A SIDS Uncle's Experience
In memory of William "Willie" David Stewart Balzer
November 10, 1992 ... March 10, 1993
by Dan Balzer, uncle of Willie
reprinted with permission
I want to share something written by my brother, Dan, for the Toledo (Ohio) SIDS
Support group newsletter. It is easy for me, as the father of a SIDS victim, to overlook
or take for granted the experiences of people one, or two or three, steps removed from the
awful tragedy of my son's death. I'd be interested if anyone else can share stories,
poetry, or thoughts by members of your extended families.
I was just about to leave for a job overseas when my nephew was born. I figured there
was plenty of time--my brother and his wife had already promised to come visit in a year
or so. So when the telephone call came four months later, over a crackly international
connection, the terrible news concerned someone I had never even met.
"How do you grieve for someone you don't know? How do you miss a presence you've
never felt?" Those were questions I repeated to myself the next day as I flew back
for the funeral. As "just" an uncle, I somehow had less of a "right"
to the awful event of my nephew's death than did my other relatives who had known him--his
grandparents, certainly his mother and father. My grief would be less--the hole in my
heart would be smaller, my tears would burn with less sting. But I was still family, not
just a friend or neighbor offering a somber hug and maybe some flowers or a dish of
lasagna; I still had to find a way to share in the mourning.
As it happened, there was far more than enough grief to go around. The funeral and
memorial services were, to me, both a "hello" and a "goodbye" and thus
took on their own special poignancy. Sharing in the mourning didn't mean parceling it out
in unequal portions to be experienced alone; sharing meant taking in the totality of a
terrible event together.