On dying children

ToddlerThe two-year old daughter of a colleague of mine died of leukemia this week. She was diagnosed with it a year ago, when she was as old as my own daughter is now. My thoughts went down the rabbit hole from there.

I’ve talked before about how being a dad has made me worry more. That kind of went into overdrive this week. My daughter is currently in good health, luckily, but all I can think of is what it would be like to have to watch her wrestle a terrible disease for a year only to have her succumb to it. I imagine her never growing up and then everything just… stops.
– But thankfully, my daughter is safe in her bed, upstairs, asleep.

The elephant in the room, of course, is that a lot of children die. A quick internet search reveals that over 6 million children under the age of five die each year. It’s something you know consciously, but you don’t often think about, at least I don’t. But you should some times. Which is one reason I’m writing this post.

Does that make me a hypocrite for only caring if something hits close to home? Maybe, but I think it’s dishonest to pretend to care about people you don’t know as much as about people that you do. Because it is pretend. I care more for my child than for the children of those close to me, and more for those than for children I don’t know. That doesn’t make me a bad person, it makes me human, I think.

Healthcare

At the same time my colleague’s child died, the US senate was in the midst of another attempt at gutting US healthcare. What that vote boiled down to was that the rich in the US wanted to deny poor people healthcare to line their pockets even further. The silver lining was that Trumpcare failed. But US healthcare is still shite, even without this new bill. Dutch healthcare is better, but the same ideas are at the gates here.

Drug companies are developing a gazillion variations on medications we don’t need because much-used patentable medications make them filthy rich. How much of that research could have been spent on saving children with leukemia? But no, companies are looking for the next blockbuster drug.

Of course, it’s not just disease that’s killing children. War, climate change, overpopulation, religious fanatics, and poverty are child killers too. I’ve talked about some of those things before too. And really, it’s things most of us already know, so I’ll leave it at that.

The Silver Lining

Still, I don’t want to end on a dark note. Because, all things said and done, in the nineties, thirteen million children under the age of five died each year. We are fighting climate change (well most of us), and people are waking up to the realities of treating greed as a virtue.

And maybe, more personal: my daughter is still upstairs, sleeping peacefully. She’ll be in her bed tomorrow, waiting, and laughing when I pick her up. As much as tragedies hit you or those close to you, you really can’t do anything more than enjoy the things and people you do have, for every second you get to have them.

Author: Martin Stellinga

I’m a science fiction and fantasy writer from the Netherlands

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