Mimetalker's Blog

a mime is a terrible thing to waste.


Illinois, USA
January 26
On this blog: All words (other than identified quotations) © Sharon Nesbit-Davis, All rights reserved. *********************************** ********************************** You can find me on Facebook: Sharon Nesbit-Daivs, or "The Mime Writes" Logo Design by Dianaani ********************************** I work as the Education & Community Engagement Director of a Regional Arts Council which means I beg "the deciders" to fund and support the arts for everyone, not just the rich. *********************************** I am also a mime. For those that hate mimes, I understand. But you'll never find me annoying people on the street, unless I'm living there. I'm a "concert mime" ...which means you have to buy a ticket. I haven't done much mime lately...I'd rather be writing. *********************************** I've been married to my one and only since 1976. Still happy. Still in love. Two kids, eight grandkids. In college I became a Baha'i (a world religion whose main theme is unity). It keeps me relatively sane in a world gone mad.


Editor’s Pick
MAY 18, 2012 10:31AM

Mourning & Mathematics...with Albert on the side

Rate: 36 Flag



When a spouse dies you are a widow or widower. Parents die and you are an orphan. There is no name for a parent whose child dies. It would make conversations easier when the subject of children comes up.  Do we think by naming it, we give it power? Do we fear acknowledging the possibility will make it happen?

My brother pointed this out to me while we were preparing for his daughter's funeral. He may have been thinking about it for awhile. His youngest son died nine years ago. 

In this same conversation, my brother said he loved his first two children so much he thought having more would help him cope if the worst thing imaginable happened. It is ironical, but not humorous, that the two added children have both died. His theory proved false.

Not that we were competing, but my brother and I are now numerically even. We both had four children. My first two died before they were born.  The two that lived were not replacements, they were simply more.

Losing the first two made me more conscious of how precious the two who lived were, and that made me a better mother than I would have been. That’s my theory without the ability to prove it. My scientist father scoffed at such “theories”, but I’ve been reading about Einstein.  

Certain aspects of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity couldn’t be proven. The instruments and methods needed had not been created yet. When challenged he said “I know it’s true. Others can work on proving it if they wish, but they will find it impossible.” They tried to do it through mathematics. Einstein said, “Since mathematicians have invaded the Theory of Relativity, I don’t understand it myself anymore.”  

My thoughts exactly, though lately I’ve been having some uncharacteristic reflections for a D- Math student.

My brother is in that highly intelligent "geek" category. He solved the Rubik’s Cube puzzle through mathematical equations and woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me, which is why I remember and resent it. It wasn't just his brilliance that was annoying, he interrupted an incredible dream I could never get back.

I know it was his logical-self, responding to newly experienced emotions, that forced him come up with a ridiculous child number theory. If he thought about this mathematically, the holes were obvious.  Each number is unique with its own properties. If one disappears, order is destroyed, resulting in chaos. 

As smart as that may sound, it isn't.

Numbers don't disappear and matter cannot die, it changes form. My morning coffee contains atoms and molecules from people who lived thousands of years ago.  Within my bones are my ancestors. The first time I heard Celtic music, I felt them dancing.  

And chaos is more predictable than you might think...and more beautiful.


When my son was three I found him one day laying on his bed staring at the ceiling with an expression of amazement. I asked what he was thinking about and he said, “Isn’t it wonderful how numbers never end?” I nodded and wondered how in the hell was I going to raise a genius. 

This was the first of many things my son made me stop and consider.  I had to agree with him. Infinity feels magical. It mathematically expresses the love I have for my children, all four of them.   

Contemplating infinity can comfort a “sorrower”, my name for a parent who has lost a child. Maybe someone will come up with a better one. Sorrower is hard to say, but then, I guess it should be.




NOTE:  In 2011 NASA proved two aspects of Einstein’s theories on the Gravity Probe B mission: time warping & frame dragging. Even Einstein couldn’t imagine that. I find that hopeful. 


Photo: google images-fracturnal depiction of chaos



This is the last piece I plan to write on OS for awhile. There were projects I put on hold when my niece's condition worsened. It's time to get back to work. I'll dip back in when I can.



