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When Your Child Dies: Thoughts After 10 Years

Written by Gary North on February 4, 2017

It has been a decade since I wrote my son’s obituary. I posted it the next day.

Lew Rockwell posted it the day after I posted it.

Writing it eased the pain. Writers often write to ease pain. When you are depressed, work. Work is a productive pain-killing drug.

Warning: If you ever get tingling sensations in your heels, and they move up your calves, then thighs, always moving higher, year by year, get to the Mayo Clinic. They will become spasms when they reach your lower back. They will keep moving up until they are inside your skull. Read the obituary for more details.

I did not know at the time I wrote the obituary where the police found his body in his one-room apartment. It was not on the floor or in bed or slumped in a chair. This is rare, as you might imagine. His body was slumped face-down on the counter next to the kitchen sink. They surmised that he had walked over to the sink, suffered a seizure, died instantly, and fell face-down. The horizontal weight of his upper body supported his entire body. It never hit the floor.


When a close relative dies, you must adjust. There had been a relationship. Now it is gone.

Death is irreversible. We know this, but it is driven home when someone close to you dies. The finality is inescapable. There are no loopholes.

We do not normally bury our children. They bury us. So, we regard our relationships with them as permanent for us, though not for them. Then this permanence ends. This creates a hole in our lives. When death comes without warning, we are unprepared for the size of this hole.

It seems as though it will not fill up. This is correct. It never does. But time moves on, and life’s events are like weeds in a field. They fill up our memories. Better put, they clutter up our memories. Life is mostly clutter amidst unmemorable, undated routines. We recall so little of it.

We move on. We may occasionally think back to the time when the deceased played a role in our lives. That inevitably draws our attention to the hole. It is just as big as it was when it first appeared, but it is concealed by clutter.

As we age, the years pass by faster. One year for a 60-year-old is a much smaller percentage of his life than one year for a five-year-old. The percentage gets smaller as we age.

The size of death’s hole is like that 12-month interval. It is just as big as it ever was, and just as final. But its impact in our lives is less. This is a blessing. It makes it easier to deal with the hole. We deal with it by ignoring it. Anyway, I do. My wife says she remembers him every day. She has a photo of him and his brother as adults on the message board above her desk.

It is said that time heals all wounds. They get less painful. Then they stop hurting. But some wounds leave scars. The death of a child is such a wound. It reminds of us of all the good things that did not develop. In the case of my son, this thought does not bother me. He suffered too much from that unnamed disease. Death was deliverance. No experts knew how to deliver him from that affliction. I do not look back and say: “If we had not done such and such, that affliction might not have come.” I don’t know what it was, let alone what caused it. I do not second-guess myself about that which had no causal explanation when he was alive.

Second-guessing the past is not productive. If we did not see something coming when we were right in front of it, then we were guessing. Most of life involves guessing. We are not responsible for that which we could not see, and which was inherently unimaginable.

Life is mostly cluttered routine. It is difficult to see through the cluttered routine.


My son knew that I had always liked the music of the Carter family. One year, he gave me the autobiography of Johnny Cash for Christmas. For Christmas 2006, he gave me a biography of the Carter family. I noticed the cover and the topic, but the title did not sink in. I had just started my website, Gary North’s Specific Answers, in 2006. I was busy. I did not read the book at the time.

He died a month later, as far as we know.

About a year after his death, I got it out to read it. Only then did I notice its title.

“Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?”

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