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This is an impossible post to have to write, and yet I can’t really get on with my online life until it’s written – and this is a busy week for me, potentially, so I can’t ignore this;  I can’t look past it and pretend it doesn’t exist, because it’s going to be a huge part of what my son’s birth evokes for me and for the rest of my family for the rest of our lives.  Also, if you’re a writer, things aren’t really real until they’re written down, and as much as I wish what happened was NOT real, it is; and so it needs to be acknowledged.  I don’t want to get into excruciating detail here, because my family needs privacy.  But again with the ‘honesty even when it hurts’ meme, this blog, this journal, c’est moi.

So here goes.

I have one brother.  He’s five years younger than me, and lives with his family on the other side of the country.  We don’t see each other anywhere near often enough.  I love him and his family with every iota of my being and I know he feels the same way about me & mine. He’s been one of my most steadfast supporters during this long and non-traditional road to parenthood, and days when I get a note – or a comment on this blog! – from my little brother are days that I treasure.

He has been married almost ten years now.  When his daughter was born, I was still with my first husband and in complete denial about everything that was so wrong with my life.  Then I saw my brother’s face as he looked at his daughter, and the expression he wore changed me forever.  Everything in the next chapter of my life – leaving my husband and the house (the life) we’d built together, getting a professional degree so I could get a better job so I could afford to raise a child, eventually marrying a wonderful man who didn‘t hate the idea of another child in his life, enduring the awfulness of learning I’d waited too long for baby-making to come easily, dealing with multiple miscarriages and heartbreaks and finally miracles – it all began when I saw my little brother’s face as he watched his daughter playing one Christmas, and realized that more than anything else, I wanted what he’d found.

He is my parenting hero, my guide to ‘how it’s done’ and my inspiration. When his son was diagnosed with autism, my brother became, essentially, a stay-at-home parent.  Early intervention in the form of intensive specialized therapy did exactly what it was supposed to, and my brother and his wife had every expectation of being able to send their son to ‘real’ kindergarten next year.  He was well on his way to becoming one of the success stories that you hear about every so often, where the parents’ and teachers’ dedication breaks through to an isolated, autistic child and rewires their brain, lets them come out to be a part of this world with the rest of us.

My four-year-old nephew died yesterday.  As best we can tell, he climbed over a supposedly childproof fence and drowned in the backyard swimming pool.  My brother gave him CPR until the paramedics arrived, and apparently for a day or two doctors thought he might possibly pull through with minimal brain damage.  But in the end, his little body had just been through too much.  They let him go yesterday, surrounded by family and friends, held tight in the arms of his father and mother.

And now my brother has to bury his child – the son who was the center of his universe.  He has to remain alive and present for his wife and daughter, when all his mind can encompass is how much every breath hurts, how much pain will be a part of his life from this day onward.  He is surrounded by friends and family, and yet I have to think he is lonelier than anyone has ever been.

When I spoke to him two nights ago, he apologized – apologized – first for not telling me until everything was over, and in the next breath for telling me at all – because – in his words: “this is supposed to be the happiest week of your life”. He wanted so badly to protect me from this anguish that has consumed his world.  And that hurts more than I can say – I’m the big sister.  I’m supposed to be the one protecting him.

And I can’t.  I can’t be there to hold him and weep with him and to play silly auntie-games with my niece to try to distract her.  I can’t bake a casserole or help with any of the burdensome ‘arrangements’ that must be made.  I can’t field the phone calls or do the laundry.  I can’t even sit and reminisce and share how much I’ll miss this little boy with everyone else who will miss him. Instead I’m here, on the other side of the country, waiting to have a baby – a baby whose due date is the same day as his cousin’s funeral.

My brother and his wife have an incredible group of friends who are doing everything that can be done – even when there’s nothing that can really be done.  My parents are staying with them through this week, and her parents live nearby, and friends have flown in from North Carolina, from Thailand, from California.  My brother and his wife and daughter know how much they are loved, and how much their son was loved.  The laundry is getting done, the phone calls are being answered.  People are talking and reminiscing and realizing how much they are going to miss this little boy.

And I am not there.  I am here, on the other side of the country, making phone calls, praying I don’t go into labor during my nephew’s funeral, and wishing.  Wishing things were different.  Wishing I could do anything to make any of it better or easier.  Wishing I could wake up in a different world where children were always safe and well and happy, and where no one ever had to outlive their child.


93 comments to Wishing

  • Sarah

    I am so sorry to hear of this heart wrenching tragedy. You are all in my thoughts.

  • I am so, so sorry, for all of you. And I sympathize with you as an older sister. I know how terrible it is to want to protect and to be powerless to do so. My heart goes out to all of you touched by this horrible, unbelievable loss.

  • Rose

    There are no words. My heart is broken for your whole family. I am so very sorry. All of you are in my thoughts and prayers.


  • Claudia

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Stay strong! Your son will be here at any minute.

  • Paula

    Susan, I have no words to express my sorrow for your and your family’s loss. Sending thoughts and prayers for you all.

  • I’m so sorry. I will be thinking about all of you.

  • There are just no words cept to say that I am so truly sorry. Sorry for your brother and sister in laws loss, sorry that you are not able to there for your brother when he needs you the most and sorry that these two things are colliding this week and that the happiest of times is now and forever linked to one of the saddest.


  • a

    I am so sorry for your loss, and I am thinking of you and your brother and his family.

