This evening my wife shared with me the story of a mother who lost her child in the tsunami brought about by the earthquake near Samoa. The mother had gone to pick up her 8-year-old daughter from school following the earthquake. As they returned home they were caught in the tidal wave. Despite the mother’s best effort to hold on to her daughter, she slipped from her grasp and was swept away as she cried out in panic for her mother to help her. They found the body of the little girl several hours later still wearing her school backpack.
My heart breaks and tears come as I think about the pain of losing a child. My impulse is to fall in line with Theoden from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers when he says after losing his son, “No parent should have to bury their child.”
Nevertheless, they do. So perhaps a better way to think of it comes to us from the account of Rabbi Meir and his wife;
While Rabbi Meir was holding his weekly discourse on Sabbath afternoon, his two beloved sons died suddenly at home. Their mother covered them with a sheet, and forbore to mourn on the sacred day. When Rabbi Meir returned after the evening Services, he asked for his sons, whom he had not seen in the synagogue. She asked him to recite the Habdalah and gave him his evening meal. Then she said: “I have a question to ask thee. A friend once gave me jewels to keep for him; now he wishes them again. Shall I return them?”
“Beyond doubt thou must,” said Rabbi Meir.
His wife took him by the hand, led him to the bed and drew back the sheet. Rabbi Meir burst into bitter weeping, and his wife said: “They were entrusted to us for a time; now their Master has taken back His very own.”
(Midrash Mishle, 28)