I left for Greenland just days after the tragedy in San Francisco. I of course heard the horrific news and the speculations but I had other things on my mind.
While away I didn’t read a newspaper or used my limited internet access to go onto news sites to see what was going on in the world. Now I am back and catching up.
To bring myself back to speed, I downloaded and listened to past episodes of PRI’s “The World.”
One of the first stories was about the two girls who lost their lives when the Asiana flight crashed. It was not about how they died or why they died. It was about what it meant to their families. It is easy for Americans, in the land of 2.5 children, to forget that parents in China have, by law, a single child.
The death of a child, I imagine, would be even more devastating if you had just one and no opportunity to give birth to and raise another. I don’t mean to imply that it is not the greatest tragedy for any parent to lose a child. It is. But it has to be doubly so when there had been just that one child into whom all hopes and dreams had been poured. I, as you probably have realized if you’ve been reading this blog, am an only child myself, and a parent of an only child. I can, to an infinitesimal degree, put myself into the shoes of the parents of those two girls. They’d sent their children thousands of miles away with the goal of providing them with the opportunity to experience a new culture. Summer camp would not have been just fun and games in the sun. It would have meant English language studies, creating networks of friends in the US, gaining insight into American culture and traditions and an advantage in the future.
Parents of only children have to be brave. They have to fight the instinct to keep their children safe nearby. No parent wants to imagine the loss of a child but it is a nightmare that lives within a dark part of their heart. They push it aside and don’t let it control their actions. When thoughts of what could happen, such as a plane crash, rise, they scold themselves for letting negative energy out into the world and quickly squash the ideas. With smiles on their faces, the demons locked away, they send their children out into the world to pursue their futures. They send them into danger to become fuller people. Parents send them out so they can see the world and realize the opportunities in that world.
Sometimes that world doesn’t give them back. When that happens, I hope the parents comfort themselves that they did what was best for their child. They will feel intolerable pain but they should not feel guilt. A child can be taken a thousand times every day. To put them into a protective bubble is not an option. To do so would be a slow killing. We have to let them go, whatever the risk. That is the job of the parent – to open our heart, let in the agony and never let our pain, our fear stand in the way of our children’s future.