I heard the phone ring, checked the caller ID, and saw that it was my Baba (grandma, for all you non-ukrainians). She usually calls to check in on me, and mostly her little sunshine, Sacha. Sacha is her first and only great grandchild, and she lives for him.
This conversation was not a check-in. She was calling to tell me that a little boy in my hometown was killed in a quading accident. I knew this boy. Well, I remember him as a preschooler, which, at 12 years of age, he no longer was. She told me the details as she knew them, and spoke of his mother, crying out to her son to wake up. “I know how she feels,” my Baba said, a distinct tear in her voice. ‘I know how she feels.”
It’s not the same, I thought. This was a young boy, killed in a senseless accident. My dad died at 41 years of age, and although it was an accident, he had lived a life, married, and had children. He was an adult. How could it be the same?
After hanging up the phone, I realized it is the same. The young boy was his mother’s baby. My dad was my Baba’s baby. He may have been 41, but she cried for him and held him on his death bed just as I hold Sacha when he bonks his head or cries in the night, with all the love and care a mother has for her baby. When she thinks of him, she thinks of her lost baby. Just as Sacha is, and will always be, my baby.
I looked at Sacha differently after that conversation. Yes, he is my 15 month old baby boy, but he will always be my baby boy, that I’ll live to love and protect as long as I live. And that must be the hardest part for my Baba – feeling like she didn’t protect her baby when she should have.
It isn’t right for a mother to outlive her child. It just shouldn’t happen. But it does, and no matter whether the baby is 2 months old, 12 years old, or 41 years old, it pierces the soul in a way that cannot be repaired nor explained.
And I pray that I will never have to explain it.