The most heartbreaking experience I have ever had was not the death of my sister. That was number two on the list. An enormous number two, but two nonetheless. Number one was my 2 year-old nephew wailing desperately for "Mommy" while my sister was in the hospital in the weeks before her death.
Every night of his very short life, he had fallen asleep cuddling with Mommy, until she was inexplicably gone. I cuddled with him, his Nana cuddled with him until he would eventually quiet down, calmed, but not consoled. Because there is no consolation for that. Not as an adult, and certainly not as a toddler who has no concept of illness or death, no way to comprehend what is happening.
When Pamela, z"l, died, I was gutted beyond belief, but I knew what was going on. I might not have understood the why, but I knew the what. I knew she wasn't coming back. I had no way of helping this tiny little being soothe his pain and terror. There are no words to explain. His suffering was solitary. I can at least talk to others who have lost a sibling, and know that they understand. A 2 year-old has no one to feel his fear, and his is the only pain that exists in the whole universe.
Today I had a doctor's appointment. While waiting, a little girl, maybe all of 3, was wailing her heart out. She was terrified, sobbing with everything she had, "Ima, Ima" while her father tried to calm her and console her (he was brilliant, by the way). Every time she cried "Ima" I felt it right in my heart. Because I heard "Mommy" with every cry. I heard a little 2 year-old boy in my arms, howling into my chest. This little girl may have only been crying over getting a shot, but her pain and fear were the same. She wanted the one and only person who was her core support. The one person she trusted most to protect her and keep her from harm. And that one person wasn't there at that moment. And for a child, that moment is the only one that exists. Thank God that little girl was going to be able to go home and be soothed by Ima.
And I was able to hold it together long enough to fall apart in the car, instead of in front of a hall full of strangers in the doctor's waiting room.