“What about the kid who hit the line drive?”

I looked at Cohen—his eyes were wide open, contemplating the way the kids on the baseball field must have felt as their friend stood up after being hit by a line drive in the temple, shook off the dirt, and indicated that he was fine with a nod of the head and a flip of his hand. Only to collapse minutes later.  The sixth grader never woke up.

“I am not really sure, Co-man.” He was thinking about all the times that he and his buddy, Jake, hit baseballs and pitched to each other.

“That really just sucks. I mean all he did was go to ball practice at middle school, and he died. It just sucks.”

“It does—I am not even sure how to explain it to you. Sometimes, mom has no answers ”

“It sucked when Abby died, didn’t it? I mean she is part of our family and she died. She didn’t do anything either. She just died.”

I guess I always feel a little pin prick of extra pain, even though I know it is coming. Each time a child dies in our community, it rips the scab off of the scar. As my children get older, the fragility of life becomes more apparent to them—perhaps much earlier than other children because of their sister’s short life. Teachers ask my children to write personal narratives, create timelines of their life, or write about the hard things. They always without a second consideration write about their sister. Each year, they reach a new understanding of her death, of who she might have been, of lost hope. They silently nudge me in the store when the clerk asks how many brothers and sisters they have. They look down when anyone mentions babies dying or SIDS.

We know the impact of death. We feel that death has deprived us of our full circle here on Earth.  Abby is the missing yin to the yang of our children. I have a picture in my mind of two interconnected circles. Katie Gray and Cameron form the outer circle representing the first yin and yang…Similar in personality from birth, both are strong and outspoken, outward academics who are opinionated. Cohen is in the center of the circle—He is missing half of his inner circle…He is missing his yin. Abby would have completed the inner circle—I imagine her to be like Cohen, calm and thoughtful—with an overly sensitive ability to read and see emotion—and an explosive temper when he or others are wronged. He can flip the switch in a moment from just fine to angry tears. I wish things were different…I wish that the inner circle was complete…But it is not.

Don’t get me wrong—we are a happy family, despite the anguish and horror that we have been through—we have come out on the other side. We understand the dark, but that understanding makes us appreciate the light all that much more. Someone recently told David and me that we really live life—embrace it even. And we do, we laugh, we boat, we moved 300 miles from home to our dream home at the beach several years ago, we savor great food, play tennis and run, go out with friends, buy new things, go to concerts, sporting events, swim meets and dance recitals. I think we are only able to do that because of the dark we have experienced. We know despair and still own it deep in our heart.

All I said in reply to Cohen was, “Yes, it did and does—SUCK.”