I am not unfamiliar with loss. Both of my parents are deceased. The loss that hit me even harder was my older brother at the early age of 42. I lost some friends long before their time and a couple friends have lost children -- an unimaginable moment of sorrow.
Recent events have challenged my faith in a manner that I have never quite experienced. A friend of mine lost his wife to brain cancer after a two-year battle. She had the finest medical care, but sometimes our doctors are outmatched. The couple has four children, none have yet reached college age. The father was left to provide all essential parental roles for four children who will sorely miss a mother’s touch.
At the funeral, I sat next to some friends who also have young children. The wife and I spoke before the service of the horrible turn of events. After the service we walked side by side during the long trek from the chapel to the graveside for the final interment. During this seemingly endless hike up the hill, my companion spoke about how horrible the passing of this young mother was and how challenging it was going to be for the father. She asked me, in her inimitable manner and with the innocence of a child, what we could do for the surviving husband and his four children. Here was someone who could feel the effects in an emphatic manner, having her own young children. I said all we could do was to pray. All we can do is pray.
Just two and a half weeks later, I came home on a Saturday night from a Bar Mitzvah. As I settled in to clear some emails and catch up on sporting news, I received a call from a long-time friend. He told me the very same woman with whom I had just shared time at that funeral, a woman in perfect health and brimming with life, was now lying in a coma at the hospital. The shock rattled my being. What had happened? What could have caused such a thing? The short answer was no one knew.
The next morning I arrived at the hospital to give hope to my friend as he dealt with the shock of his beautiful wife now clinging to life. I don’t know if I ever experienced someone in such shock, but he was truly traumatized. We sat and shared and waited -- a group of friends grasping for some comfort and understanding.
The doctor came out and went into a small room with my friend and his sister. When they came out we knew there was no hope. She was lost. How could someone so healthy, so vital, so full of life, be gone in a flash and with no explanation?
Three weeks after the first funeral we are in the same chapel with many of the same people to bury another mother of young children. The two women could not have been more alike: lively, smart, beautiful, committed … and now gone. As I settled in for this second service, I remembered the presence of the deceased next to me only a short time ago. As I listened to the eulogies, I tried to reason with how such a thing could be.
As the mourners again made the long walk to the burial site, I refused to let anyone walk with me. I am not a superstitious person by nature, but this was an eerie experience. All I could think of was her heartfelt words of concern of what we could do for the poor husband and his four children. My thoughts turned to how we were going to now cope with her poor husband and their three young ones.
Our community, in short order, was faced with two husbands who were now widowers and seven children spending their lives without their respective mothers. Two wonderful men are facing the challenge of being both mother and father. The rest of us were left to contemplate the meaning of it all. What we do know is that life is so precious and so often inexplicably short, and what we know, especially, is that we can never take anything for granted.