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Dear Sharon, I understand what you are saying although I cannot truly imagine the depth and width of your sorrow since I haven't experienced it myself first hand and hope I never do. I think a parent is a parent whether one loses a child or not. I don't believe in a term such as a 'widower' or 'orphan' to describe a parent who has lost a child, for the love of one's child continues no matter what. Orphans may be young enough to grow and cope and adjust; widows and widowers too move on after a period of mourning. But the pain of the loss of one's child is not something that ever leaves one, nor does one ever stop feeling as the parent to the child s/he has lost. My heart reaches out to you.
I think you were probably right when you said there is no name for it because no one wants to think about it as possible.

"The first time I heard Celtic music, I felt them dancing." Love that. I feel the same when I hear African drums.

"sorrower" that's a word that works...
"Sorrower" captures is perfectly. You grace your sorrow and ours with a loving heart.
Sorrower is an excellent term and I like the thinking in this entry.

Infinity is indeed something we can't really get to grips with, but it certainly helps with perspective.

I was quite stunned yet comforted to discover we are made of the same stuff as the stars in our universe. There is so much more that we will ever know.
I can't imagine the pain of losing a child. "Sorrower" is the best word for it though./r
My deepest sympathy for your brother's and your losses.
Since recently having my first child, just the thought of losing her makes me ill. I, like your brother, have considering having more just because I stay up at night thinking that I'd lose my mind without her. I'm so sad to hear your brother lost two children. *Gulp* I think I'm suited best for one child anyway. I'll just never be able to let her out of my sight...like that would even help. I enjoyed your piece. It's always nice when you can mix math and emotions, science and ideas.
What beautiful contemplations - sad but very beautiful, and still full of some sort of beam of sunshine - this is what marks your writing, this way to see joy through everything. I don't know what to call parents who lose a child or children. I wish I had a suggestion, but I don't. All I can say, is that I wish you and your brother and all those who've suffered this kind of loss, peace and healing.
Lots to think about here. Infinity has always been a hard one for me. and losing a child is unimaginable - I don't see how "just" a word could describe it. I lost a sister.
There's some profound thinking going on at OS today. This is a thought provoking piece that got me thinking about how I felt oddly at home when I visited my grandmother's hometown in Norway.
The two mathematicians I've known in my life were the most unshakable Catholics I've ever met. They both claimed that so much of higher mathematics is done on the basis of "faith" or "belief" in theories yet to be proven that being brought up with Catholic dogma helped.

A word for those who have lost a child/children: sorrower works for me too. Griever? Sounds like a garden tool. Bemourned maybe?
Bless you, Sharon. I look forward to your insights here again.

There's never a replacement for a lost child! ~shaking head~ Great piece! RATED!
I greatly admire you resilience and positive nature, Sharon. In fact I envy you for it, being a more downcast type myself. I hope you won't stay away long - no more than a week or two, OK?
There isn't a name for it because the condition is unthinkable. You're just...broken in some unnameable, unhealable way. I watched my parents go through it, and hope I never have to experience the same. It's a lifelong condition, an invisible amputation.
A sorrower such a sad title but it fits so well. I had thought of us as outcasts but I really do like yours better. Mine sounded like no one cared but I can see how much you do care and how much my sister cares and yes I like sorrowers a lot.
Beautiful piece, Sharon, full of questions and insights. Wishing you and your brother comfort and love, & look forward to your return!
Many thanks and gratitudes for your comments, and well wishes. I'll be back soon. We all know how adicting this place is...and some habits feel too good to break.
Last month I wrote a post called "18," posted on April 10. My first line was:

"There is no word in English equivalent to 'widower' but pertaining to the death of a child instead of a spouse."

It's an absence I noticed, in my case because I became what I guess you're calling a "sorrower" on January 8. My post was entitled "18" because it was written (or at least started) on what would have been my son's 18th birthday. In that post, I recounted my wife raising a point that has been raised here: "Are we now the parents of one or two children?" I couldn't answer that; all I could say was that I would forever be a parent whether my kids survived or not. That's not a mindset I can imagine losing; it is simply too self-defining.

