Wednesday, December 7, 2011

When Children Die

I was in eighth grade when I discovered that children die. I must have known before, but I didn't really know. It was something that happened somewhere. Not here. Not to anyone I knew.

The girl who sat behind me in class came home one day with a headache, and fell into a coma. She died a few days later. I couldn't accept it. Children don't die. Children shouldn't die.

But they do.

And as I grow older, I become more familiar with death. People die. Children die. They die suddenly. They die because of illnesses or accidents or murder. Sweet, innocent children. And I can't accept it. I can't understand it.

And I cry. I cry for them. I cry for their mothers and fathers. I can't even begin to imagine their agony, but I cry because I share their sadness.

But I can't accept it. And I don't understand it.

My sister's kitchen window overlooks a cemetery. A baby cemetery. So many little gravestones marking tiny graves. I don't look out the window when I'm there. In my mind, looking is some sort of acceptance. And I don't want to accept it.

Last week, I was asked to do a tahara. I rarely decline when I'm called for a tahara. But this time it was for an eight year old little girl. I didn't do it. I couldn't. I couldn't deal with it. Little girls shouldn't die.

I want to understand why this little girl died. Why all those little girls and boys died. I need to understand.

Someone once told me, in Heaven there are no questions. All our questions will be answered when we get there, and we will understand everything that we were not able to understand down here.

But I am not rushing to get there.

I don't understand, but I am not in a rush to understand. For now, I will try to accept that what Hashem does is good.

Even if I can't understand.


  1. I feel your pain. My mother said once (or thrice) that she has a lot of questions...then she looked heavenwards and said, "but I can wait for the answers!"

    Here there are no answers. In heaven, there are no questions. At least we know that even though we don't know, we will know. That will have to be good enough for now.

  2. I wrote a song about this once called "Shula's Song". I have no capabilities of understanding such an experience but I took the words from a talk Mrs. Swerdlov gave a few days after her little 5 year old granddaughter was killed in a bus accident. Here is the link
    Moving post, It sounds like you had a hard day.

  3. Yeah, it's hard. I remember losing a day camp counselor when I was in 6th grade and I was inconsolable. Very hard to fathom. I think the only thing that keeps us going is faith and believing in the good. Without it, the pain would be too great to bear.

  4. Yes, little children die. Do we understand why? Does anybody really have all the reasons?

    There are answers and explanations as to why these things happen in general (like the two Why Do Good People Die Young posts on my blog here and here), but can someone tell you that one story happened for a specific reason or this child died because we have to work on ourselves in one specific area? Can we really understand the full picture? I don't know.

    My brother died young. I don't know why it happened. I do know that it changed a lot of who I am. I am not the same person as before and my outlook on life is different as a result of it. It's not easy. And I don't have all the answers. But, I don't want to understand it all. You know why? Because the real clarity is only for those who are up there.

    There's a story of person who lived a very long life and when asked what they did to merit to live so long they said, "I never asked questions. I didn't ask Hashem why. Because in order for Him to answer me, He'd have to take me up there to give me the clarity of understanding the reasons for everything."

    So I don't want to know why. But there is a certain comfort in knowing that there is a plan and there is a reason. Even if I don't know it.

  5. JerusalemStoned...

    Right. There is some comfort in that - knowing that there are answers, even if we don't know them.


    Thank you for the link. Jnet blocks youtube, but someone will convert it for me. I'm looking forward to seeing it.


    It's almost too great to bear already. Without faith, it would be impossible to bear.


    I heard that story. Thank you for sharing it.


    That's really all there is to say...

  6. Chanale...

    The song is so, so beautiful. Thank you.

  7. "Children don't die" is a new concept. Not so long ago children DID die; they rarely survived infancy, they were susceptible to many diseases. A women could bury all or most of her children, if she managed to survive the many childbirths.

    It should be considered a bracha that a child dying is such a rarity that we all stop and grieve together.

  8. Chanale-thanks for the link to your song. It's really beautiful. I listened to it many, many times...and it's been in my head for a while now. It's not on any of your cd's though. Are there any other songs you have that you'd share that have not been put out?

    Princess Lea-you do make a good point. You're right that it's a bracha that children today survive infancy.
    BUT, there's a difference between children dying in the very beginning of their lives (which is so sad in itself and I am in no way minimizing the pain of that. I can't even imagine it...) and children starting to live healthy, productive lives and then dying in their prime...or just as they begin to grow and develop. Children, teens, young many of them die young...and it's hard to accept. It hurts, it's painful and we don't always have the answers. But I've learned to accept it...because the real answers are up there. And I'll wait for that.

  9. When I said they were prone to illness, I mean many children were vibrantly healthy at any age throughout, then would die suddenly from a fever.

    Thanks to vaccinations and antibiotics, we have survived to adulthood, dodging many treacherous obstacles.

    B'H that now, more than ever before, we can live healthy lives.

  10. Seen from the point of view of eternity, seven days, seven months or seventy years are all very short life spans. We are here on earth to fulfill a mission, each of us our own mission, and when the mission is completed, we go to the next world. OF course that doesn't mean we don't cry. If you love someone, whether a child or a parent or a friend, you will miss them terribly when they leave, and probably the hardest grief of all to bear is the grief of parents for lost children.

  11. I remember the first time I ever heard that someone I "knew" died, I cried. He was a neighbor that I saw once or twice in my life, but I cried. I still can't help but cry when I hear of a child dying. As you heartrendingly said, "Children don't die. Children shouldn't die."

    > "It's almost too great to bear already. Without faith, it would be impossible to bear." That idea I try hard to recall whenever times are difficult. Times may be rough, but at least we have someone to cry to, always.