I wiped my hands on the kitchen towel as I hurried to answer the telephone. I stepped over a toy truck and a pile of building blocks while I snatched the phone from the cradle as the fourth ring ended.
“Hello” I said a bit impatient for the break from my chore of canning tomatoes.
“Joel’s dead,” Rick, my husband, said in a voice I had never heard before.
I dropped into the nearest chair, buried my face in my hands as the flood of grief overcame the busyness of my morning. The conversation reverberated in my head as my young children glanced up from the toys and came to my side.
“What’s the matter, Mommy,” one asked.
“Mommy’s just sad,” I said, “I will be okay.” I gave them a hug and encouraged them to return to the front room to continue their play. I wanted to spare them from the news as long as possible. Our nephew, the son of Rick’s youngest brother Stan, had been found lifeless in his crib that morning. Sudden Infant Death had stolen this child from a loving family. My feelings were raw as I made arrangements with the neighbor to care for my children. After she arrived I rushed to my sister-in-law, Janet as she waited for her husband to return home from his trucking job. I comforted her in the only way I knew, with my arms, my presence and my tears.
The next few days were a whirlwind of pain. I went about my work on auto pilot, my long list of household chores that came with motherhood accomplished with a minimal effort. The guilt I felt as I snuggled my offspring while Stan and Janet mourned the loss of their only child entrapped my heart in a box.
At the evening service at the funeral home it took all my effort to keep the tears locked behind my eyes. I felt I would lose my composure at any given moment. Loneliness sat beside me in a room filled to over capacity with mourners for our infant nephew. The low murmur of the crowd, gathered for support, as they shuffled past was deafening.
A quiet presence slipped in to the chair next to me. Without a word my brother, Vic, reached out and gently took my hand. His caring flowed from his soul to mine as our fingers entwined. I felt loved as the softest sound, “I’m here for you” reached my heart.