Monday, March 18, 2013

The Child Left Behind

On Saturday morning three people from Seton Hill University, Greensburg, PA, the bus driver and the head coach of the women's lacrosse team, Kristina Quigley, and her unborn son, were killed traveling to a weekend match. A tragedy indeed.  We know little about the bus driver.  However, Kristina Quigley was the beloved coach and mentor of her lacrosse team as well as colleague and friend to many Seton Hill University administrators, professors and staff. She was active in the community and embraced charitable causes because she cared about others.

More importantly, Kristina was a wife and mother.  She left behind a loving husband and a two and a half year old son.  Her husband is devastated and will be in mourning for a very long time.  He now must be father and mother to their young boy. Family and friends will support him in his hour of need and for many years to come.  They will be his rock and his soft place to fall.  They will counsel him and eventually encourage him to move on with his life. In time he will be able to live, laugh, and possibly love again.

But what of the child?  At two and a half, this boy has no concept of death.  Mommy went on a trip as she had done many times before and would be back on Sunday night.  He would be asleep when she crept into his room and kissed his cheek and smiled with pride at her sweet, sweet son. When he awoke, Mommy would be in the kitchen making breakfast, his favorite, pancakes smothered in maple syrup.  She would help him dress for daycare and another day would play out as always.

But she wouldn't be.  What now?  This little child would now see Daddy crying, uncontrollably at times, be overtaken by the family gathering where people talk in hushed tones or sob on each other's shoulders, and, above all, be overwhelmed by the fact that Mommy isn't home on this Monday morning.  She would never be home again although he doesn't realize that now.

I was three and a half when my Dad died in an industrial accident.  Everything this child has already experienced and everything he will experience throughout his life I have lived for the past 65 years.  I wish I could tell him that in a short time everything will return to normal.  It won't.  No matter how loving his Dad is, no matter how much family's and friends' involvement will be from this moment forward, he will always be the child left behind.

Because he is so young, he can't verbalize what he is feeling, the depth of which he can't possibly understand; he can only feel.  And from personal experience, I can tell you he is extremely afraid, totally confused, and even guilt-ridden by the loss of his beloved mother. Time and discussion with Dad, family, and even professionals will help him grasp this tragedy intellectually.  He won't fear death any more than all of us do; he'll understand that accidents do happen, and he will see that he had nothing to do with his mother's death.

But in his heart and soul he will always grieve for the mother who left him behind; he will always wonder what life would have been like had she been there for him; and he will always wish Mommy was there every step of the way.  He will always be the child left behind.  I know that for a fact.