Thursday, August 12, 2004

Cardiac Event

Karen and I have learned to keep busy. Work, projects, errands, anything to keep the mind busy, to keep our thoughts racing along so we don't have time to obsess over Ariel's absence. I write my scripts in the morning. The afternoon is devoted to Seraphic Press, our new publishing company, established as a memorial to Ariel and his desire for fine literature appropriate for observant Jewish teens. Memories of Ariel are inevitable whenever I'm in a medical setting. A few months ago, I was in for a routine cardiac evaluation. A dozen wires were hooked up to my body. I thought about Ariel. In the last weeks of his life there were so many wires and tubes running in and out of his poor body that just turning over in bed was a major move that required the assistance of two nurses. I would help Ariel shift positions and marvel at his patience. I'm sorry this is such a pain, I said to him as we tried to maneuver through the chaos of wires. Ariel merely smiled his adorable half smile and said, No problem, it's a challenge. As the cardiac nurse ran tests on me, the tears started sliding down my face. I tried to hold them back, but once you start crying for a dead child, well, it's almost impossible to stop. The nurse looked at me and asked if I was in pain. No, I sobbed. She bolted out of the examination room, certain I was having a cardiac episode. The doctor entered. My doctor is also my friend and goes to synagogue with me. He and his wife visited Ariel a few times a week. They are close friends. The most decent and fine people I have ever known. And so as I lay there crying, he tried to comfort me, but soon he too was weeping. Ariel was a tzaddik, he sobbed, he was a tzaddik. The machines beeped. My heart pumped. The odor of disinfectant, that sickly hospital smell, made me vaguely nauseated. My friend, my doctor, gently removed the connections and sent me home. Why was I crying? I asked Karen when I got home. Was I crying over all that Ariel endured? Yes, but I was also crying because we did not save him. He suffered so much and our job as parents is to protect our children. We tried. We did everything humanly possible to save our son. We got second opinions, third opinions; Karen is probably the world's leading expert on germinoma tumors. The rational part of my brain understands all this. I know that ultimately we can only do so much. But don't you think that after a child suffers so much, endures so much agony that his life will be spared? I keep seeing Ariel's face. Looking at us, I knew that he trusted us. When a decision had to be made, a difficult medical decision--and there were dozens and dozens, Ariel would look at the doctor with his effortless smile and say, I trust my parents. They know what's best for me. I hear his voice a hundred times a day. And I worry that somewhere along the way we made the wrong decision. Karen says that we did all we could. She reminds me that just the other night I assured her that Ariel wouldn't have lived as long as he did, eight years post tumor, if we hadn't done our research, investigated all the options and consulted with multiple specialists. We always opted for the cutting edge treatment, the one that would give him a better chance, even when it meant more cycles of chemo, more radiation. She says she still feels defeated, but does not doubt our efforts. I think she is able to say this because, whenever she felt that Ariel was vulnerable, that the nurses not up to speed, she chose to sleep at the hospital, keeping her vigil. She tells me that Ariel appreciated us, he did trust us, and with good reason. It's just that G-d had a different plan.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

May G-d grant you peace.

August 13, 2004 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger With Love said...

Of course you and Karen did all you could. There can't be even the tiniest fraction of a doubt about that. The problem - emotional and religious - is that you did everything you could but Ariel was taken from you anyway. We all do this to ourselves - we torture ourselves asking if we could have done more, or differently, because facing our own helplessness is so much scarier. I certainly have no answer to the question why an innocent child can suffer to no end that we can fathom. Not only that: if G-d has His own reasons, then I have a "machloket" with Him. But I do believe that if we let Him, He has the power to comfort us in the face of the unbearable and the incomprehensible, even if we can't accept what He has allowed to happen.

August 15, 2004 at 4:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can really empathize with this mind-boggling struggle of "not having done enough", because I went through it myself. However, I never let these feelings penetrate too deeply, for I understood that it is the Yetzer Hora's scheme to undermine and distort my full trust and belief in a Higher Power that rules the world. Once you can learn to accept the truth that nothing in this world happens by chance, that everything is planned by a great Master Planner who orchestrates all events, however miniscule or great, you will never have doubts that what you did was perhaps not enough. It was definitely the best you could have done or, that was ordained for you to do.
Crying with you...

August 16, 2004 at 11:00 AM  

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