A crying mother’s tears: How many kids gotta die?

Stephanie was a beautiful baby. She weighed over eight pounds, had all her fingers and toes, sported a powerful set of lungs, and was loved immediately by her family.

Stephanie confused her older sister at first. Just days shy of being exactly two years apart, her sister wondered why Stephanie only seemed to cry or sleep. Mommy and Daddy explained to her that Stephanie was a brand new baby, and that’s what babies do until they get older. When she did, everyone would play, and laugh, and have so much fun. Soon, everyone began to adjust and accept the changes that came when Stephanie came home.

Then one day, Stephanie went away and never came home again. She went to sleep and never woke up again, Mommy and Daddy said to her sister through tears. Everyone had to learn to adjust to the changes that came when Stephanie went away, but no one ever adjusted to the hurt that came in her place.

To this day, we rarely talk about my younger sister. She lived just over a month before she died of SIDS. The only picture my mom has of her is one of her in her casket. None of the pictures taken of Stephanie when she was alive came out clear. Every once in a while, my mom will talk about her or look at that one lone picture, and the look in her eyes is one that I can’t begin to describe. I’ve never had children, so I can’t begin to comprehend that sort of loss. Love should not have that much pain or sorrow in it.

Darrin Wilhite
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I saw that look again just a few days ago in the eyes of Shena Wilhite. Her 8-year-old son Darrin was killed on Tuesday, September 24th. Something kids do every day, a simple bike ride, cost him his life when he was hit by Alfonso Butler, a 47-year-old man, at the intersection of W. Chicago and Abington. Mr. Butler’s vehicle dragged Darrin for a block, and the young boy’s bike for about a mile. Mr. Butler never stopped. He turned himself in two days later.

At a vigil held a couple of days later, Darrin’s family began the process of learning how to adjust to the fact that he will never come home again, aided by other parents in the area who’d also lost their children much too soon for reasons that escape comprehension. Ms. Wilhite’s words, spoken as she hugged a nephew who she said reminded her of her son were filled with that same mix of love, pain, and sorrow I hear in my mom’s voice when she talks about Stephanie:

“How many kids gotta die?”

It’s a question that’s probably crossed Mary Catenacci’s mind over the past few weeks. On September 3rd, Ms. Catenacci’s 2-year-old great-grandson, James Nelson, was left buckled in a car seat in his mother’s van for nearly 10 hours before being discovered by a roommate and rushed to a hospital. He didn’t survive his injuries. James’s 21-year-old mother, Audrionna Rhoades, has been charged with 2nd degree murder and child abuse. At her arraignment, Ms. Rhoades cried, swearing that she didn’t kill her child. In an interview, Ms. Catenacci also cried over the loss of both her great-grandson and granddaughter.

“All I would ask is that people wait and see,” she said.
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“…Our family is broken. We will never be the same.” The process of learning to adjust will begin for this family in a courtroom.

When I looked at Ms. Wilhite, Ms. Rhoades, and Ms. Catenacci, each of them had that same haunted look in their eyes I saw in my mom’s eyes, seeing them struggling to learn how to adjust to a life without the child they helped create. When I looked at the pictures of Darrin and James, I saw smiling, bright eyes, the potential of futures filled with promise – babies that grow into teenagers into adults into parents of smiling, bright eyes.

Their pictures drove me to look at the picture of my baby sister in her casket; a beautiful dressed in white, eyes forever closed. Darrin and James, beautiful babies, will soon be in caskets with eyes forever closed.

How can anyone adjust to that? How many kids gotta die?

These are questions that should never have to be asked.
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Tracey Morris

Tracey Morris is the author of, “You Said You Wanted to See Me Naked: An Autobiographical Poem Cycle.” Her work has recently been published by Rust Belt Chic Press, and she was a finalist in the 2013 Springfed Arts Writing Contest.