This is an incomplete draft of a slightly longer piece that I'll finish shortly. It is part of what I hope will be the core of my second book: "These Are the Lives that Have Touched Mine."
I entitle this chapter "Epiphany"
I find it rather interesting that some of my most vivid memories from boyhood are from the house of my Aunt Sally, my grandma Jean's younger sister, a lady who intrigued me from the first. Her house was a wonderous place, on the near south side of St. Louis. It was a classic all-brick bungaloo, in what at the time seemed to be a well-maintained neighborhood of single family homes. My Grandma Jean had a good many siblings of whom I only knew two: my Uncle Harry Pick and Aunt Sally Rose.
We say that children learn best by the example shown them by their parents or other family elders. This was certainly the case with my Aunt Sally, and you know it's perhaps even arguable that she overdid it somewhat if not altogether too much, but I can assure you that it left a life-long impression on me.
Aunt Sally's house, especially the front sitting room, was a virtual shrine to her late son, Clifford, who had died at the Battle of the Bulge in the Second World War. I never knew Clifford but through his mother's shine and his namesake, the second Clifford Rose, my second cousin and the first son of Aunt Sally's other son Eddie who named him after his fallen brother. Atop her fireplace mantle was a collection of photographs and mementos all recalling the first and very young Clifford Rose, a handsome Errol Flynn type, dashing in his U.S Army uniform.
Naturally, as a small child, I could not fully appreciate the depth of love and adoration a bereaved parent feels, but I would venture a pretty good guess that-though through no fault of their own-parents who are not bereaved-Thank God- and adults who are not parents, simply and quite understandably cannot fathom the depth of this pit. Oh, don't misunderstand. They can "imagine" it, they claim, as is ironically expressed in the oft-heard refrain: "I can't even begin to imagine the pain ..." or some such variant thereof.
Such manifest grief may even disrupt a marriage to the extent that an unbereaved spouse ends up wrestling with the ghost of a child lost. Now, mind you, I claim no authority or expertise in any of life's matters, but I am willng to go out on a limb and state something here so unequivocally that should you be a bereaved parent and not follow this advice ... well, what can I say? I told you so!
Do not ever forsake the living to memorialize the dead! The reason? Quite simple, actually. The dead can wait. The living are calling you now, at this moment. Do not wait, stall them or buy time. No more of the "I'll be there in five minutes." excuses. Most importantly, a bereaved parent must never presume that his spouse will "understand"! "How could she not? She loves me enough to let me do this. She's patient and sympathetic." Some big mistakes are being made here, but the foremost of which is: that it is not a question of the depth of your spouse's love or her capacity to fathom the horror of the loss of a child. It is simply a fact that the experience of life's most devastaing calamity is our only teacher. If a spouse lets you know that she/he is wrestling with a ghost, stop what you are doing and-like the old tag team wrestling matches-get your spouse out of the ring. Take over and take charge!
(to be continued ...)