An unspeakable grief

July 8, 2006

I work as a newspaper reporter, and I dig my job.

It seems that every day I am writing about a new topic, educating myself (and hopefully, my readers) in the process. Another huge bonus: the many people I get to interact with. I am by nature a shy person, and I know I wouldn’t otherwise get to engage with such a wide variety of personalities.

But there’s one aspect of my job that is very difficult for me: having to interview grieving families.

It’s sad but true that every day, people die in ways that are violent and tragic and unjust. Yesterday, I interviewed two sets of parents whose kids, home for the summer following their freshman year of college, died in a horrific car accident on July 4th; the 19-year-old driver was drinking and speeding. He survived with minor injuries.

It was never easy for me to write stories like this. Now that I’m a mother, listening to a woman who has lost her only child is indescribably difficult.

Her pain was so raw and so palpable; all I wanted to do was put my arms around this woman as she poured her heart out. Instead, I struggled unsuccessfully to hold back my own tears, asked gentle questions, oohed and aahed over his adorable baby pictures. I praised her and her husband for raising such an accomplished, intellectual and considerate young man, a straight A student at UC Berkeley who dreamed of being a history professor some day.

At the other family’s home, I watched a videotape of their daughter’s dance recital. She was a beautiful and accomplished ballerina who loved Fred Astaire movies and could recite all the dialogue from “Napoleon Dynamite.” I held her mother’s hand as she wrestled between grief at the loss of her daughter and anger at the young man who was driving.

I felt like an intruder, but they thanked me for listening, for letting people know who their children were. I promised to try and do their lives some justice, even though I only had 25 column inches to do it in. Then I drove back to the office, crying for the loss of these promising young people, aching for their families, and yearning to get home and shower my daughter with kisses.

Motherhood has helped me realize that life is fleeting. It has made me resolve to make the most of each day, treat everyone with kindness and savor each giggle and coo.

It has made me realize that there’s no such thing as too many hugs– especially when it comes to my baby.