Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tragedy in Our Family

MamaKat over at Mama's Losin' It! hosts a writing workshop every week where she posts prompts.  This is the one I chose.  I've been wanting to write about this incident for a long time, and this prompt finally got me to do it.


1.) In the book I'm reading, Girls of Tender Age,the main character is deeply affected by the murder of a childhood friend. Describe a tragedy you didn't expect to be as deeply affect by as you are.

My cousin Debbie and I were very close as children, but drifted away as we grew up.  The whole extended family did, actually,  once my grandmother passed.  I thought of Debbie occasionally, but we moved in different worlds, so I didn’t really try to contact her.  We both had kids, both were remarried, but our circle of acquaintances and friends were worlds apart, and I just felt like I didn’t fit into her glamorous world.

Then one night, about four years ago, my mom called.  “Debbie’s little boy drowned today.”  I was speechless.  I hadn’t even met her youngest child, yet my heart immediately broke for that little boy who was probably so scared and wanted his mommy.  He had been left to the care of a family friend for a day outing at the local pool, and the friend got distracted and forgot to keep an eye on Conner. 

I don’t handle death well in the “best” of circumstances, but the viewing and funeral for this beautiful little boy had me crying buckets of tears.  Seeing Debbie break down, slipping to the floor with grief is forever burned in my brain.  As I hugged Debbie at the funeral home, both of us bawling and holding each other tight, I could feel the years apart slip away.

I knew this was something Debbie would never get over.  What I didn’t know was that the incident was going to turn me into a wreck myself in regards to my own kids.  They didn’t know how to swim; they did the same thing Connor did and relied on “floaties”.  I had become complacent.  No more.  I was so desperate to teach my kids how to survive in water, yet they were so resistant and nervous, that I bribed them with money throughout that summer.  Thankfully, they learned, and are now like fish in any body of water.

But I still kept picturing my own girls in that little coffin.  That image stayed with me, as did the memory of Debbie’s heartbroken sobbing.  I couldn’t turn it off.  Sometimes I still can’t.  That this happened to a member of MY family, someone I called my best friend as a child, then it could happen to ME.  My view became very fatalistic in regards to my kids.  Why should Debbie lose a child and I get to keep all mine?  We shared everything as kids; would we share this experience as well?  I still haven’t been able to get totally free of this mindset, especially on the rare occasions I see Debbie when I have my girls with me.  Does Debbie resent me?  Or does she not even think of such things?  I’m afraid to ask.  I don’t want to be the cause of fresh tears either way.

So I try not to worry about my kids as best I can, and breathe a sigh of relief every night when they go to bed, safe and sound in their rooms.  However, I have a daughter who is 21, takes a lot of risks and I worry about middle-of-the-night phone calls.  I wake up grateful I was able to sleep through the night without a horrible interruption by the police or hospital.

Suffice it to say, this is going to be my life.  Worrying about my kids, but to somewhat more of extreme due to my cousin’s tragedy.  It’s exhausting, but as a mother, I have no other choice.


cooperl788 said...

I can certainly understand why that might affect you in such a profound way. When a small child dies, it feels like the world has gone upside down - it's just not supposed to happen. And when it happens tragically and suddenly, it's even worse. My daughter is not yet 2, but we've decided to get her swim lessons already, to hopefully make her water safe as soon as possible.

Sheri said...

Two is a great age for water safety. Thank you for doing that. My cousin has actually started a foundation to make public pools safer, and I admire her so much for that.

Thanks for commenting. :-)

tanya said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I have always said that losing a child has got to be the hardest thing to deal with. When my sister and I were kids we had sister friends. They were riding bikes with their cousin and she was hit and killed by a car. I never forgot that. It made me so nervous when my own kids started riding bikes. Stopping by from Mama Kat's.
By the way, I choose the same prompt!

Shannon said...

My greatest fear is losing my son. I don't think I could survive that. When the worries get the best of me, I try to remember my faith and trust that my greatest fear won't happen.

I think you're doing the best you can and teaching your children to swim is a positive, proactive response to your loss.

My condolences to you and your cousin.

Ginny Marie said...

A child's death is so devastating. As moms, we all want to hold our children closer to us for as long as we can when we hear something tragic like this!

Lindsey said...

Hearing about the death of a child always affects me even if I have never met the mother, the child, or anyone connected to them. It is such a tradgey and I can't even begin to imagine how to deal with it.

Erin said...

That is so scary and I would feel the same way! I am already over protective of my kids as it is and to add something like that would be horrible!

Emily said...

I am so sorry this happened to your cousin. I want to teach my 4 y.o. to swim but he is desperately afraid of water and I don't know why.

It's funny, Mama Kat's writing prompts also prompted me to finally write my story too.

Sheri said...

Thank you for all the kind words and condolences. This was a hard post to write.