The toughest question a parent is ever asked

One of the toughest questions a parent has to answer is about death.  Years ago as I sat beside one of our sons in intensive care watching his battle… I heard a band outside on the lawn below the windows playing Christmas carols and I remember thinking…If Justin dies, next year the band will still come and play Christmas carols… It was then that I began that awful journey of letting a tired soul go… little knowing then, that twelve weeks after Justin lost his valiant battle…his twin, Nolan, would go to bed and never wake…

Some of my journey shows through in this passage with Leon and his young son…  


Leon sat at Jordan’s bedside, quietly reading to him. When the child’s breathing deepened and his eyelids fluttered closed, he marked their place with a bookmark.

Would Jordan ever get hear the end of the adventures of the boy wizard?  

Jordan’s eyelids fluttered open. “Have you finished the chapter?”

“Not quite but you’re tired.” He leaned across the bed and straightened the sheet, frowning as he saw the faint sheen of sweat on the boy’s forehead. “I’ll leave you to rest.”

Panic flashed in his child’s eyes. “Don’t go, Dad. I hate being here alone.”

“I won’t.” The words caught at the lump of grief that had taken up permanent residence in Leon’s chest. His grip on his son’s hand firmed as if by this action alone he could prevent the child slipping even further away.

Jordan was quiet so long; Leon thought he’d gone to sleep.

“How does it feel to die, Dad? Does it hurt?”

Fear clutched at Leon’s heart and he sucked in a shuddering breath. The question brought him to his knees. Dear God, I pray it doesn’t happen.

“No, it doesn’t hurt,” he said, his voice husky as he remembered how Julia had slipped into perpetual sleep. One moment she was there, the next she was not. “When it’s time, an angel comes and sits on your shoulder and carries your spirit to heaven.”

“Will I be with mummy then?”

“Yes, you’ll be with mummy. And you know how much she loved you. She’ll take care of you.” Somehow, Leon found the courage to give the child what reassurance he could. “But you’re not going to die, Jordan. Your other mother is a donor match and she’s going to give you some healthy bone marrow.”

Leon cursed Veronica’s intransigence. Surely to God, she’d come and visit Jordan, and help allay his fears. Doesn’t she know how much he needs the reassurance of actually seeing her?

“Why doesn’t she come to see me? Doesn’t she like me?”

Jordan looked at him, his blue eyes so like his birth-mother’s, and filled with wisdom far beyond his years. Leon hated that sickness had robbed his son of his vitality, made him think about things no ten year-old-boy should ever have to consider.

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Published on Sunday, November 4th, 2012, under Latest News

4 Responses to “The toughest question a parent is ever asked”

  1. J.T.Webster says:

    A very touching piece.
    You’re very brave to write this having lost your own boys.

    • shirley says:

      Surprising enough, writing has helped me more than anyone will ever know…this is one of the reasons that, no matter how hard I try, I can’t write frivilous.
      And my garden has been my therapy. I created a whole garden watered with tears.

  2. Shirley, so sad to read about your personal loss. Your writing is very touching. It brought tears to my eyes.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. shirley says:


    This is a book from my heart…One Hour to Midight…and hopefully it will be ready to publish before Christmas. It isn’t all sad, because life isn’t all sad. Our boys were such fun…I’ve never known two young men with more “joy de vivre” ever. And I never hear UB40 singing Red, Red Wine without thinking of them, either.

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