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Death’s Ripple Effect

My father-in-law, though never personally impacted, used to say something was wrong in the world when a parent outlived a child. He said he never wanted to be a member of such an exclusive club. Our nephew, his grandson, died this week at the age of 47. David is (I can’t bring myself yet to say “was”) the son of my husband’s brother and sister in law. His passing leaves behind a wife of 25 years and two college-aged daughters. Mary, Kelsey, and Emily comprise his immediate family. They lived through his six-year battle (although at times it felt like a full on war) to hold his cancer at bay. This past spring his sweet girls surprised their parents with a trip to the Dominican Republic for a wedding vow renewal ceremony. The event was a demonstration of hope for the future of this man and his family… now it will go in to their arsenal of precious memories.

I’ve been thinking of the domino effect caused by a death. It’s like the proverbial ripple effect from a stone thrown into a body of water or more aptly the seismic waves emanating from the epicenter of an earthquake. The initial impact is at the center, the nucleus- the nuclear family. Then come the ripples- David’s parents and sister are left to struggle with this loss, people who have known him all his days. Their brothers, sisters, husband, and children who not only love David, but grieve for the pain of their parents and siblings. Followed by cousins, nephews, nieces, aunts and uncles, and an array of friends who comprise outer ripples in this sea of love.

My husband and I, my step-son and his wife, are members of the outer band of ripples and waves. We have fretted for years about the impact of the stress and strain of this ugly illness on Joe and Sue, David’s parents. At the funeral service I overheard low whispers of – ”But for the grace of God there go I.”

I don’t know and don’t want to anticipate how I would handle the loss of one of my children or grandchildren. It’s an exclusive club to which I don’t want to ever be a member. It defies the natural order of life. I don’t know how David’s family will cope with their loss. All I do know, however, after observing the Standing Room Only crowd at the funeral service, is that there are a lot of ripples emanating from the epicenter of that Kitchens Clan and a lot of love. So much love. I am hoping that love and support from those ripples can carry them through.


liz-kitchensLiz Kitchens is a writer and blogger.  Her blog, Be Brave. Lose the Beige, reaches out to Lady Boomers, women of the Baby Boomer generation. Liz also blogs for Growing Bolder and Vibrant Nation, two sites devoted to aging issues. Liz conducts workshops on the health benefits of creativity and is an ambassador for the Creative Caregiving Initiative sponsored by the NCCA, The National Center for Creative Aging. Liz founded the Jeremiah Project, an after school and summer creative arts program designed to foster self esteem and encourage creative thinking among at risk middle school aged students.

Check out Liz’s blog, Be Brave. Lose The Beige, and follow her on Facebook.

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