Posts Tagged ‘death’

Showing of a baby who died of SIDS

My job of doing Japanese-English interpretation in the hospitals of Indy often brings me into the lives of sick children and their worried parents. Today I went with a friend to the showing of a baby who died of SIDS.

As a parent, I understood that this was a parent’s greatest nightmare come true: the death of the person one was supposed to protect, for no discernible cause or reason. When our child was a baby, we feared SIDS and such things every day, checking on her frequently to make sure that the life force was still present and doing its work. Ellie would sometimes pull her blanket over her face and sleep that way, and the first time we saw that our hearts were in our throats, and we approached the crib in vocal terror, startling her awake.

I can only imagine the sheer horror of not receiving any response. Actually, I do not completely need to imagine such a situation. My maternal grandmother, who had heart problems, was living with us in 1977, and I found her dead in our guest room the day after Christmas of that year. Six years old, I knew what death was but hoped that she was paralyzed or going through something not quite so final. I was not filled with terror but did rush to my parents’ room, shouting, “Something’s wrong with grandma!”

But grandma’s health was not my responsibility, and, in any case, she had at least made it to her late 60s. Her passing was sad, my sister and I cried a lot, but we both understood that grandparents don’t stay forever (my paternal grandmother had died the previous year, and both our grandfathers had died before we were born.)

When a child dies, however, there is not much to console one other than the existence of the afterlife (in which I firmly believe). People today were grieving deeply.

I had hoped that “showing” did not really mean showing, but it did. The baby was in a small coffin and looked more like a wax replica than a real person. It is surreal to be in such a room, with some torn up by grief, some talking in what appears to be a casual manner, and some like myself not personally involved but touched by the situation nonetheless. We have our rituals for dealing with these things, no one was going against the ritual, and yet the ritual was and never can be sufficient to take us through and beyond the fact of death. Death is just there, not even asking one to recognize it or dialog with it; it is just there.

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