There is a sentiment that says that to mourn for what you never had is pointless. That grief for losing something that never was is just ridiculous self-inflicted misery. I’ve had people, over the last few years since Willie died, tell me that sadness over what he could have been or who he would have been is just useless cruelty to myself. That mourning over what never was is just inflicting unnecessary pain on myself.
But ask any parent who has lost a child, no matter what age, and the simplicity of it is… what is your child but the potential of who they will be?
When a child dies, you lose not only who and what they are but you also lose the promise, the potential, the “someday”. It’s not fantasy grief, it’s real and tangible. It’s not wallowing and drawing out the pain by imagining what you lost…it’s experiencing the very fact that there will be no realization of who that child will become.
As I was hiking and talking with one of Willie’s brothers this past weekend it struck me how much I love being with him. What a truly neat and interesting young man he is. His sense of humour and his tangents of conversation that make me roar with laughter or groan and roll my eyes at him. I thought back to when he was a baby and toddler…what he was like as a little boy and as a teenager, not too many years ago. I looked back and I remembered thinking “I wonder what he’ll be like?”. Now I know. He’s awesome. As is his older brother and his other younger brother.
So I mourn for what will never be. I think back and remember. I hold close to me the other parents who I know who grieve for the potential person their child will never grow to become. Because that’s part of who they are…who they would have become… who they are now, still with us. Always.