Mourning a child

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

There is nothing that makes us feel more human than the death of a child. Psychologists say there are few things worse than to be a parent who loses a child. I can believe it.

Last week, my friends, and probably many of yours, Brad Summerhill and Leilani Schweitzer lost a child. The child wasn’t a stranger to many of our readers. He was the subject of our story “Alien Odyssey,” which ran on Nov. 18, 2004. His dad wrote the story. He won a national award for it, too. And I’ll tell you why: Even though it wasn’t what you’d call earthshaking news, it was true; it was honest. And that’s what real journalism is.

Standing on the grass at the funeral at the Carmelite monastery, I thought about Brad’s story.

All writing is a prayer. Sometimes writers know it. When I write about quitting smoking or going on a diet, I’m publicly committing to something. I’m saying, “This is true, I believe this will be true in the future. If you see me smoking, you know that I’m human and weak and sometimes fail.”

I thought about all that as I stood in the shade at that little boy’s funeral. I thought about how when I broke the news of Gabe’s death at the office, “Our miracle baby died,” I was recognizing that that child had a part of all of our lives. I thought about how, in the struggle against almost insurmountable odds, there was a human triumph in the tragedy.

Brad and Leilani said a prayer when that story was published—that Gabe was a special child, a magical child, that the worst was behind him and that he would live forever.

And he will.

Gabriel Leonard Summerhill: Dec. 22, 2003-Aug. 24, 2005.

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