I have been reading the latest post on Richard Catto's blog and it has prompted me to share something with you. For those of you who havent read it, Richards writes about a story he read in the news of a young girl killed by a stray bullet in a suburban neighbourhood, an area which her mother did not leave even though she thought herself in enough danger to call Chubb security. It is not so much the story itself that has prompted me - sadly, violence has become an all too common occurence - but what Richard has written in his comments following :
I wonder if her marriage will survive this (assuming she’s married, that is)? I don’t think I could stay married to such a woman. I would blame her for the death of my child and never be able to get over it.
Four weeks before my 6th birthday, on Christmas Eve 1989, my brother died. He was not a victim of violence, but his was a child's life lost nonetheless. He was almost 2 years old, two weeks from this milestone, and being a small child he had fallen asleep on the way to my nan's house on the other side of town. Being so young myself, i do not remember the exact details of the day, but i do remember that when Eli woke up he did not appear to know who anybody was. He had already begun to talk, to communicate in small broken sentences, but he couldnt recognise my parents or myself, or my brother. Nobody. He was just crying, screaming, non-stop. He was also feverish, as far as i remember. My parenst took him to the local hospital, where he was diagnosed with meningitis, an illness that causes inflammation of the covers over the central nervous system area of the brain. It was decided that he needed to be rushed to a specialist childs hospital in Sydney, by helicopter, which would normally take around half an hour. On this particular Christmas Eve, their was fog covering the Blue Mounatins (hich serve as a gateway to Sydney from the west)and, whilst being transferred from the helicopter to a more suitable plane, my brother passed away.
He did not make it to the hospital for treatment, and was pronounced dead on arrival.
The point of sharing this story is to demonstrate my disagreeance with Richards idea that he could never forgive this particular woman her mistake, if he were the childs father. Perhaps disagreeance is not the right term, because i do see where those feelings come from, but i do not think things are so black and white as that.
I have never spoken to my parents candidly about how they felt when my brother died. Being a small child at the time, you understand that mummy and daddy are sad, you are sad, everybody is sad because Eli has gone away and cant ever come back. It's not until your late teens ( in my case ) that it occurs to you that there is more than just sadness involved. I would imagine that their would be a massive degree of guilt to be sorted through. I do not think my parents would have blamed each other, but blamed themselves. That is, they would not have blamed one another as seperate people, but rather themselves as a parenting unit - what if WE had taken him to the doctor at the first sign of fever ? What if WE had called an ambulance sooner ? What if WE had recognised his symptoms as signs of meningitis rather than just a simple cold, or earache? Surely they must have felt guilt at the actions they did not take but, rather than rip them apart, i think it may have brought them closer together.
I would like to think that my parents, or myself in their situation, would try and hold onto the love i had for my partner and for my remaining children, even admist the devastation of having lost someone. That i would cling to the to the love that drew me to my partner in teh first place, all the adoration and admiration i had for them before we become parents, and use that as my strength to pull me through my grief. I believe, without ever having confirmed it, that my parents, my father in particular, had quite a difficult time after my brothers death but here is the strange thing - my sister was conceived, and then born in October of 1990, approximately 10 months after my brothers death.
I do not mean to equate physical intimacy with love, but only to say that my parents must have been pulling together, perhaps in one of the best ways they knew how, if only to stop themselves from tearing apart.