I don't know what to think about some of the other coping questions posited here. Roles are replaceable but people aren't. That, I think, is the distinction. Having one child vs. having no children is radically different, so I think that having that role filled in one's life makes a difference in how one lives. However, that doesn't lessen grief per se. It would limit disorientation, which is a huge part of coping with death, but not grief. Each personal relationship is defined too differently. My son, for example, was an adventurous and enthusiastic eater while my daughter is a picky eater, so my wife recently observed that she hasn't tried new recipes in a while because she used to do that to please our son.

Having lost one child, I cannot imagine losing multiples. I feel for your brother.

I would respectfully suggest that you never say to your brother that you are even. Though I have never gone through the Hell that is a miscarriage of a wanted child, I would guess that there is a difference between losing a child that you know intimately and losing a child that you never got the opportunity to know. One could make the case that either is worse but, as you stated, this is in no way a competitive endeavor. My advice is to avoid adding resentment to the list of what either of you has to bear.

"Sorrower?" I don't know. To lose a spouse or a parent certainly means a great deal of sorrow. Or, for that matter, a sibling (God forbid), which also doesn't come with its own vocabulary word. I guess as close as we come is "bereaved parent."

I will say one thing about being a bereaved parent: Everyone understands that it is something unspeakably awful.

I wish the easiest possible survival for your brother.

I liked the math discussion.
You will be missed. Good writing on OS seems to harder to find these days. Best wishes on your projects though, and my hopes are for creative days ahead for you.

As a fellow griever, I will add that I relish my grief, as odd as that sounds. I loved my mother, maybe more than any other person, and to grieve with depth and pith is to honor that love and connection, and to take my place next to every human who ever lived. There is comfort in that collective sorrow.
The term "mourning parent" comes to mind, off hand. It says it all without need for a new word or words.
I'm sorry for your loss, and for what must be for your brother, his two terrible two losses. I knew a couple once who lost 2 out of 3 of their kids to serious illnesses. (The mother herself is now seriously ill, prompting me to question whether she had been exposed to something toxic mid-pregnancy.)It's shockingly tragic. And seems unnatural, until we look back at history, when many such events used to occur.
Not to in any way impose a prior set of values on you or anyone suffering such losses here, but once upon a time, parents knew, even before ever having any children, how some of their kids probably would not make it past age 4. Curious how no one back then came up with the appropriate terming we still grope for today.....
Peace to you and yours in this time of grieving.
What a post to leave us with - loss and grief presented in this suspension of the wondrous. I am so sorry for the loss of your brother's children. I cannot imagine the heartache. I am so sorry for the loss of your two first borns and am glad for the two that followed to receive your deepened love. Sorrower sounds appropriate. May the completion of your nieces book bring you continued closeness and peace.
Aw mime. So sorry for this time. Go do what you need to do. Hopefully, we will all be here when you return.
Sorrower is perfect, but I think mom is what I would prefer if, God forbid, this were to happen in my small family. Dip in to let us know how you're doing. Much love to you and your brother.
May I suggest the word Perdu (from the French lost) for one who has lost a child. A child is the future, a promise that there is a future. The single word Perdu expresses that feeling.
Lost. That's all I came up with when I lose children close to my heart.
Well, for a self-proclaimed D minus student in math, you did pretty well explaining things in this essay. I had to crack up about your son. I do'nt htink my son ever mentioned the word "numbers....." Sharon, this is a very compelling essay that really made me stop and think. Congratulations on your EP and cover.
Having just past through the same vacuum with my nephew, allow me to extend my deepest sympathies. There may be explanations, but there will never be enough logic in the world to ease the pain. I recently watched a program that stated there is a physics premise that all time is now -- past, present, future. Anyone who loses a child can tell you that it needs no proof... Best to your entired family.
I've been wanting to comment on this for a while. I just want to say it is truly an amazing piece of writing and has stuck with me from the first reading. I've read it many times since you posted it. Maybe 'chaos' is a good word for someone whose child has died, or at least for the state of mind a part of them will always inhabit. Chaos; a gap, a confused mass, the space between heaven and earth. The natural order of things turned to disorder.