Down to the Soundless Sea is a compilation of short stories by Thomas Steinbeck. Sing Fat and the Imperial Duchess of Woo is the last in the volume. It tells the story of Sing Fat, a Chinese immigrant to the USA, who becomes the apprentice to a wise and experienced apothecary, Chow Yong Fat.
Chow tells Sing about the loss of his two children.
…his beloved children had passed into the shadow world to join their venerable ancestors eight years past. They had died of an exotic malady contracted from the whites. Sadly the illness had proven unassailable and immune to all his medical skills.
The tragedy had another victim.
His poor wife had died of protracted anguish, grief, and shame a year later. … When her two beautiful sons died, the apothecary’s despondent wife had abandoned the will to live.
Cause of death?
She expired under the darkest of all human veils, he said: self-recrimination, remorse, and illusions of culpability.
A few lines of fiction, but so very familiar.
Of all the griefs, the loss of a child – or children – is acknowledged as the most painful to bear. Of all bereavements, the guilt and self-recrimination of the parent can be the very worst.
As we bereaved parents battle through life without our children, we search and hopefully find ways to survive. Blogging can be one means; setting up or participating in a charity and doing good for others can also help. Memorialising our child through a campaign highlighting issues around his or her death is another, like Louise, another member of The Compassionate Friends, has done. Louise lost her beautiful daughter Becky. Here’s a link to an article and BBC Radio interview regarding issues with preserving a digital legacy. (Digital legacies is an important issue for all of us, whoever we have loss – and also for future planning for ourselves, so I hope you’ll have a look.)
Whatever this day holds, I hope I can do something to honour the memory of my children, Pax and Catherine.