Unwelcome news

Our phone rang one night last week while we were cleaning up after dinner. My wife answered the phone and took it outside so she could hear over the kids. She was out for a while, and when she came back in the house, I heard her tear-choked voice calling me.

For most of us, the sudden death of a small child is only a fever dream from which we wake in the early hours of the morning. For one family in our town, though, it's now an unwelcome fact of their life. The call was from the director of our 3-year-old daughter's preschool. A classmate of YD's had died suddenly while under anesthesia for a tonsillectomy, as we were told later. The boy was four years old, and one of only eight in the class. The teachers had known him from the previous year's class as well, so you can imagine how close they were to him. Our daughter is young enough that his absence is not much more significant than if he had moved away, but we have talked to her about her classmate being with God now.

The circumstances of this child's death were part of an ordinary occurence, a very unusual result but a known risk nonetheless. Of our four children, both sons have undergone general anesthesia: one for a hernia operation, and one for tubes in his ears. My wife and I have each had occasion to be put under. The medical staff have always dutifully mentioned the risks, but this is a risk we've always been able to ignore. Four times in eight years one of us has been unconscious on an operating table, and not once have we seriously considered the dangers. It's safe to say we won't be so cavalier the next time one of us goes in for a routine procedure.

In the meantime, tell your loved ones that they are loved.