January 05, 2005

Some days. . . (warning: sad post)

Some days are just sadder than others, aren't they? Some days just turn your armor, that tough, calcified layer that keeps you from getting too bruised by bad news into a gossamer thin micro coating of tissue paper. Maybe its the result of having too good an imagination, something I think all good readers are blessed, sometimes cursed, with. Sometimes you can guard against those days. You take precautions. You deliberately don't read about the horrific tsunami and the death and destruction because those numbers are so great that they are statistics and you don't want to know the individual stories because it would be too much. And so you turn that page in the newspaper and you move on to the Sports Section, where life has rules and you can understand it and it won't haunt you, no matter how many times the replay shows that the kick went wide right.

Sometimes, though, your precautions fail. Sometimes, like today, you read a story and you wish you hadn't. What made me so sad today? The story of the death of a nine year old boy in a laundry chute in an assisted care facility in Harlem. The boy, his name was Frashawn, was born prematurely at six months and was seriously disabled with Down syndrome. His death is a mystery since this little boy, who only "could walk for short periods with crutches", managed to get past two nurses, through a closed door, and open a difficult to manipulate laundry chute, where he then died, wedged in the bottom. Frashawn did not have a whole lot going on his life. He had been living in this facility since he was 2 months old. His whole life, really.

Frashawn was about three and a half feet tall and weighed 100 pounds, said his mother, who visited him once a week. He attended Public School 138 and liked watching cartoons and playing his toy drum, she said, adding that he could not talk but could make loud noises.

Those who knew Frashawn said he liked to wake up early, was curious, and was among the more active patients in the 50-bed ward. In fact, many of the patients are so ill that they cannot get up from their beds, much less walk.

But Frashawn almost never missed his early-morning exploration, officials said. It was an unstructured stroll, meant to help make confinement feel a bit less confining.

At this point, I knew that even that little bit of tissue paper was gone. Why? Because I began to imagine what his death must have been like. This is what I mean about being cursed with an imagination. I imagined that this little boy, who lived a very structured life, died alone, maybe not so quickly, in a place and circumstance that he may not have been able to understand. I worry that he was scared, you see, and it positively lacerates my heart to think about that. He couldn't even talk. Its too much. I stop here.

Maybe it is self indulgent, or something else not very good, to let myself feel this for Frashawn when so many children are dead or dying all over the world. But you see, I don't know them and this article made me feel like I knew Frashawn, at least a little.

Frashawn's brother, Shamar Jones, 23, said that the family had more questions than answers. "If the Lord wanted him to go," Mr. Jones said, "he would have taken him at 6 months."

I agree, Mr. Jones. And I'm sorry for your loss.

Posted by Random Penseur at January 5, 2005 08:08 AM

i sat here...contemplating clicking the story button.
i am at the office...but...i don't think that makes a difference.
your interpretation has indeed turned my armor to tissue paper.
and for right now...i don't have the courage.
but i want to read it.
i should read it.
so i will try again later.

Posted by: standing naked at January 5, 2005 12:42 PM

I haven't clicked on it either. I know it will make me feel sad and helpless. Like you, I've watched the numbers mount for the tsunami victims and I feel helpless. Now more are going to slowly die of disease and starvation due to lack of their government's foresight. And ultimately greed. Like another blogger said, it's the countries who refuse to pump government money into protecting their poor that suffer so much during natural disasters. They don't care. It made me sick to read of how they were wisking the rich tourists out but leaving the native populace behind to suffer.

Poor little boy. Poor little guy.

Posted by: Amber at January 5, 2005 06:01 PM

I read it. But, I don't understand how he died. Was he injured in a fall? Did he suffocate from the laundry heaped upon him?

The saddest thing (or, perhaps, the best thing) is that Frashawn would have known that he was heading for a deep sleep. I don't imagine that he struggled a whole lot. It's sad that he wouldn't have struggled. But, in a way, the lack of his struggle means that his fate suited him and he knew it just as clearly as we knew that we'd better back off than fight that schoolyard bully.

It right to be angry at those who carelessly let him get into such a predicament. But it's also important, when the horror seems so repulsive, to remember that nature has enchanting ways of preparing us for times such as that, and not to imagine his final moments as worse than they actually were.

Unstruggling, as was his beautiful way, I suspect Frashawn ended peacefully, not confused or frightened.

At least, I prefer to think of it that way, and I bet he'd want us to remember it that way, too.

Posted by: Tuning Spork at January 5, 2005 11:43 PM

Thanks for all the comments.

By the way, the paper reported today that he suffocated and had a congenitally weak heart. So maybe TS was right. I kind of hope so.

Posted by: RP at January 6, 2005 08:48 AM
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