Editor’s Note: At Writefully Inspired, we enjoy presenting touching stories. There is no question that the loss of a child is a devastating experience. Here, Harry Dreier remembers his dear Evan on what would have been his thirty first birthday. Clearly, his loss of a child will always be a fresh hurt.
Birth is a beginning
And death a destination.
And life is a journey,
A sacred pilgrimage-
To life everlasting.
Gates of Repentance, The New Union Prayerbook for the Days of Awe, Central Conference of American Rabbis, 5738 New York 1978 (pp. 283-284).
July 30, 1986 – 31 years ago today. The best and happiest day of my life.
Joyous, excited for the future, in love with a new human being, my first son, Evan Saul Dreier. All was right with the world, as Evan and his mother seemed healthy and strong.
August 3, 1986. Evan died as I held him in my arms. The worst day of my life.
Evan suffered from Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC), most likely from the time he was born. Notwithstanding, it was not discovered for a couple of days.
The doctors were heroic, but the disease had advanced too far and there was nothing they could do.
I have nothing but love and respect for the nursing staff at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. They were wonderful, and cried with us as Evan took his last breath.
Thoughts that Never End
No longer every minute, or every day, or even every month. But once in a while, his beautiful little face pops into my thoughts.
Of course, I wonder who my son might be, what he might have become, if only he had survived.
I think about how Evan would have loved and watched over his younger brother, Ted Dreier, and loved and been looked after by his older sister, Jillian Goldstein Pepe.
Candidly, I can’t help but wonder about these things, even so many years later.
I still visit him every year on Father’s Day.
A year and a half after Evan’s death, I was blessed with the birth of my son, Ted.
I wish I could say that the day of his birth was one of unbridled joy. However, that simply would not be the truth.
Of course, I was thrilled. Of course, I loved him from long before the moment he was born.
But, in the back of my mind, I had this lingering fear that something would happen to him; something would go horribly wrong.
I remember thinking at the time that this fear would probably not go away until I saw him graduate college. I was wrong.
Today Ted is almost thirty and has a Master’s degree. He has given me so many reasons to love and respect and be proud of him. And, I am all of those things and more.
But I still worry. (I guess that is the burden of all parents.)
Food for Healing Thoughts
As I write this, I have just completed reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B – Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. If you are interested, Option B has its own website.
Sandberg wrote this book after the sudden, tragic death of her husband of eleven years. I cannot recommend the book highly enough.
Not to everyone, I suppose. Just to those who have suffered a catastrophic loss, or may in the future. Or knows anyone who has. (OK, so I lied; that is everyone.)
The book is truly a great read. If you have suffered a loss, it will help you understand what you have gone through. And, what you will be going through. And it will teach you strategies for getting through tragedy relatively intact.
First and foremost, this book will help you get through the immediacy of your pain and anguish.
(And, you WILL get through it, even if you don’t believe that right now).
You will better understand how and when to make contact. Most importantly, you will be able to convey the message that whatever they need, you are and will continue to be there for them.
For example, Sandberg suggests that the question “How are you feeling today?” is a wonderful statement of caring, support, and recognition.
After all, for each person, today is different from yesterday or tomorrow. Each day, each feeling, is completely unique.
Even if you have gone through something similar, you can never fully know or comprehend what someone else is going through. It can be a tremendous release for someone to know that you accept and understand that.
The Healing Process
I was fortunate. Funny as that may sound.
All things considered, we had a wonderful and large group of family and friends. I’m sure it was difficult for them too, but they were there for us in many loving, supportive, and helpful ways.
As a result of this catastrophic loss, I also found one of the great friendships of my life. Strangely enough, it came from a client I barely knew. Neil called to express his condolences and support. He was caring and supportive, just what I needed at that time, and we are still close friends today. And, I am still saying thanks.
However, that wasn’t all. We survived our ordeal through the good fortune of finding an excellent support group, MIDS (Miscarriage, Infant Death, Stillbirth). Thank you, Janet. Wherever you may be today, I hope you are well and still helping people heal.
(I don’t believe this particular group exists any longer, but there are others.) If you have that option, find it, use it, let it help you, while you let yourself help others.
But, whether a support group is available or right for you, I urge you to read Option B. I didn’t have it thirty-one years ago, but it still helped me today. It won’t make you feel any better, at least immediately, but it will allow you to understand what you are going through.
And that is a wonderful and essential start to the healing process.
Admittedly, it was difficult, if cathartic, to write this.
I began over a month ago and have reviewed and revised it more times that I can count. Be that as it may, I am hopeful.
If my story somehow finds and helps one person going through a difficult time in his or her life, or makes it easier for the reader to help someone who is, it was worth every bit of time and effort.
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