For the parent whose child has died, this is one of the most recurring and torturous questions that we wrestle with on a daily basis. Why? Why my baby? Why me? Why our family? I hear in the news all the time of abusive parents, yet their children are alive, and mine is dead. They don’t even want their children, yet I would give my life gladly and in one heartbeat if it meant that my child would live. Why did this have to happen? Why why why???
Shortly after Kai died I realized that my life from that day forward would consist of hard choices. The choices are endless… do I get out of bed and go to work or do I call in sick and cry all day? Do I smile when I pass a coworker or do I look down and pass by without a word? Do I eat well or do I give up and decide that it doesn’t matter what I put in my body? Do I take up a hobby I’ve been wanting to do for years or do I decide that nothing will bring me joy and so not bother? Do I try to numb the pain or do I face it and feel it and endure the depth and magnitude of it?
The choices are constant and endless, and the decisions I make have enormous power to shape my life as it is now and also, I believe, to determine my future. There is one choice that is more difficult than any other, as it is existential in nature and not so practical, as are many of the other choices. I have to decide if there is a reason Kai left this life when he did, whether or not I understand the reason, or was his death an accident, or perhaps some sort of punishment or retribution by God who, at least for the time being, feels far away from me. This particular decision is one that is slowly evolving. I am starting to choose to believe that yes, there was a reason for my son being born and leaving this earth just under six years later.
Our lives should not be measured by the number of years lived, but how we impact others during our time here. By that measurement, Kai was more successful in his six years than many people I can think of who have lived five or ten times as long as he did. My father used to remark about Kai that he did not have a mean bone in his body. We say that about people and usually it’s not quite true but in Kai’s case it was. He had an endless supply of love and affection. He was happy every single day. He found joy in so many things, from digging in the dirt to talking with a homeless man on the train and making him laugh and doing a fist bump to solidify their new friendship. When kids were mean to him, he didn’t dish it back. He wondered why his “friends” were being mean. He thought he was the luckiest guy ever when he won a crockpot in a raffle at my company’s picnic. He gladly let another child at the park fly his brand new kite. He made me feel that I was an amazing musician when I played my Native American flute for him, even though I was certainly not. He adored his brothers and our pets. Simply put, he loved life, he loved people and he made them happy. Being his mom for six years taught me more about life as it should be lived than I could have ever learned without him. And now that he is gone, I want to continue to learn what he was teaching me and become more like him in the process. It would be a great dishonor to him to do otherwise.
Does this mean I have accepted his death? No, I have not reached that point. I do not know if I will ever fully accept that he was taken before me. There are days, many of them, when I am so angry that I can hardly hold it in. Other days I am so full of sorrow and longing that the tears never quite stop flowing. I will never stop missing him, not even for one minute. But do I have an idea, a growing answer to the question of why? Yes, I do.