Posts tagged ‘death’

That’s exactly how it feels

     The other day I received a phone call that ranked right up there with the most disturbing calls a person could ever get. It was my son’s friend, screaming that he couldn’t wake up his dad and he didn’t know what to do. They have an internet phone, and even if you can call the local 911, the 911 operator can’t get a location from the call. I asked him his address, but he didn’t know it. He didn’t know his Mom’s cell phone number or where she worked.

     I did the only thing I could think of to do: I told him I’d be there in five minutes, hung up the phone, and raced out the door. I sped to the fire station, retrieved the EMTs and led them to the house. It was, unfortunately, much too late. Tragically, the man was dead.

     The next several hours were awful, as you might imagine. Through it all, in the back of my mind, I wondered how to tell C. He’s had a long, lingering fear of death, as many children do. However, his fear is magnified by autism, and has been, in the past, incredibly debilitating for his emotional health. I am convinced that Dog, somehow the longest living dog following a stage IV mediastinal lymphoma diagnosis (over three years now), survived simply because he knew C probably couldn’t handle it if he died at that time. Good dog.

     So it was with trepidation that Husband and I sat C down the next morning to tell him what had happened to his friend’s dad. C adored this man who was so fun-loving and kind to him. I know C’s initial response was only the tip of the iceberg; much of what he feels will not come out for weeks, and it will come out in ways we probably can’t even anticipate. Yet C summed up exactly how he felt in a way that almost took my breath away with its insight.

     “When someone dies,” he said through his tears, “it feels like all my legos are broken.”

Parents, please have a piece of paper with your home address, names, and pertinent phone numbers where everyone can find it. Arrange a “safe house” with your neighbor so your child knows s/he can go there if needed. This man couldn’t be helped, but it pains me to think of a person who could benefit from emergency services dying needlessly simply because a child couldn’t summon help.

June 22, 2010 at 6:10 am 14 comments

Life and Death

     My silence this week has been due to the painful death of a very dear friend. That’s not really relevant here, but it has caused me to put everything else in life on hold. Except C. He can never be put on hold, which is probably a good thing at the moment. C’s random, out of nowhere questions about heaven this morning, despite being completely unaware of my friend’s death, made me think that friend of mine was somehow engineering some comfort for me.

     What I keep coming back to, however, is how thankful I am to have what I have; even more so, that C has what he has. As I ponder the two small children and ex-wife left behind by this man and the hole left in their lives, I know how lucky C is to have two parents who love him, and each other, completely.

March 13, 2009 at 8:21 am 6 comments


     C has moved on from his fear of death (see here) into the possibilities of how intriguing the idea of heaven is. In order to soothe his fears, I focused on how wonderful heaven will be and acted like an expert on all things afterlife. I waxed on about all the delightful people in heaven, how everything he’s ever loved and ever wanted would be there. Pretty much, heaven has come to represent the ultimate Disneyland complete with all the Presidents, animals, and Thomas engines one little boy could ever want. Okay, perhaps I went a little overboard, but given his pathological fear of death for quite some time, the idea of heaven needed to counterbalance in the realm of wonderful.

     Yet C, in his own little way, let us know he wasn’t quite as worried about the death aspect of heaven anymore. Now his concerns have moved on to the logistics of it all, as evidenced by his asking Husband, “Will there be a bathroom in heaven if I need to go?”

July 24, 2008 at 8:13 pm 4 comments

Risky Business

     Husband (and I, but it’s really him as he’s been on the wait-list longer than I’ve known him) has a permit to raft the Grand Canyon this summer. A 16 day trip, it’s the adventure of a lifetime that will possibly only come along (for me) once in a lifetime.

     But I’m not going. 

     I used to consider myself fearless; driving off in my jeep with a tankful of gas, a cooler of food, and a USGS survey map in search of adventure in the Colorado mountains – without telling anyone where I was going or when I’d be back – was my idea of a good time. Idly wandering around Europe by myself without an agenda or any idea where I’d sleep for the night brought not fear, but a sense of excitement. Hanging out doing research in deserted graveyards in downtown San Antonio, where there were more drug deals than funerals, gave me a thrill instead of the heebie jeebies. But now I have fear. Fear of the very big, very cold water in the Colorado River, and fear of hiking out alone partway through the trip in well over 100 degree heat. But most of all, I have fear of leaving this child with one less person in his world.

     Being a parent, and more specifically being a parent to this child, makes me less likely to take risks. He has wonderful godparents who would manage beautifully his raising if both Husband and I died, but to potentially leave him parentless is not something I’m going to go out of my way to risk. My priorities have changed, and that’s actually okay with me. It probably seems boring, and I know Husband is disappointed, but I just can’t do it. I don’t really feel sad or regretful about it (well, maybe a tiny bit); it just is what it is.

April 1, 2008 at 12:24 am 6 comments

On Death and Dying

     This past fall, C started obsessing about death. For months, the questions came out of nowhere in the middle of conversations and in the middle of the night. They came in the car and during dinner. The fear knew no bounds. It grew so all-encompassing that when his teacher read Charlotte’s Web to the class, she and I arranged for him to be in speech therapy when Charlotte died. During a tearful missive about how he loves being 6, it finally came out that he does not want to be 7 because it is one year closer to dying.     

     I finally figured out where it came from months after it began. He had watched a few moments of “Finding Nemo” early last fall, and hadn’t wanted to watch it since. This was no surprise to me as he has no tolerance for movies. Yet he asked to watch it again, so we sat down to watch it together. Early on, when the shark comes and eats Nemo’s mother, it prompted a major meltdown and the proclamation by C that Nemo would never be watched again in our house. We discussed it and I told him about the happy ending, but he wouldn’t budge. Sadly, Nemo has been banished.

     A child’s comprehension of death is no more skewed than our own, but the vulnerability surrounding it is at its most innocent. It’s a simple desire to be here, to be with everyone, not to be gone. I don’t suspect for C it has anything to do with fear of the unknown; it is, at its core, the fear of simply no longer being a part of everything.


March 18, 2008 at 10:12 am 5 comments


          For me, the bargaining stage of grief was brief, twisted, and selfish. It wasn’t “give me this and I’ll do that” kind of bargaining; it was far more convoluted in nature. I remember when he was born, C was immediately taken away and was on a ventilator 1/2 hour later. I struggled so much with recovering from my c-section that I didn’t see him again until he was almost two days old, and then I saw him only because they were airlifting him to another hospital. I remember thinking that if he died and I hadn’t held him, I would be less attached to him and therefore would feel his loss less. And somewhere, in the deep recesses of my mind, I was thinking “If don’t love him, God won’t take him away.” As if he wouldn’t attract God’s attention if he weren’t loved. What kind of vindictive God was I thinking about, exactly, and where did that image come from? I know now I was trying to shield myself from the unimagineable pain I would feel if this child died, but it’s strange to me now to see how my mind was working. It’s bizarre and difficult to admit, but it’s only now, years later, that I can recognize what I was thinking at that time.

January 29, 2008 at 3:46 am 2 comments

It’s all autism, all the time.

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