My favorite Shakespeare sonnet begins, “When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes/I all alone beweep my outcaste state/And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries/And look upon myself, and curse my fate.”
I started having one of those afternoons, after the caffeine wore off and the work day wore on. I got home, took out the trash, and checked Alex’s notebook for homework assignments and saw a note from his teacher saying Willie (in another class) had passed away over the weekend. I know a Willie in another class; his mother Debbie babysat Alex for almost 2 years, and Willie’s brother Charlie was good friends with Ryan until the boys went to different middle schools. I still think of them often. I went to get Alex from school a month or so ago, and I ran into Willie and one of his teacher’s in the hallway. I couldn’t believe how much he’d grown since the last time I saw him. (I wish there was a rule that boys aren’t allowed to grow mustaches until they move out of their parents’ houses, so that until then, their mothers don’t have to accept that their baby isn’t a baby anymore.)
The Willie I knew was born with severe cerebral palsy and while everyone knew he’d never have the same quality of life as a “normal” child, his parents did the best they could to ensure that he was happy, safe, and as healthy as possible. He required 24/7 care but as the saying goes, a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do. My mom once told me she was proud of me for getting through all Ryan’s medical issues when he was younger, to which I replied, “I didn’t know there was an option.” It’s just what you do for your child. God put this baby in your hands and said, “Here. Take good care of him and love him with all you’ve got,” and no matter what situation the baby is in, you do everything you can. At least, the people with half a brain do that. There are others that I shudder to think about.
I emailed Alex’s teacher and yes, the Willie that passed away is the Willie we knew. It was sudden and unexpected, and I’m heartbroken for his family. Practically speaking, I’d like to believe that this makes things easier for them; no more constant care, no more rearranging their lives for Willie’s sake. He’s in a good place now; he’s safe and he’s happy and he’s fully abled in a way he wasn’t when he was here on earth with us. I bet wherever he is, he’s smiling, missing his parents like crazy, wishing for a hug from his mom or a laugh from his dad or a kind word from his little brother.
I can’t fathom what his mom and dad and brother Charlie are going through right now. I don’t even want to try to imagine myself in their shoes. I only pray that they’ll find peace again, soon, and they know that the love they shared with Willie over his few years has gone on with him, and he’s on the other side now, shining through it.
God bless you, Willie. I’m so happy you were here. We’ll miss you.