On 27 December 2014 I became really very angry with God. On that day I received a call from a distraught friend telling me her eight week old grandson, Robert, had died, it was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. This was twenty years to the day that my seven year old god-daughter Sarah died as a result of an epileptic seizure.
Just weeks later a baby girl called Natalie was found to have died outside her sister’s classroom while mum was waiting to do the school pick up. Later in the year Gabriella was stillborn and if all this was not bad enough, Robert’s brother Jacob was stillborn in August, all in 2015. .
I was so angry with God, what was he doing? Why our parish? Why do this to good, faithful families? Why take from them faces they will never see again, little ones they have held, and knew and loved so very deeply?
While discussing this with my spiritual director he asked me if I was just as angry with God when other parents were left bereaved. I would have to say I am, I cited a mother in our parish who had lost two of her adult daughters, Philomena and Clemmie, one of them, again, was within the last year. I thought also of my own, by then widowed, mum who lost a 19 year old in 1971, and a colleague’s husband who died of cancer in May 2015, I will never forget his father’s stoic demeanour throughout the requiem Mass.
I was just beginning to put my angry thoughts aside this year when George, a former pupil of a school where I work was killed in a traffic accident, he was 21. Seeing his parents at the funeral made me actually want to hit God, make no mistake, I wanted to hit The Almighty. I stayed calm throughout the Mass but once I was alone I prayed (shall we call it) with language I would never use in normal circumstance. In April single mum Orelle died on her way back from holiday leaving her mum, the adorable Audrey, to raise her two grandsons. Then in July, 16 year old Yvonne died of an ongoing health issue just as she finished her GCSE’s.
My SD had to listen to a long diatribe this time, as have many of my friends but I know a lack of understanding facilitates such anger.
Two weeks ago Philomena and Clemmie’s mum died. My first thought was not ‘oh how sad’ or ‘may the Lord bless and keep her’ but ‘thank goodness she has not outlived any of her other children, she had eight altogether. Barbara Gibb, mother of the BeeGees, who had seen three of her five children die also died last week, and again, I was relieved she would not endure the pain this incurs.
On Wednesday of this week we took our grandson for a long long walk and ended up in a local church yard. There was a helium balloon attached to a headstone, it somewhat naturally attracted us to it. We found it was the birthday of the lad laid there, at first glance we decided he was nine when he died in 2004 and was buried next to a girl, a bit younger who also died in 2004. Looking again we saw he was nineteen at the time of his death, then my wife spotted the girl’s name, Lucie. Lucie and been at secondary school with our eldest. the two buried together had died in a car accident when they were nineteen and sixteen. Again my thoughts turned to the parents, how were they? nearly 12 years on had they learned to live with the loss?
On Friday, attending Mass in George’s parish, I spotted his mum, Mass that day was for him. While I tried not to, I looked over at her a few times, she was calm and she even smiled during Father’s reflection. It was almost as if a voice spoke to me saying ‘Tony, it’s not your grief, get over yourself’. I don’t know where it came from but it was right. I am grateful every day for not having endured the pain these parents must feel, so I must put the anger aside too.
Robert and Jacob now have a sister, Scarlett, and Gabriella has a brother called Dexter.