There is a special roster of grieving persons, and for a second time I am listed. I speak of those who have lost children. No child should die before her parents. Sometimes it is through disease. Sometimes AIDS. Sometimes it has been a suicide and at other times an accident. Perhaps the hardest is when a child simply goes off and disappears, never to come back. Most children who die do so at birth. A great grandson of mine never really got hold of life.
As I reported, my daughter, Carol, died last Wednesday. She had taken all the chemotherapy and radiation she could, and decided it was enough. Her two sons, John and Travis, were with her at the end. Wendy—who continues to be my main support and friend—and I will be going to New Orleans the middle of next month to see our other daughter, Beth and Carol’s son, John, and his twin boys. But I did not get there to say goodbye before Carol died, and that is a grief from which I cannot recover.
Carol was fiercely independent. Although she never graduated from high school, she decided to attend an exclusive eastern women’s college, so she arrived at the President’s’ door informing him of her plans. He was blown away and enrolled her. She was Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year, and graduated with honors. She was an MD and had the largest psychiatric practice in Louisiana. She was also the medical director of a New Orleans hospital, and was in that facility for 11 days without a break, during the flood. When she could get her car out of the hospital’s garage, she left, and never looked back. Most of the years since then were spent with her partner, Alan, on a yacht in Catalina and Mexico.
She wanted no memorial service or any ceremony, so when Wendy and I go to New Orleans we may get together with any family still there and tell stories about Carol. I guess she will just have to forgive us.
Thirty-five years ago my son, John, for whom Carol’s son in named, was killed in an airplane accident. Every now and then, at an unexpected moment, he appears right before my face, having spent most of the years behind my left shoulder just out of sight. I have never recovered from the grief of his death. And now with Carol’s death the pain returns.
I must say a word about John and Carol’s mother, who is more alone than I am with Wendy and her lovely crew of adult children and young grandchildren. We men cannot really know the depth of suffering of a mother who has lost a child, and now has lost two.
So many, many of you have responded to me by phone, letters, email and prayers sent over the unseen distance. I thank every one of you. I am again reminded that I am not alone. Next month with Wendy, my rock, we will return home to pick up what is left of life, for:
We have promises to keep,
And miles to go before we sleep,
And miles to go before we sleep.