Once there was a family. Mom, Dad, Big Sister, Little Brother. Then they added a little baby, and lived happily ever after.
Isn't that how the story is supposed to go? Everyone grows up, and gets married, and everything is just peachy. As we all know, life doesn't often deal us that perfect hand. So, reality...
I was 6 years old, and we were going to the Mennonite church. I started school at the school operated by a neighboring church. My dad was working in sales. Mama was home with my younger (by 13 months) brother. Mama got pregnant and everyone was excited.
Fast forward 9 months...to January, 1975....baby brother is born. He looks normal, healthy, happy. The only thing of any note was that his ear was folded when he was born. Apparently that SHOULD have been a clue to the doctors, had they only known.....
Mama and baby John came home from the hospital, and things were uneventful for a little while, but soon clues started to pop up...he was not responding normally to things.
"Doctor, there are things that just aren't right."
More doctors' visits, tests.
"Ma'm, we're sorry to tell you this...your little baby was born with a heart defect."
John was happy, but he wasn't healthy. The doctors wanted to try to fix his little heart, but he needed to gain some weight first. So, a couple of months later, brother and I stayed with the pastor and his family, and my parents took John to the University Hospital in Charleston, SC, for his surgery.
I never saw him again. The doctors' attempt to repair John's heart didn't work...he died on the operating table.
I remember Mama and Daddy coming in, and they didn't have John with them. I kept asking, "Where's John?" I was only 7, my brother was 6. How do you explain to LITTLE children? What do you tell them?
There was a memorial service....there was no body. His body had been donated to the University, hopefully to help others....
Fall-out. There is always fall-out from these types of tragedies. Daddy's sales job went away. At least the insurance lasted long enough to cover most of the bills. Still, my parents came away from that hospital stay with $8 to their name, and 2 more children, and a farm and animals....there wasn't time to be able to take off and grieve. Work had to be found, and money made to pay the bills.
I miss my baby brother. I grieve his short 5 months of life. He would have turned 31 this year. John Joseph....we'll always miss you.
I also think of my parents, living through what had to be heart-breaking pain. Mama was 30 when John died. Daddy was 34. How do you go on? Pull yourself together, and parent your remaining children, who are too young to understand? I hurt for them, too.