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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.

Ned Balzer

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.

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