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How Do You Possibly Find Contentment After Losing a Child?

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One afternoon in April of 2011, a few days before Easter, I took a break from work for an errand. We needed to get gifts for our son Aaron’s basket. What do you give a child who can’t eat candy or play with toys? Simple: CDs and DVDs. I went over to the FYE store and picked up several of both, including some “VeggieTales” episodes.

Veggie Tales DVD

Aaron loved “Veggie Tales.” It was among the shows we played each evening as we prepared his meds and tube feeding. We’d sing along with the opening theme, and he would bellow in laughter.

If you like to talk to tomatoes,

If a squash can make you smile,

If you like to waltz with potatoes,

Up and down the produce aisle…

Have we got a show for you!

When I got back to the office with my stash, I realized I’d purchased too much. I’d gone overboard; it was difficult not to. So I set aside one of the DVDs, “It’s a Meaningful Life,” the VeggieTales rendition of Frank Capra’s “Its a Wonderful Life.” It was a Christmas story, so it seemed more appropriate as a gift held for that holiday or, if we couldn’t wait, for Aaron’s birthday in September. I left the DVD at the office, and brought the rest home. That Sunday, the Easter bunny delivered a bountiful basket.

Three weeks later, on a Saturday morning, my wife and I woke and found Aaron had died during the night. Quietly, he’d left us while we slept. He was 7.

Eventually, I returned to work, and on my first day back I found the “VeggiesTales” DVD waiting for me. I’d forgotten about it. I chided myself for leaving it out of Aaron’s basket, as if I should have known there would be no more Christmases for him, nor birthdays.

The DVD is still on my desk, shrink-wrapped as the day I bought it. The box stares at me, its title reminding me this is a meaningful life. The subtitle tells me the show is a lesson in being content. Not in being happy, mind you. Just content.

Now I sit in my office, and mourn Aaron as I do each day, and the Veggie guys watch me. They challenge me with a question: How does someone find contentment after the most important thing has been taken away?

Here is my answer: you work hard at it. You remind yourself that life can still offer bits of joy and meaning and surprises. And you make the choice — the difficult choice — to smile at the squash and waltz with the potatoes. You wake each day, look out the window and take in the world’s buoyant greeting: “Have we got a show for you!”

Aaron and Mike Large

Originally published: October 21, 2015
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