womb, finally to meet her, only to see her taken away before you ever got the chance to know her.

And we were all thinking about what we’d do in that position. During a video of Addyson’s short life, I had to bury my eyes, squeezing back emotion. During a congregation-wide singing of “Jesus Loves Me,” I had to stay silent. I might have been as torn up as the family – not because I was close to Addyson, but because I’m so close to my own children. Because I don’t know what I’d do if they were taken away.

Do we feel worse about the death of a child because of the life we knew? Or because of what we never had the chance to know? When we ache over a young life lost, is it because of what we had discovered – the love we had found while they were still alive – or because of the potential love we could have shared?

It’s the innocence of parenthood – and the innocence of a newborn – that makes everything so difficult. No one believes their child will be taken – after all, in a karmic world, a newborn hasn’t had a chance to learn right from wrong, their innocence shielding them from judgment.

There are times I feel guilty. Though there’s no correlation, I can’t help but feel guilty. Isaac and Addyson were connected, though only through chance. Isaac survived. Addyson didn’t.

But that’s not fair – to us or to Addyson’s family. It’s not about who’s left, but who’s gone – it’s about losing a love before it could even be stoked, finding a soul mate only to have him or her taken. It’s about knowing what could have been – to be within reaching distance – and seeing it disappear.

So I sat, quietly, a whirlwind of feelings – concern, empathy, sorrow. Staring at the ceiling, fighting to keep it together, one person put everything in perspective. Kaiden, Addyson’s brother, a little boy who barely understands the magnitude of the event, looks up at his crying mother and tries to crack a joke. He laughs. I can only imagine a flicker of a smile passed by, a flicker Kaiden picked up on and, loudly, with innocence, asked his mother if things had passed.

“Are you better now?”

Probably not, Kaiden. Especially not now.

But who knows? In time, all of this will pass. Until then, though, it will weigh on our hearts – yes, even ours, those who only witnessed a fit of love so strong it filled the funeral home with emotion despite our distance – and it will continue to remind us of what we have in life.

To never take things for granted. To cherish each hug. Now, and until the end, whenever that is. So that if we’re ever put into this position, we can say with confidence that we’re crying for everything. The past and the future. Each day of a child’s life, and each day yet to come.

Feeling pain for both for what we had and the potential of what could have been. And lamenting the loss of innocence.

This was lovingly handwritten on June 27th, 2009