I just got home from a funeral.
Despite what the first three letters of the word may indicate, funerals are never fun. This one was especially sad and just…WRONG. Going to the funeral for a young, vibrant 20-year-old is something that just shouldn’t happen. It is out of order of how life should be.
I have put off writing about it because ever since I got the news I feel like I have been holding back a huge dam of emotion with a wall made of toothpicks. I don’t mean to take this and turn it into something that is about me, but this has evoked some powerful emotions and very painful memories for me.
I never met the person whose service I attended today. He was the son of my long-time OBGYN, Dr. Mark D. Heiner, who relocated to North Carolina about a year-and-a-half ago. His name was David and he was a Sophomore in college. You should have heard the lovely things that were said about him at his memorial. He just seemed like an amazing young man. Passionate, bright, and above all-very kind and loving. He was visiting his family in North Carolina and was swimming with his brothers at their country club pool and he was found at the bottom of the pool. After several days it was determined that his brain was not functioning, he was removed from life support and passed away on June 18th.
Today would have been his 20th birthday.
I know it may seem a little strange to go the the funeral of the son of your doctor, and to have such sorrow about it, but you don’t know Dr. Heiner. He has been my doctor since 1995. He delivered all three of my boys and brought all of them into the world kindly and safely. When I had a massive blood clot after Christopher was born, he diagnosed it over the phone and told me to get to the emergency room immediately. It saved my life.
I consider him more than a doctor. He is a friend. He is the kindest and most HILARIOUS man. I swear most of the progress made during my labors was because of the hysterical laughter going on in the delivery room. He once told me to schedule my yearly checkup in the winter because they are gray and boring. He is just wonderful.
When my little Matthew was born, Dr. Heiner was one of the first people to see him. That fact ALONE would be more than enough to make him a very special person in my life. He was the one who told me that he had red hair. Being a redhead himself, Dr. Heiner piped up, “You realize this means he is going to be a genius, right?”
When Matthew passed away and I was writing his obituary, I included Dr.Heiner. Matthew’s life was so short that there were not many people who made a significant impact with him outside of family and friends. He came to bug’s funeral and he was very helpful to me when I was dealing with the enormous fallout that happened because of Matthew’s death. He was non-judgmental, loving and wise.
It was very sad to know that he and his beautiful family are going through such a horrible loss, knowing what I know. I waited a very long time in the receiving line to see him and his lovely wife. I recognized the looks on their faces and I just cannot express how my heart hurt for them. For what they have been through and for what is ahead of them.
You would think that someone who has had a son die would know better what to say, but I didn’t. Even those who have lived through it are at a loss of what to say in the face of such awful tragedy like this. So? I just went on instinct, and I hugged both of them and told them how very sorry I was and how I had been thinking of them. There were some tears. There was also a good deal of laughter. (I know that also may sound strange, but honestly, it’s how I deal with things like this and besides, Dr. Heiner started it!)
I am very grateful that they had 20 years of memories that they can hold close to them. I envy that. I know that probably sounds petty of me, and some of you may wonder how in the world anyone could envy people who have had such a huge loss, but I would give anything to have had more than 4 months with my little bug, to have seen what kind of man Matthew would have grown into, even if it meant ultimately saying goodbye.
However, Dr.Heiner said something very profound during the eulogy. He said that even if he had known David would pass away at 20, he would have had him again in a heartbeat. I feel the same way about my little bug. Even though my time as his mother was so very, very short, he was absolutely precious. I would do it all again without hesitation.
Above everything, the sentiment that was expressed time and time again during the service is how each person would give anything to have more time with David. Things like this are so difficult but they are also needed to put life into perspective. To value what you have. To hug those you love a little tighter and give thanks that they are still here and safe.
So? What are you waiting for? Go tell someone you love them.