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.