Incredible, heart-stopping and stunning though it sounds, we lost two children this week at the Latika Roy Foundation.
I am writing here to try and make some kind of sense of two facts which simply make no sense at all, and cannot, perhaps, ever make sense – especially added together, especially at the same time.
Children aren’t supposed to die. Children are the hope of an aging world, of our own aging selves. They are the reason we continue, they are what inspire us to do more, to do better, to create a future where they can live in peace and comfort. If they die, what are we doing still here? What is the point of going on? It is against nature.
Kunal was 14. He was a favorite at Latika Vihar, where he had been a member since the age of five and where he was now, as one of the “Band of Boys,” an indispensable volunteer. When his friends found out at school that morning that he had died, they were wild with grief. They left their classes as a group and somehow made their way to Latika Vihar – the only place they could think of to gather, the only place where they knew they would find people who understood what they were going through.
Our buildings are all multi-purpose and Latika Vihar in the evening is Karuna Vihar in the morning. When the KV teachers opened the gates to the small mob of LV children, nearly incoherent with sorrow, they realized immediately that more help than they could provide was needed. They called Hema, Sunita and Sunita – also multi-purpose for they work at CVT in the morning and Latika Vihar in the evening.
They came rushing, overwhelmed with their own sadness, but aware of the need to comfort these children.
Yet what could they do, really? As my friend Natasha puts it: “The world is a cruel place. And the kids know it. Don’t waste time pretending otherwise to them.”
The kids know it.
For all of us – kids and grownups – it got worse.
A few days later, we heard that Shabd had died. Shabd was an EIC child and had been with us since 2008. Shabd had a sleepy, fetching gaze. He drew us in with his sweetness and his innocence and his love for music and stories. If there was a teacher ready to sing or ready to read to him, Shabd was ready to listen.
Both children had fevers that seemed ordinary at the outset but which lingered longer than normal. Both families sought medical help but too late to save their boys. Both deaths leave us confused and blank and wondering what the meaning of their far too brief lives might be.
Kunal means “One who sees beauty in everything.” Shabd means “Word.”
The death of two young boys, who were alive and well just a week ago, makes me long for the concrete, the literal. The meaning of their names is as good a place to start as any.
What can we find that is beautiful in their loss? What words can we use to express it?
Not much. Not many.
And yet, and yet . . . working in the field of disability as we do, we know that much of what passes for truth in our world is in fact a lie. We know that what the world judges worthwhile and valuable is often neither and we know that the world is a cruel place. Terrible things happen everyday. Parents lose children. Children suffer and die.
And yet: This is not all there is.
And yet: “In short measures, life may perfect be.”
And yet: “We are put on earth a little space that we may learn to bear the beams of love.”
And yet, and yet . . . when I think about children like Kunal and Shabd, when I think about their loss at so early an age, I think of the inanities I fill my own life with. I think about the time I waste and the needless sorrows I bear. I think about the things I haven’t done which I know I could have and I think about how infinitely precious each and every life is.
Kunal was a typical child. Shabd had special needs. Yet in every fundamental way, in every possible way that matters, they were the same. For their families, their deaths have created a void only years will heal. Love makes no distinctions.
If their deaths have taught me anything it is this: we do not get to choose how and where love will capture us. The Word can be spoken at any time, in any language; Beauty is visible in any face, through any eyes. We need to be open. We need to be ready.
Love will find us.
God bless our beautiful boys.