A child has died.

We attended a first communion celebration a small country churchyard yesterday. In that rural setting the bonds of faith and community are strong and relatives and neighbours of the eight year old classmates turned up to share in their special day. The young boys, of whom my wife's nephew was one, shuffled uncomfortably in formal suits. The girls on the other hand were radiant in beautiful white dresses, each one an angel. Most would not put so much thought into an outfit again until the day of their wedding.

After the ceremony families retired to homes and restaurants to celebrate. These are difficult times in Ireland. There is no money for extravagance these days but the simple rituals of community, tradition and family have never been more important. While adults shared food and pleasant conversation the children (hopefully changed out of their fine clothes) enjoyed more boistrous pursuits.

One beautiful eight year old girl's family had erected a bouncy castle for her and her friends to play upon. The children climbed and bounced and laughed. Unfortunately  the tethers were not fully secure and a gust of wind caught the structure and flipped it over. Most rolled and tumbled and got up again but this beautiful angel was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was thrown head first onto a hard pavement. Her father saw her fall but could not stop it. An amubulance was called and she was brought to hospital but did not survive. 

In a small tight knit community there are channels of information that are older and more dependable  than the internet. Word passed from telephone to telephone, from door to door and from mouth to mouth. Families who were settling down to relax after the conclusion of their own festivities were struck with disbelieving horror.

We attended mass this morning in the same country churchyard. It sits on a hill overlooking a beautiful Atlantic ocean bay. It is the kind of rugged beauty that speaks to your soul and forces even the hardened atheist to wonder if there just might be a benevolent creator after all.  The church was decorated with flowers and tapestries from the day before. The altar still bore bore a large picture of the thirteen first communicants. 

My wife grew up in this rural parish but I am a city born blow in. Nevertheless I could not help be moved by this tragedy and by the grieving of these good good people. There were tears in many eyes. The priest who had officiated at this girl's first communion yesterday and who would soon have to officiate at  her funeral could offer only the consolation of prayer.

As a parent I am lucky never to have experienced the loss of a child but I cannot imagine a worse nightmare. The very thought of it fills me with unspeakable horror. Yet this is part of life. This is not the first child to be buried in this church and it will not be the last. Some of the mourners will be able to find solace in a strong faith which teaches that there is life after death. Perhaps others will take the brutal randomness of this tragedy as evidence that there can not be any overarching benevolence. Events such as this defy easy classification.

I will be holding my own children closer tonight.  


Cap'n John said…
For want of a nail, a child was lost.

I cannot imagine how devastating this would be, and I pray I never find out.
Anonymous said…
Well written!

Historically, I would not normally comment on such intimate matters. Maybe I have changed a little over the years ... maybe I just understand a little better now ...

Hindsight is very easy to lose perspective with when it comes to reverence. When there was something that could have (*should have* from their pov) been done to prevent the death, it tears them up inside for decades afterwards.

The initial shock of the irreversibility of what has happened is gut wrenching. This is true for any long term invested loss, grown or crafted or purchased.

With family though there is also anticipated future activities and learning together. Everyone knowing each other intimately and each has their place doing their part, working toward short and medium term goals ... as families do.

An immediate and lasting hole left behind.

And then there is the big long-term goal. The knowledge of the self-potential each individual possesses. The unknown possibilities of what they would achieve in the wider human world as they grew up and help build a better world. This one is all the more potent because it was a youngster that died.

... I hope all that didn't come across as condescending.


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