I think that the most tragic thing that can happen to a person is the loss of a child. A few years back, I attended the funeral of a young child who was accidentally killed while on vacation. It was horrific witnessing the grief of his parents. His coffin was so small that the pallbearers could barely walk three on each side. I was physically in pain when we followed it to the grave site. And to this day, the sound of bagpipes still makes me weep.
I wasn't a parent then. Just an observer who happened to observe two people and their friends and families on the worst day of their lives. I really can't imagine how I would feel if it happened to me. I'm sure that I wouldn't even remember the others that came in support, who sent food or flowers, and all of the uncomfortably kind words offered.
I do know that I would not want to be the focus of so much sympathy. I think that I would need time to grieve alone with my husband. To remember MY child. I wouldn't want to share her with anyone. I would want to be selfish and angry and completely alone with my grief. I think that the overwhelming support that people instinctively share would be too much for me to bear.
A young boy in my school lost his battle with cancer on Friday. People have been Facebooking, texting, emailing, and donating ever since. I think that it makes people feel a little less guilty that their own sons and daughters are happily sleeping and safe in their own beds. But I don't know how it makes his family feel. If any of it takes away even a second of their agony. And since I would never ask, I am going to send my condolences quietly from afar.
"If tears could build a stairway and memories were a lane,
We would walk right up to heaven and bring you back again."
--Irish funeral blessing