Motherhood After Watching Your Child Die

Julie Ryan Evans
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mom and sonEarlier this month, a dear friend of mine, Kathy Glow, faced the one-year anniversary of the death of her son, Joey -- or Crapiversary, as she dubbed it. 

Joey was bright, funny, and full of life one day, then another laid dying in her arms. One day he was healthy, then the next a seizure set off what would be 14 months of hospital stays, treatments, and attempts to come to terms with the fact that they would lose this vibrant boy to cancer.

On June 10, 2010, they did, and in the year since they have grieved, ached, and ultimately kept living with more grace and strength than anyone could ever imagine. What other choice do I have? she says when asked how she does it, how she goes on each day. She writes a blog, Kissing the Frog, that's heartbreaking, but also ultimately inspiring because of her strength and resilience in the face of such tragedy.

In the days leading up to the "crapiversary," she wrote about what she never had before, what most of us, hope to never write about -- the final hours of her son's death. She does so with such beautiful words and such raw emotion, it has haunted me ever since I read the post. I think of these words whenever I'm running out of patience with my own children or feeling sorry for myself about whatever inconvenience I may encounter. She writes:

Sometime, around 4:40 a.m., he stopped taking so many breaths.  It was agonizing to watch.  His dad and I told him to let go, to go and meet his grandpa, Hubby's dad, who was waiting for him in Heaven.  I thought every halting breath was his last.  I felt like I watched him die four or five times, until there just wasn't another breath.  At 4:44, my heart broke wide open, and I sobbed from the depths of my soul.  Hubby lay over the top of me laying over the top of Joey and cried, too, repeating, "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry."  I kissed my son and touched his cheeks until they became cold, and then staggered up to my bed, not wanting to see the mortuary workers take his body away.

She is so brave in so many ways, not the least of which is sharing her story with others -- all of it. I know how many, many people she has inspired by doing so, and if there's any good to come out of such a tragedy, that's it.

To mark the one-year crapiversary, this year they threw a "Joey Party." They gathered together with friends and family to remember and to celebrate the beautiful life he had. And I guess  that is how someone can go on after such a tragedy, because they choose to, and because they have to.

I'm happy to report that last week Kathy had her fifth child -- a boy they named Evan Joseph. While Evan will never know his big brother, he will know what it's like to be raised in a family that loves so deeply and will teach him to be strong, that will show him how you can go through something so horrific -- like watching your own child die -- and still find new joy and beauty in life.

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