All three main characters in my upcoming novel Crow Creek have lost a child. This isn't a spoiler. It's the basic premise of the book. The protagonist, Sheriff Brad Gleason, has a teenage daughter who committed suicide; Deborah DeVito, a local shop owner has a son who died violently; and Darrell Mebane, a local truck driver, lost his infant son to illness. Coming to terms with their deaths is the ultimate struggle for the three. Each handles it in a completely different way. The Sheriff stays married to his job to keep from falling to pieces, the shop owner (and her husband) relocate to put distance between themselves and the tragedy, and the truck driver delves into the supernatural. All wonder whether or not they did something to cause or could've done something to prevent the tragedies; and in fact, question where God was during their time of need. I think anyone who's lost a child probably feels this way at some point or another. It's a theme in many of my stories.
In 1982, I had a sister who died in utero. She was strangled by the umbilical cord when my mom was about 30 weeks into term. There's probably a clinical name for this. I was 13-years-old. She was a complete surprise. My parents weren't expecting to have anymore children because my little brother was about ten, and the days of changing diapers and making formula were supposed to be over. They were stressed. There were days when they were angry and didn't know how they were going to afford another. But, there were also the moments when we were all excited. We talked about baby names and whose room she would share and how hilarious (and intimidating) my older brother and my dad would be when she first brought home a boy to meet the family. That's how I choose to remember that time, but I feel especially bad for my mom. I wanted her to have a daughter because her three boys are all so close to our dad. She deserved her little girl. The song "Ribbon in the Sky" by Stevie Wonder was popular then. I remember it played on the radio the day we drove out to the cemetery to put that little box in the ground. I'm glad my mom got to hold her little girl before they took her away. My dad said she looked just like me. Only sleeping.
Stephen King didn't publish Pet Sematary when he first wrote it because he said it was too frightening. The story of Gage Creed racing out to the highway and getting run over by a tractor trailer was influenced by something that nearly happened to his own son. The book was published the year after my sister died. I remember Stephen King saying that nothing scared him more than the thought of losing his child. As a parent now, I finally understand the fear. I kiss my children on the forehead each night before I go to sleep and remind myself of how precious life is and of how fortunate I am to have them to share my world.