Heartbreak and parenting. There is not one without the other.

Warning- this post gets preachy, sentimental, and down right tearful. Some sing through their sadness, paint or go running. I write. So read and bear with me. Get a latte, a cocktail, whatever- this is going to take awhile.

I gripe a lot about my children, and my poor husband. But the reality is, I could not live without them. And I hope I never have to. With that said, I have seen a lot of heartache from parents I know. Losing a child is THE most devastating part of life I can think of. And anyone who knows someone who has lost, thinks, “Gosh, I’m guilty of thinking, Glad it’s not my kid. But how horrible for them.”

I was originally going to write about the upcoming anniversary of our friends’ daughter’s passing, Siona Shah. She went to be an angel on New Years Day 2011. As a community and neighborhood we were heartbroken for this family’s loss. Siona bravely battled Leukemia and was only 6 when she died. Her parents, Nigam and Reshma and her older brother, Sohil, like to talk about her passion for purple, her love of princesses, unicorns, the color pink and butterflies. We climbed the Columbia Tower to raise money for LLS (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) and dozens of people ran with Team Siona in the Rock n Roll marathon to raise money for LLS. I have a new found respect and admiration for the Be the Match Foundation and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Both organizations were there for Siona and her family. I know many lives have been touched and maybe saved because of her legacy. My heart is always with you Shahs.

But then this week of holiday happiness between Christmas and New Year’s, when kids are playing with their toys, parents are trying to gain headway on the mess, and looking forward to when school starts again- a sad stream of Facebook statuses was coming through my feed. A little 10 year old boy had accidentally strangled himself with a necktie and his family was praying for him to come through. For two days they kept a prayerful vigil at Harborview, our renowned trauma hospital in Seattle. Hundreds of people prayed for his recovery, there were rosaries, vigils and masses said for him. But to everyone’s dismay, he passed on Thursday to be with his Lord. Little 10 year old Anthony Strauss was now an angel. But what some of us knew, he is joining his sister Gloria, an angel who passed before him.

Little Gloria Strauss’ story was covered in our Seattle Times in the months before she died of a rare, incurable cancer. Many grew to be fond of Gloria, prayed for her and her parents, her then 6 siblings. She passed away at age 11 in 2007. Her family knew she was now an angel. No question. They set up a non-profit to help others going through grief and loss. To lift them in prayer, hope and faith. The way their family, church and friends did for them.

Now they face it all over again. To grieve over their child. What good could come of this? How could God let this happen?

I don’t know.

But this I do know. We have the power to reach each other. To send whatever we can, whether it’s money, prayers, sympathy. There is always death and sadness. There is always birth and joy. Without one, there isn’t another. So we cry, we comfort, we carry on.

And most importantly- we love our kids no matter how crazy they drive us. The night I found out Anthony died- (I didn’t know this boy, to be clear, but the power of Facebook makes you feel like you know perfect strangers.) I was ready to shake my kids and tell them to please go away to their rooms. Let me be and not bother me. I was exhausted, irritated and completely done for. It was about 10 pm. Then I went on Facebook and saw the tremendous grief a family was feeling over not having their boy to run, jump on the furniture, pester his sister, terrorize the cat and ask his mom a million different questions. And I thought- they would trade places with me in a heartbeat.

So I went upstairs, hugged my children, rubbed their backs while they lay in their beds. Kissed their mussed up, sweaty hair. And blessed them each for being there. I thanked God for this. And went downstairs and cried to James.

I have blog readers in Australia, the UK, Asia and of course, the US. If you’d like to reach out to the Strauss family, share their story or  help make a difference, I’ve included several links. And gosh darn, just hug and squeeze those crazy monkeys in your life!

Gloria’s Angels

Be the Match Foundation

St. Jude’s Hospital

St. Jude’s Fundraising page

7 thoughts on “Heartbreak and parenting. There is not one without the other.

  1. re: angels

    Just FYI since the Strauss Family is devoutly Catholic:

    Catholic teaching on the matter involves a few dimensions. A baptized child who dies before he or she can exercise sufficient use of reason is guaranteed to go to heaven, because that person is not capable of committing a sin for which he or she would be culpable. Not until children understand the difference between virtue and sin, between good and evil, and are able to freely choose to sin is there a possibility of forfeiting heaven or needing to endure Purgatory. This may be what people are referring to when they speak about one’s “angel” in heaven, namely, that the soul of one’s child is in the state of heavenly glory.

    Yet there is a “popular” viewpoint regarding angels, claiming that human persons who die may become angels, especially in the case of babies and young people. This understanding, popularized through television through the series “Highway to Heaven” and the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” is indeed erroneous. Human person never become angels.

    To defend a proper understanding, we reflect that angels by definition are purely incorporeal. They are purely spiritual persons, which is why they are invisible (seeThe Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 328). As persons, angels have an intellect and a will like we do, however their intellects are vastly more powerful than ours. Demons refer to those angels who sinned against God, and were cast out of heaven. Both angels and demons are pure spirits, with the angels serving God, and the demons serving Satan.

    One may respond that upon death, we are a pure spirit as well, since only our immaterial soul survives, and so maybe an “angel” is referring to our state after death when the soul departs from the body. To this we respond that we never cease being who we are; upon death we don’t morph into another type of being, although we are in an incomplete state until the final Resurrection of the body at the end of time. Angels and humans are different types of beings, and to think of a human becoming an angel is more extreme than thinking of a cat becoming a human. It simply cannot and does not happen.

    The existence of angels is known by faith; we cannot prove they exist using only reason, but the fact that they exist – and exist as separate beings from humans – is found strongly in both scripture and tradition.

    • Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I do believe that angels in the secular world of things are not portrayed accurately as accounted for in the Scriptures. (Touched by an Angel, remember that show? Total fantasy!) I do think there’s some kind of comfort people take in thinking their loved ones are angels. I was also using the word angel since the Strauss’ seem to refer to Gloria’s Angels. But they are probably talking about angels on earth that do God’s work. Or rather people really. There’s people I know that are not Christian that still like the idea of their loved one as an angel because they are sweet and perfect, whole again and somewhere better than on earth.
      Nothing can compare to the Strauss’ loss or any of my friends’. I just pray for their peace and comfort through this and whatever gets them passed the darkness.

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