My Son’s Friend Died and Nothing is the Same.

It has been a hard week. We found out that my son’s six-year-old classmate died. Yes, you read that right. We were shocked too. Shocked is not the right word, it sounds too innocent and not bulging with the feeling of what we are actually experiencing. There are no words.

She was the most robust and beautiful soul. A more resilient kid couldn’t be found….her dad described her as “Teflon, both physically and emotionally”. Not that she didn’t feel stuff, but with the right support, she bounced back quickly. She was one of my son’s favourite classmates in kindergarten last year. By the end he called her his “Queen” and she called my son her “Knight-Prince” (depending on who she needed that day). They looked out for each other. I volunteered quite a bit when they were both in kindergarten and it was nice to see them bonding. I loved that little girl. She was an amazing little spark of intelligence and activity. Not only did she have a real sense of her own personality, even at five years old, she was kind and considerate as well. She played a little rougher than other girls her age and that only made us love her more. The days got busy so we never had a formal play-date that year, but I did let my son play in the schoolyard after morning kindergarten with her, until we got too hungry, which sometimes meant they got to play for over an hour. Together they ran on the grass to fight dragons or “built” invisible towers behind the trees. They teamed up to fight the evil knights and stopped to help each other climb down the rocks of the outdoor garden. Some days, it was hard to get them to stop playing to come home for lunch.

This summer, she had her last birthday party in July. (Although no one knew it would be her last at the time). My son counted the days to the party and when it was finally the day, he and his “Queen” splashed in the splash pool and bonded over their love of cupcakes. He was sad when he found out she might be switching schools in order to be closer to her new home across town. He talked about it a lot and begged me for play-dates if that should happen.

Surprisingly, in September she came to the same school. When asked how his first day of school was, Hunter exclaimed, “MY girlfriend is there! We sit beside each other!” He was ecstatic. Our daughter, who is in a classroom kitty corner to her brother, said she saw that they gave each other a hug and a kiss on the cheek every morning and every day before home time. He started to plan his birthday party, even though it’s not until January, and the first person he wanted to invite was her. He was already bugging me for play-dates with her. I told him we should get the first month of school under our belt and start doing play-dates in October when our schedule became an established routine for us. I have now learned we must seize today, since there might not be a tomorrow.

On Tuesday night, in the third week of October, we were eating supper as a family, as we always do, and chatting about our day. The kids were animatedly talking about the new things that had happened that day, when suddenly our son looked at his plate with a serious and melancholy look. He looked up when  there was a break in conversation and said, “My girlfriend wasn’t in school this week yet… and I don’t think she is coming back”. Since he can (sometimes) be a bit over-dramatic just to see our expressions change (he gauges his audience like an actor, testing out lines on us to make us laugh or act shocked), we said ‘of course she will be back’, offhandedly, and went back to talking about everything and anything while we finished our dinner.

On Wednesday I found the saddest photo on his desk, and I vaguely wondered what that was about, wondering if it was for a game the kids were playing.

The third week of September we got a call on the Thursday. My son’s “girlfriend” was rushed to Children’s Hospital on Tuesday morning from a sudden illness and passed away there on Tuesday night. The school was informed Wednesday evening. Since we attended her last birthday party, the mom was wondering if I could forward her any photos that I took. I cried so hard I thought I would break. I cannot imagine what her family is going through. It is too horrific to think that the world could be so cruel and I cried for Hunter, for the little girl I got to know and love, and for her parents. I cried for the cruelty and randomness of it all.  I cried with thoughts of what the parents must be going through- if it happened to me it would break me and I would be too afraid to get out of bed. I cried, I cried.

My son and daughter came home that day, quiet but seemingly okay. My son said he was not ready to cry yet and asked for a hug. He went in to his room and kicked his plastic box of superheroes for a good five minutes as hard as he could. Afterward, he declared he hates his minions and their stupid smiles, and threw them in the donate box. All of this is very out of character for him. He asked if his friend would be in the ground in a grave so that he could visit it and give her roses, their favourite flower. He said he heard the doctors tested her with needles and he is hoping they were careful not to hurt her. He said his “brain and body are constantly crying but his eyes are not ready yet”. His doctor Build-a-Bear is always fully dressed and with boots on so he is at the ready, should there be an emergency.

My daughter used to see the girl playing with her brother on the playground. She liked seeing her. She has not directly cried over the loss yet, but has random crying fits over spilled water, ripped paper, a shirt in the wash or a friend moving away this summer. She can feel her brother’s grief like a palpable cloud in the room and feels helpless….I am sure she cries for that, too, even if she doesn’t realize. She cried last night for 45 minutes (very out of character for her) because she “misses all of our friends that now live out of town”. I know why she is crying and don’t mind that she is finding other reasons to let it out. My daughter is quieter than normal at home and extremely patient with her brother.

We are at a loss to express how sad we feel for the family. There is a cloud hanging over us and we are all grieving. Our grief must be a tiny fraction of what the family is feeling and we feel grief for that, too. We cry for our loss, for what they must be feeling, for the things that my son’s friend will never experience, for my son’s feeling of mourning, and for the seemingly random cruelty of it all.

 

 

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