A Parent’s Pain

October 26, 2010

Jon Duane

Jon Duane

The summer before my fourth grade year my brother Jon was born with a congenital heart defect. It was devasting for my parents.

I remember during our family devotions we kids would pray “please fix the hole in Jonny’s heart.” My father always cried. One day, my older (and wiser) sister suggested we phrase our prayer differently.

When Jonny died on October 26, two months after he was born, I remember riding in the limousine with my family to the cemetery. I remember my father holding my hand and in his nervous emotion, he rubbed it so hard it began to hurt.

A parent’s pain can be so great.

Decades later, in the late 90s, my mother Carol became ill with ovarian cancer. It was devastating for her mother—my grandmother—Ruth.

For three years Ruth watched helplessly as her daughter fought a cancer that invaded her body all the while enduring treatments that stole her dignity and sapped her strength. At my mother’s funeral, I remember the painful anguish in my grandmother’s eyes.

“Children are not supposed to die before their parents,” my grandmother said. A parent’s pain can be so great.

In 2005, I watched my sister and her husband face the horror of losing their 20-yr-old son. They have struggled through days darker than anyone can imagine.

No, children are not supposed to die before their parents.

But sometimes they do. It has happened in families throughout all of history, including Ruth and George’s ancestral families.

We remember Olga, daughter of Carl and Sophia Larson (George’s parents). She died of a brain tumor when she was only 32.

We also remember Carl, son of Rudolph and Eliza Hooge. He was Ruth’s father and died when he was only 36.

Here’s something I didn’t know— Rudolph and Eliza lost other children as well.

When they settled in Chicago in 1886, Rudolph and Eliza had four children; Otto,10; Emma, 8; Carl, 5; and Hermann, 2. By 1900, according to the U.S. census, Eliza was the mother of six children, but only three of them were still living—Otto, Emma and Carl. Little Hermann died in December 1886, the same year they came to America. A daughter, Johanna, was born in 1888, and died of appendicitis when she was only nine years old. Their third loss, a child whose records I’m unable to find, may have been born and died in Germany or in the United States between 1886 and 1900 (there are no 1890 census records due to a fire).

When I look at my family today—my parents, my grandmother, and my sister, whose children have died before them—there is no way I can understand their pain. Yet, I share the same faith they have, a faith in God’s loving grace.

Our children are God’s children and he assigned us to be their caretakers. Some of us for our lifetimes. Some of us only for theirs.

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4 Responses to “A Parent’s Pain”

  1. Ann Says:

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts and memories, Diahann.

    It reminds us to just take a deep breath and appreciate our kids – all our loved ones, really.

  2. Rhonda Martinez Says:

    Awww.. what a sweet picture. I don’t remember you mentioning your brother Jon before. That’s a sad story though so not something you’d bring up in conversation, I suppose. As you know my brother David died at age 19 at the hands of a drunk driver. It was a pain my parents never got over and I’m convinced was a contributing factor in their eventual divorce. Up until that time we were the all-american family. It made me happy to know Dad and David had a recent reunion. I find it interesting that you and I both named our sons after our brothers – your Jonny and my Danny David.

    • adunate Says:

      Thanks Rhonda. Your Dad getting to see David was the first thought that came to mind a couple weeks ago when your Dad died. That’s what we said about my Mom and Jonny when she died.

      And yes, we named our Jonny with my brother in mind. Our Jonny was born October 27, the day after the anniversary of my brother’s death. Interestingly, when I researched the Hooge siblings I mention above, I found that when Emma married and had a daughter, she named her Johanna, after her younger sister who died.


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