5 November 2007

It shouldn't happen this way - The Ocker Doc

It shouldn't happen this way. Kids are not supposed to die before their parents. Parents are supposed to die first.

The death of a child causes many problems. I remember reading that the separation rate among parents in this circumstance is extremely high. The death of a child is seen as a waste of life - decades of lost potential. Someone must be responsible. Parents play the 'what if' game.

What if we hadn't hurried him to get to school on time? What if I had checked the baby before I went to bed? What if I had been a better parent and recognised her bad health earlier? The sad thing is that there is always at least one aspect of a child's death that can be used for self-blame by the parents.

Our third child had fits when a few months old. Because Mrs Ocker Doc is actually a Dr Mrs Ocker Doc, the 'what if' game had a whole new aspect! The self-blame was substituted with a litany of medical conditions that cause fitting in infants. Many of these rare conditions start with fitting but end with degeneration and death. Fortunately it turned out to be Benign Epilepsy of Childhood, and child #3 is normal … or at least has no major problems!

One of the hardest things for modern First World people to grasp is that we do not have control over every detail of our lives. Things just happen. When the people of the First World find that life is beyond their control, guess who gets the blame? "How could a loving God do this?" Now this attitude is not fair. We think that the Almighty has total control over bad things while we are solely responsible for the good things. The Almighty is on a hiding to nothing!

What is the benefit of a child who dies early? Is the life wasted? To answer 'yes' means that there must be a point after which that life has not been wasted. Is that point conception, birth, 21 or 'three score and ten'?

Literature is made up of short stories and 'War and Peace' epics. And the whole range in between - suspense, travels, sagas, cheap thrills, reflections. People's lives are the same. I don't believe that anyone's life is wasted. Some are short stories, some are long stories. What makes the story worth knowing is the quality of the love and relationship that they have been involved in and responsible for. Very short lives can be very sweet short stories.

Why am I writing all this? Friends of ours from the West Island discovered their baby daughter dead in bed yesterday. She was 2 months old. I'm about to ring them. What do I say to them?