By Candice Binno Pattah
A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan. But...there is no word for a parent who loses a child; that’s how awful the loss is. It would be much easier to deal with losing an arm, easier to lose both of your legs, even easier to live without your sight. Anything would be easier than living without your very own flesh and blood and the heart-beating life that you brought into this world. The immense pain of burying the child you labored and birthed is unimaginable. You gave birth to life as a promise to the future. This is the child you fed within your body and loved with your soul. This is the child who loved you with her whole heart and whom you loved with all of yours.
Parents are not supposed to bury their children; it violates the laws of nature. It is unnatural to outlive your child. When parents lose their child, the world slips off its axis and spins out of control. The universe mourns knowing it has gone against the circle of life. Children should bury their parents-not the other way around. Some of us have no choice but to have to bury our child; and as we watch our other children grow up to be who they are destined to be, our deceased child is frozen in time. The day will never come that I do not think about my daughter and question who she would have been and how she would have been woven perfectly into the tapestry of my family.
As bereaved parents, we cry more; we ache more. We long for what we will never have again. Nothing is harder than dealing with the emptiness of her not being in our lives anymore on a day-to-day basis. The empty high chair. The empty bed. The empty car seat. The empty spaces in our homes. Her voice, her hug, her touch, her laugh, her smell…all linger throughout our home. It feels as though everywhere we go is now empty. What should have been full will never feel full again. Time is both a blessing and a curse. As time passes, I find ways to cope; yet it is still a constant reminder of how long I have had to live without my daughter. My daughter, McKenzie Ryan Pattah, is gone. She lost her precious life on January 30, 2018 from a stomach infection which led to heart failure and brain damage.
Sweet McKenzie was a very innocent and shy child. She was filled with so much life, laughs, and giggles. McKenzie was beyond her years and very well behaved. She was very well-mannered and polite, using words such as “thank you”, “please”, and “I’m sorry” before two years old. We called her ‘Old Soul McKenzie’. She carried herself with such class and was so proper it was hard to believe she was only two years old. This observant and intuitive child was truly gifted. She loved, more than anything to play with her seven-year-old sister, Paris and her six-year-old brother, Princeton. She also enjoyed bike rides with her family on the weekends and having play dates with her cousins. Daddy-daughter time always brightened her day. Hanging out with her mommy while her siblings were at school was one of her favorite things to do. She loved ice cream stops, Target runs, and going to the park.
Our duty as parents is to protect our children, especially when our children are so young and innocent. We try to prevent them from feeling sad, being hurt, or feeling any sort of pain. Unfortunately, during this daunting and traumatic experience, there was no way to do this when we were forced to come home from the hospital and completely shatter their little hearts. We had to explain to Paris and Princeton that their baby sister was never coming back home. We had to find a way to accomplish this challenging task while we ourselves did not know how to handle the agonizing mental and emotional pain inflicted upon us due to our tragic loss. This must have been one of the most tormenting things we had ever done. Trying to build a new normal life and filling the wants and needs of our children, who are still very dependent on us while we try to balance our heavy hearts, have been both mentally and physically overwhelming and heartbreaking. Paris and Princeton give us a reason to raise our heads from our pillows soaked with tears from the night before. We are given no choice but to fight on for the sake of our children. They give us strength to survive this traumatizing loss. Through their innocent eyes we see a light at the end of this dark tunnel.
Through difficult life changing events like this, we must stay strong to our faith. Meeting with many priests and nuns and the constant loving and compassionate support of our family and friends have been the most comforting. By keeping Paris and Princeton happy during a time of such sadness, they have been beyond helpful. We will never forget the outpouring love, support, and endless prayers from our beautiful community. We are so blessed to be part of such a loving, communal family.
We are hopeful that McKenzie will be remembered by her bright beautiful smile, contagious giggle, sensitive soul, and ladylike, feminine personality. Her big, beautiful blue eyes were an outer reflection of her inner beauty. It is incredible to see how many lives she touched at such a young age. Her short and sinless life brought many people to prayer and back to the House of God. Our sweet girl was spreading so much love around our community throughout her life and continues to do so even after her passing.
A foundation will be started in the name of McKenzie Ryan Pattah to ensure her legacy lives on forever. Her pictures will remain on our walls. Her stories will continue to be shared. Her soul will live through us forever and we will grieve her loss for the rest of our lives because grief never ends; it changes. It’s a passage-not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness nor a lack of faith; it is the price we pay for love. Without love, there would be no grief. We will grieve her for the rest of our lives because our love for her will never die.
In the end, the truth remains that we do not belong to one another; we are all children of God. We came from Him and we will return to Him. Suffering, even when it is unbearable, is a gift from our Creator. Those who suffer on earth and continue to follow God will only have greater things waiting for them when He calls them home.