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Strange Ripples

by Ned Balzer

Complimentary article, The Ripples Will Go On Forever, by Judy Rainey

Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2001

I just heard from some old friends after about a several year gap in
communication. This is a sad story, but a much happier one than I initially
feared it was going to turn out to be (you'll realize why).

At one time I was very close friends with this woman -- this was almost 25
years ago. About 15 years ago she married another friend of ours -- I
didn't know him nearly as well as I knew her. By this time, although we were
still close, our communication was sporadic. The last time I talked with
them was about 4 years ago, on the occasion of their son's first birthday.

Last week the husband wrote me a cryptic email message, saying only that he
didn't know if I'd remember him and that if I responded to his message he
would write back with more information. He signed the email message with
his own name and that of their son; her name was conspicuously missing. Of
course, I dreaded to hear what he might have to say.

I replied, and waited a few days but didn't hear anything more, so this
morning I managed to track him down and we had a brief telephone
conversation.

He reassured me that everyone was still alive; he told me that he and his
wife had just finalized their divorce. When I asked what had happened, and
when, he told me that he thought the birth and death of my son Willie had
had a lot to do with it. He told me his wife was just overjoyed to receive
a picture of Willie shortly after his birth and it was the impetus for their
starting their own family, but that when she learned of Willie's death she
was devastated. He ascribed their breakup to the aftermath of what he
called "post-partum depression". I remember that during that last
conversation I had with her, she mentioned how she had failed to understand
the impact of the death of an infant until her own son was born.

Caveats here: he hastened to point out that this story is his own
interpretation of these events, and I'm sure there must have been other
issues they were dealing with. I still haven't been able to contact her to
hear her side of the story.

This whole experience really brought me back to earth. Margie and Ben and
Joel and I have been living more-or-less "normal" lives these days -- most
days the turmoil of Willie's life and death seems far away, and I am
thankful for that. But this came as a reminder of how powerful and tragic
the death of an infant really is, how many lives it touches.

And the other moral of this story is not to lose touch with your friends!

-- Ned

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