The Everlasting Pain of Losing a Child

More from our inbox:

  • Clarence Thomas’s Ethics
  • Political Novices
  • Don’t Kill the Lanternflies
  • Ignoring the Truth About Trump

Credit…Karlotta Freier

To the Editor:

Re “Life After Loss Is Awful. I Need to Believe It’s Also Beautiful,” by Sarah Wildman (Opinion, Aug. 27):

I just read your essay, Ms. Wildman, about your daughter Orli, and I know everything you are saying and am crying with you and for you and for myself.

I know what it is to look for your child everywhere, in a rainstorm, in trees and butterflies. I even looked for my son, Jack, in an exhibit of Goya paintings, seeing him in a young man of about his age and size, even though the clothes and setting were of another era.

I used to pretend, as long as I could, that the person coming toward me on the trail near our house was Jack. When I hugged his friends, I’d pretend I was hugging him. Unlike you, we lost Jack suddenly, and we had him for what I think of as a third of a life, 26 years. He died skiing in an avalanche in Montana in 1999, almost as long ago as he got to live.

That longing ache, the feeling of having failed him, that I should have tamped down his physical daring — I know those too. I am so sorry for your loss that nothing can make go away.

We used to say: “We’ve been really good and grieved well. Can we have him back now?” I guess we were saying it to the universe.

Bonnie Gilliom
Chapel Hill, N.C.

To the Editor:

There is overwhelming grace and dignity to this piece and to its earlier companion in the aftermath of Sarah Wildman’s daughter’s death (“My Daughter’s Future Was Taken From Her, and From Us,” May 21).

A palpable cascading sadness and grief, resting side by side with a longing to remain attached to what was beautiful in Orli’s universe and what remains so even now that she has passed. Two universes colliding, a mother trying to reconcile these impossibly irreconcilable differences.

I am thankful that Ms. Wildman has allowed us into her world. That she has given us permission to see and feel what such devastating loss looks like, how it manifests itself, how to try to manage it even as it cannot be managed.

There can be no greater pain, no greater loss than that of watching a child slip through one’s grasp as you try desperately to hold on. But Orli will remain forever present through the words of her mother.

And though she may no longer be able to protect her daughter, Ms. Wildman has been able to preserve her and her memory. It is a mother’s last loving gift to her wonderful child.

Robert S. Nussbaum
Fort Lee, N.J.

To the Editor:

I have finished reading Sarah Wildman’s essays on the loss of her daughter. I too have lost a child, although he was 42 years old. I still weep at times that have no connection to losing him. He was my “baby,” and there are days when I can still feel his presence even though he died almost six years ago.

Ms. Wildman’s articulation of the grief as ever-changing but everlasting was heartbreaking, but consoling as well. Just knowing that other parents have felt the soul-wrenching pain of this awful loss and continue on with their lives as I have feels like a warm hug.

I don’t ever have to end this grieving of my loss. I can allow the memories I hold of him to live with me. I often want to tell family and friends that talking about my son doesn’t have to be off limits. Remembering him for the loving, sensitive and funny person he was is a way to honor and celebrate his memory.

Patricia Koulepis
Phoenix, Md.

Clarence Thomas’s Ethics

Justice Clarence Thomas had requested a 90-day extension for his financial disclosures.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Thomas Defends His Private Trips With Billionaire” (front page, Sept. 1):

Justice and ethics both require adherence to what is morally right. In his flagrant disregard for such principles, Justice Clarence Thomas has done irreparable harm to a once respected institution.

The Supreme Court may never regain the public trust it once held, but Chief Justice John Roberts could make a small beginning by urging Justice Thomas to resign. The perks that Justice Thomas and his wife, Virginia, have already enjoyed should be enough for a lifetime.

He could do a great service to history and to his own legacy by doing the just, ethical and statesmanlike thing: a graceful resignation in the interest of the court and the country.

Fran Moreland Johns
San Francisco
The writer is an author and activist.

Political Novices

When asked about some past comments, Vivek Ramaswamy has denied ever making them or claimed to have been misquoted, even as those denials have been refuted.Credit…Rachel Mummey for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Ramaswamy’s Repeated Aversion to the Facts Mirrors Trump’s Pattern” (news article, Aug. 31):

The idea has taken hold that a person with no government experience, particularly a successful businessman, can be president. You wouldn’t want a neophyte to remove your gallbladder or give you a haircut, but apparently a lot of people feel differently about picking a president.

Donald Trump — with no legislative, foreign policy or executive branch experience, little knowledge of history or government, and little understanding of the powers of the president — was elected and is still wildly popular with his party.

What Donald Trump taught us is that the skill and experience it takes to become president, to get the job, and the skill and experience it takes to be president, to do the job, are not the same. It isn’t that they are not exactly the same; it is that they are totally different. The Venn diagram circles, Mr. Trump has taught us, do not intersect. He has also taught us that the second skill doesn’t have to be on your résumé to get the job.

At least one person, Vivek Ramaswamy, has learned this lesson. If this works, it is democracy’s Achilles’ heel.

Clem Berne
South Salem, N.Y.

Don’t Kill the Lanternflies

Encouraging the public to kill spotted lanternflies can help raise awareness of the problem while scientists seek a lasting solution, experts said. These lanternflies were flattened by a photographer.Credit…Ali Cherkis for The New York Times

To the Editor:

New York City’s lanternfly bloodsport is sending our children the wrong message. “Swatting and Stomping in a Lanternfly Summer” (news article, Sept. 3) encourages us to continue the killing despite its obvious futility.

First, it’s absurd to think that we can control the pest population one stomp at a time. Second, you don’t have to be a follower of ahimsa (the ancient Indian principle of nonviolence) to see that encouraging our children to destroy a life is problematic, even, or especially, a small and annoying one. Third, it teaches our children that the lanternfly is the problem while ignoring the root problem: us.

Humanity’s sprawling globalization, ignoring its effects on nature, created the pest by introducing it into a new environment. Perhaps a better lesson for our children would be to point out the lanternfly as an unintended consequence of human practices and to teach them to be a better steward of our planet than we were.

Ari Greenbaum
Teaneck, N.J.

Ignoring the Truth About Trump

To the Editor:

Remember when we were kids and someone was going to say something that we didn’t want to hear? We’d stick our fingers into our ears or make a lot of noise to drown out the anticipated comment.

Isn’t this essentially what Matt Gaetz and other Republicans are doing in their proposal to defund Jack Smith’s investigation of former President Donald Trump?

Yeah, growing up can be hard. We often hear things we’d prefer to remain ignorant of. For some, ignorance is still bliss.

Robert Selverstone
Westport, Conn.

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