Recently there was a terrible accident in our community. A father left his 4-month-old son in the car, thinking the child was at day care. Too late, he discovered his mistake and the child was dead of overheating. A simple mistake with terrible consequences that will affect a family for the rest of their lives.
Someone posted on the “People and Places of Rome, NY” Facebook page a simple comment, full of concern for a family whose suffering was horrible to imagine: “There is a family in our town that needs our thoughts and prayers this evening. Nothing more needs to be said. Just pray for them in their time of pain and grief.”
In response to that post, there have been 740 “likes” and 202 comments. The loss that family has suffered touches us deeply. And to have that happen in a town this small, where many of us know the family, work with them, grew up with them, taught them in school – it shakes us to our very core. We don’t want it to be true. We hardly know what to say, except “I’m so sorry. I love you. I’m praying for you.” And take some food (if anyone has an appetite after such a loss).
We don’t want to imagine that happening to us. We don’t want to think about making the same kind of mistake. But if we do, it is frightening to imagine how one would feel, how one would try to cope, how a father could forgive himself, how to go on with your life after that and how long it would take. My heart breaks for this young father and mother and their family.
It will be a while before the father of that little boy can do anything but feel, before he will be able to and start to forgive himself and start to heal. The feelings of grief and guilt and remorse must be overwhelming. I hope he finds warm hugs, listening ears, patient friends. I hope he has faith that God will bear his anger, his guilt, his grief, his sorrow.
And I hope we can forgive the people who wrote in response to that Facebook post and were quick to condemn, to judge, to give advice and to call for rules or regulations or punishment. I understand the emotional reaction that provokes such comments. I don’t want to believe I could do such a thing. I push away those feelings. And the easiest way to do that is to project my dark feelings onto the person I see as guilty and to judge and condemn.
But condemnation will not heal. Condemnation will not bring the dead back to life. Condemnation will only divide people. We need compassion. Compassion understands that we are all human, that we can identify with the mistakes of another person, even when it horrifies us to imagine ourselves in that same position. But our hope lies in reaching out to one another with love. Offering our presence, our prayers and our support. Remember: God does not condemn. God is love.
We are all grieving this loss, some more, some less. None us as much as the parents, grandparents and other family of the child who died. But this loss touches us all. And our best response is to throw arms of love and prayers of healing around them in their grief.