    I know you would like to be there for him, but from what I understand, it will be very much more important for you to be there for him and to remember with him down the line. So hold a memorial service of your own in a few weeks, when you’re able. Visit him in 6 months to sit and hold his hand. He’ll be needing you the rest of his life, and this period will probably pass in a blur for him anyway.

    My condolences to your family.

  • I am so very very sorry to hear this sad new of your young nephew. You and your family are in my thoughts.

    here through LFCA

  • I’m sitting here crying for your little nephew, for your brother and his family, for you and for every parent who has to experience this kind of heartbreak. I am so, so, so sorry.

  • lis

    here from LCFA to offer my sympathy over the heartbreak of losing your sweet nephew. i can tell you first hand how the other side (almost) feels. the day after my twins were born too soon my big brother and his wife had their first child. it was such an upheaval of emotions and confusion that nobody knew what to think or how to feel. i certainly didn’t have my children for four years, i wasn’t privileged enough to know their favorite color or how they liked to sleep at night. i never felt them clutch my hand. i cannot say that i know exactly how your brother and his family are feeling, i can only tell you how immensely grateful i am for my nephew, he has become for me a beacon of hope. a light in my darkest hour (even if i could not acknowledge it just then) he has shown me that as cruel as this world can be, there is still sweetness and love just around the corner. and thank god we have that balance, or we would truly not be able to make it through some days.
    i wish you and your family nothing but peace. please know that you are doing everything you can right now to move this family forward towards the light. i believe that your dear child will help the healing. he already has, even if nobody has noticed yet.

  • There just aren’t enough words to tell you how sorry I am to hear about the loss of your nephew. You are all in my thoughts.

  • JC

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Thinking of your family.

  • So, so sorry. This is devastating news. Thoughts with you and with your dear brother.

  • I am so sorry for your loss, for your family’s loss. I am abiding with you.

  • Oh God, I’m so very sorry.

  • I’m so very sorry. Sending love and prayers to you all.

  • I came over from “Just Breathe”. I have no words to say. Only prayers to send up for you and your family, and that I will do. I’m so sorry for your loss. laurie

  • So sorry for your loss. Keeping you and yours in my thoughts and prayers

  • Kristin

    I am so sorry. I will keep your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Oh Susan. Oh I am so sorry. My heart is breaking for your family right now. Many prayers for your nephew, your brother, and his family. Many prayers.

  • My deepest condolences for you and your family on the loss of your nephew.

  • Gil

    Oh no. I am so, so, so very sorry and saddened by this news. I sit here, shedding tears for your family, especially your brother, his wife and their daughter. My heart aches at the news that your nephew was so quickly taken. Please accept my deepest condolences. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all as you get through these difficult days. Sending hugs and love… so much love.

  • Rose

    Thinking about you and your family this morning and wishing things were different. Sending hugs.


  • JJ

    I am so incredibly sorry for the loss of your nephew..holding you and your family in my thoughts.

  • LMB

    I am so sorry for you and your family’s loss. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  • What a heartbreaking loss. I am so sorry, Sprogmama. My thoughts are with you and your family.


  • Ann

    I’ve been with you this entire pregnancy sending love, hope and all good things. I now do the same for your brother and your family. I send all of you peace and the strength to find the happiness once again. It will come back once the clouds part. I too would feel trapped not being able to go to my little brother during his time of need. You sound as close to your brother as I am to mine. The bond that you two share is there no matter how far apart you are. He feels you and knows you are with him in spirit. Henry’s arrival will will be a celebration of life for everyone.

    My deepest sympathy and love.

  • Cat

    I’m so, so sorry for your family’s loss. Parents should never have to bury their child. That’s just awful. My thoughts are with you all.

    I understand, too, the big sister protectiveness. It’s a burden but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Take good care of yourself and Henry and I hope you can find some peace during this difficult time.

  • I am so very sorry. My heart breaks for you and your family. Sending you my prayers

  • hubby just asked why I was cryng- no words. no words. your family is in my prayers. . .sigh…

  • I am so, so sorry for your family’s loss. My heart is breaking for you reading your post.

  • Leah

    I am so very sorry for this tragedy. My prayers are with you and your family.

  • Oh I’m so sorry. That’s so incredibly sad. Thinking of you and your family and your brother’s family…

  • I am so sorry for your family’s terrible loss.

  • Oh sweetie.

    There are no words to convey how deeply sorry I am for your brother, his wife and your entire family.

    You are all in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Kelley

    I am so so sorry for your loss. I know your son has a beautiful guardian angel watching over him now.

  • Oh, I am so, so sorry for the loss of your nephew. I send my hugs and love to you and your entire family. My heart is just breaking for your family.

  • I have no words of worth. No wisdom. Only tears and heartache for you and your family. My deepest condolences at the loss of your nephew. You may not be close to your brother during this time, but I know that you will be with him in support during the many months and years.

  • My tears flowed when I read this post. Sorry for the loss of your nephew. I weep for your brother and his wife… My sister and I have been pregnant (and due) roundabout the same time. My son died in utero 4 days after my niece was born. And I simply couldn’t tell my sister. It was HER week, like your brother said. I wanted to protect her from the ugly truth. Wishing…

    In the end, it was my parents who told her, when I was already in the hospital for delivery. It was hard for all of us… actually still is 3 years later. But within all that darkness, we have become even closer.

    Thining of you and your family.

  • dee

    So sorry to hear this tragic news. You and your family are in my prayers.

    Take care.


  • Such terrible news! I’m so sorry!