One time a few years ago, I was taking a casserole to a friend who had unexpectedly lost her sibling in a tragic and early death. As I drove down her quiet, tree-lined avenue in Charlotte, I noticed on one side of the street a stork yard sign and a pink wreath adorning one house, announcing the happy arrival of little Sophia Jane. My friend’s house was just opposite, unmarked by the monumental life change that had also occurred behind her front door. In years past, I had always seen those baby wreaths and storks and felt a little jump of excitement for the new parents. I thought “what wonderful news!” and “how exciting” and maybe, sometimes, said a prayer of joy for the family celebrating inside. This time I thought, how unfair that a family, my friend’s family, had suffered their own earthquake but was suffering in silence, in anonymity. The passers-by on this street had no idea of the agony that was being endured inside that house. No black wreath marked the door, no sign announced the passing of a young life. No one knew to pray as they passed that house of grief.
Tonight I am sleepless with sorrow for my friend Meg McElwain in Charlotte. Many of you know her; others have followed her journey through Facebook or her remarkable guest blog for the Charlotte Observer. Tonight she mourns the death from cancer of her baby son, Mitchell. As I write this, “mourns” seems so impotent. Isn’t there a word more violent that could capture a mother’s anguish in the death of her child? There is no doubt Meg and all who loved little Mitchie have a long and miserable journey ahead of them. If only people who passed their home knew the pain behind their closed curtains. Someone once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Let me also add, even the people you don’t meet are fighting hard battles, tucked inside their homes, closed off from the outside world, hurting and healing. Remember them as you go about your day, even if there is no black wreath on the front door.