Saturday, February 25, 2012


Though it's often frowned upon, I've often applied the concept of relativity to my day to day life. It's intuitive, after all. I make x dollars. You are a member of the 1%. While you're certainly much richer than I am, we're both doing well compared to some. This principle is often a useful source of perspective. Applied correctly, it makes you appreciate what you have and value the things you do have. All too I've thought that we- myself no less than others- suffer from an ill-advised application of this principle. The tendency is always to notice what you lack, so often than you lose sight of what you have. It's a trite message and one I've always thought is overdone around Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the right circumstances, I think some healthy jealousy is quite motivating. There's no reason to go to do well in school or work hard if you don't want better.

Lately I've felt a lot of the wrong kind of jealousy. I catch myself watching other people's children's grow in a steady progression on facebook, while I trudge along with the same pictures, James frozen forever in time. They're learning to walk, talk, and making delightful little videos. I've blocked a few feeds. Just like James would be doing if he were here. I am jealous of the ease that seems to bless them, the casual way with which they go about their days, blissfully unaware of words like rhabdoid. Mercifully ignorant of the economics of cemetery plots and monuments. As the season turns and we drift farther and farther away from the long summer of James' illness, the fixed nature of his passing becomes even more unavoidable.

It's not that I can't, or don't want, to talk to people about their kids. Quite the opposite. I'm always pleased when people decide to have kids and want to talk about them. James was the best thing that ever happened to me, and the ending has nothing to do with that. It's great to talk to people and see how they're doing and their kids are doing. If anything, I get the impression people who know about James are less comfortable talking about their kids with me, perhaps because they fear that I won't take it well. That's not true. (Though if you make direct comparisons, as a few people have done, between your child's trip to the ER for a sinus infection and my son's terminal brain cancer we might have a problem.) I particularly enjoy talking about James. To do otherwise neglects the best part of his life, the part that had nothing to do with cancer and everything to do with his bright smile. It is important not to let the memories of James' death obscure the more important experience of his life.

Since he died, I've met a few people who didn't know. When asked if I have children, I try to give the same answer "I had a son, but he passed away." I tried saying "I don't have children" once or twice, with horrific results, including one person at a lawyer function who commented that I'd clearly looked at kids, looked at my job, and decided kids were too much of a commitment. "I have a son" is equally unhelpful, because there are no questions about that son I can answer in the present tense. So I've elected to go with the truth, because I think it's important to acknowledge and celebrate him.

So it's not a particular sense of jealousy I feel towards the individuals. I'd never wish what happened to James on any family. It's a more generalized, relative sense of jealously for the life I'm not living. I'm missing a hypothetical. My life would be more like X if James were alive. If James were alive, X would be happening. Relative to my current situation, all of these things feel like an improvement, and I feel worse because of it. I remember feeling this way in the hospital, jumping right through the ER waiting room on each of our return trips from home, jealous of all the families waiting for care, because it meant their children were in no danger of dying before their wait ended. It's a frustrating, useless feeling, but it's there.

I try and sometimes succeed in telling myself that there's nothing to compare to. James is James, and I wouldn't trade him for anything. The relativity I should focus on isn't on the life I'm not living but on the life I did- how blessed I was to meet my son and to know him for the eight months that I did. Most of the time, I do. Sometimes though, it's hard to look past the easier analogies. Maybe next year, when I notice the seasons less.


  1. I am so sorry. When my dad passed away I was so angry with Time. I wanted it to stop. How dare the clock hands keep moving forward. Didn't they understand the pain I was feeling.
    It was so odd I thought to myself when I realized how angry I actually was with Time.

    Saying that...I know it's nothing to how I would have felt if I had lost my child.
    I would have spent my life hunting down all the clocks and ripping them apart with my hands. That's what my heart says but my mind knows better. Because if I could have stopped time I wouldn't have had to watch other parents babies/children celebrate the milestones mine never would. Or in my case friends dads celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or seeing pictures of them holding their grandchildren.

    You guys have been through so much and i've read in amazement at the Grace in which you've handled it. James is a beautiful boy with amazing parents who will miss him until the day you are once again able to take him in your arms. Thank the Lord for that promise.

    I know my words doesn't help much or fill your empty arms but I hope my prayers and all the others that I know are praying will ease the pain in your hearts. And as much as I dislike Time it can be good to us as it passes.

    In the Lord's Goodness and Grace.

  2. I'm so sorry. Yes, seeing others living the life you thought you were going to have is incredibly hard and hurtful. If you can stay being happy for them it's great, but in practice it's very, very tough. I've taken myself of facebook entirely as I couldn't take it any more. As Jake said, you have both been through so much, more than anyone should have to go through in a lifetime, and I'm thinking of you.

  3. Stunning heartbreak that I wish you had never known. You are remembered and prayed for. That's not much consolation when you're broken, decimated, and in unbearable pain. You and Kara are always in my heart.

  4. My heart breaks for you and Kara. You both continue to be in my prayers.

  5. James is definitely the cutest baby I have ever seen!! I feel blessed just to be a part of this blog, I can only imagine how blessed you must feel being his parent. James is so courageous, the way he has touched and inspired so many lives is truly amazing. Obviously I have never met you or James, but whenever I see a good deed being passed on, the beauty of the sky, people pausing in their busy day to care for someone they do not know I think about James and I smile.

  6. You have such a way with words....I'm still here, still reading, still thinking of and praying for you!

  7. I came across your blog this morning, I'm actually crying a bit in my cubical! This is such a beautiful way to honor his memory. What a sweet little boy.

  8. Always praying, Matt and Kara. From the very depths of my heart and soul.

  9. I am glad to return to your blog and find you still writing. I hope, I pray you continue to do so. I am of a belief that you should not forget. We will never know the details of what could have been, might have happened if... But we remember, we remember the good, the joy, the time, we honor them. One day it gets easier, some say it's just easier to forget. Forget my mom. my grand mother, a child.... No, we remember and we cherish.

  10. Though it has been a good year and a half for us, since our's son's death, sometimes, in the evening, driving west, I am stunned that the sun is actually setting - again. How? How did I get here. Praying that the grief we bear with passing time is fruitful grief, the somehow, makes the load a little easier to carry, and the days of delight you had a balm rather than a prick. With you, though a true stranger.