Explaining Accidental Death

Explaining Accidental Death August 3, 2012

It seems somewhat out-of-keeping with the tone of the summer, with barbecues and laughter and fireflies and staying up later than usual and sandy feet and hydrangeas, but all summer long, in the midst of the delightful moments, I have also been thinking about how easily those moments can turn to grief. I woke up in the night a few weeks ago and wrote this poem:

I do not want to learn anything more about death

The way it steals and darkens and tears apart

I only want to learn about death overcome

The stories rewritten

The tears wiped away

And all working for good




And then I wrote an essay for her.meneutics about the accidental death of children (Asking Why After a Child’s Accidental Death). It begins:

Every night in the summertime, I fall asleep with fears of cars and water. I’m not a particularly anxious mother. I don’t worry about germs. I’m pretty relaxed about the possibility of injury on a playground. But it takes every spiritual and emotional resource I have to avoid playing out my most terrifying scenarios—of Marilee, 18 months old, running away from me into the road just as a truck pulling a boat turns the same corner . . . of Penny, 6, thinking she really can swim all the way to the raft even though Mom said to wait . . . of William, 4, chasing the ball into the street and forgetting, just once forgetting, to look both ways.

I try to avoid reading or listening to news about the accidental deaths of children, and yet these tragedies sear themselves upon my memory . . .

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