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Opinion | Family

Asking Why After a Child's Accidental Death

Perhaps the most we're able to say this side of heaven is that a child's death doesn't make sense.

Every night in the summertime, I fall asleep with fears of cars and water. I'm not a particularly anxious mother. I don't worry about germs. I'm pretty relaxed about the possibility of injury on a playground. But it takes every spiritual and emotional resource I have to avoid playing out my most terrifying scenarios—of Marilee, 18 months old, running away from me into the road just as a truck pulling a boat turns the same corner … of Penny, 6, thinking she really can swim all the way to the raft even though Mom said to wait … of William, 4, chasing the ball into the street and forgetting, just once forgetting, to look both ways.

I try to avoid reading or listening to news about the accidental deaths of children, and yet these tragedies sear themselves upon my memory. I can't forget the story of a friend of a friend whose youngest son wandered upstairs, turned on the bath water, and drowned. Or the woman at church whose brother backed the car out of the driveway and killed his toddler daughter. Or the recent news of a yacht that capsized near Long Island this Fourth of July, leaving three children trapped inside. In a terrible irony, Victoria, David, and Harlie were in the yacht's cabin "because we felt it was the safest place," said Victoria's mother, fighting back tears on the Today show.

They are horrible stories. They trouble me so much because I know they could happen to us, and because I cannot explain them. Other tragedies fit much more readily into my ...

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Posted:August 2, 2012

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