-An extract from Venerable Pomnyun’s book, Life Lessons–
Q: “I lost my baby boy 14 years ago. He was 9 months old at the time and had just begun to utter the word, ‘Mom.’ After putting him down for a nap in his room, my husband and I were enjoying each other’s company in the living room. However, when I realized that the baby hadn’t woken up past the usual time, I went into his room to check and found him dead.” The mother shed tears while talking about her son who had died 14 years ago.
P: While the pain of losing a baby must be immense for any parent, just thinking about her baby still makes her weep even after 14 years. It’s not as if the child has died recently, but thinking about her deceased son makes her fall into a mental state that can be described as “being trapped in one’s own thoughts.” When she recalls a past event like watching a video clip and perceives it as something that is happening to her now, both her brain and mind will respond in the same way as the time when the child died. She will begin to shed tears and her throat will get choked up, and she will be unable to calm herself down. However, if she becomes preoccupied by thinking and talking about other things at that moment, she will be relieved from that state of mind. In a similar way, once she begins to ruminate about her deceased son and becomes absorbed in that thought, she will feel sad all over again.
If a widow is in deep agony over her husband’s death, she is suffering not because her husband has passed away but because she is obsessing over the thought of her husband’s death. Even at her husband’s funeral, if she sees food that looks appetizing and imagines how good it would taste, she is free of agony at that moment because she has momentarily let go of the thought that her husband has died. However, if her mind reverts back to thinking about her husband, she will in agony again. Being trapped in the thought that her husband has died, rather than the death itself, is what is making her suffer. Once she releases the thought from her mind, she will feel better right away.
Similarly, the mother has been grieving the loss of her baby for 14 years because she was unable to let go of the trauma from the experience. To this day, she blames herself for resting in the living room and not being with her baby when he was dying alone in his room. While we do not know the exact cause of the death, it is highly probable that he had a heart attack since the child died when the mother thought he was sleeping. That being the case, it is safe to assume that as he grew up, he would have suffered from heart problems. She can take some consolation in knowing that his premature death has spared him and both her and her husband considerable heartache and trouble down the road.
If the mother had had a chance to raise her son and he had died while in elementary school or middle school, her grief might have been even greater than it is now. Furthermore, It’s not as if the child died because she did something wrong such as carelessly placing the blanket over his face, thereby suffocating him to death. It was just a natural death. Logically speaking, there is really no need for her to feel guilty for not having been there with the child at the time of his death. It is better for her to think, “He is gone because that was all the time God gave us to spend together.” and release her emotional attachment to him with a prayer like, “‘I hope he will be blessed with a healthy body in his next life and lead a happy life.”