I’ve often thought how my life, and the lives of others I love, would be different if my only son had not died 35 years ago.
My wife Linda and I were living in Maine when our first child, Sean David Becker, was born on Sunday, May 23, 1982.
I spent Monday with Linda and our baby, an apparently healthy six-and-a-half pounds, at the hospital in Waterville, a small city in central Maine where I worked on the newspaper.
On Tuesday, at about 6 a.m., I was awakened by Linda phoning from the hospital.
“Are you OK? The baby?” I asked.
“I heard them screaming ‘Code Blue’ in the middle of the night. The nurses told me he wasn’t breathing.”
Sean had been taken by ambulance to the Maine Medical Center in Portland, about an hour away.
When Linda and I got there, we found our tiny baby in the neo-natal intensive care unit, hooked up to machines, eyes closed, barely moving, except for the occasional spasm.
His doctor told us Sean had stopped breathing the previous night in the nursery in Waterville, had been resuscitated, but not soon enough to prevent severe brain damage. He’d had seizures. His vital signs were weak.
The doctor said it was unlikely Sean would survive more than a day.
Late that night, a nurse placed Sean in Linda’s arms. She held our baby. I held her. Sean hardly moved, didn’t make a sound.
The nurse came back a couple of times to check his heart and respiration. The third time, she shook her head. “He’s gone.” It was 11:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 25, 1982.
The next day, we watched the tiny white coffin placed in a tiny burial plot in a cemetery in Portland.
Linda and I would soon leave Maine, go home to Toronto.
We had ordered an autopsy but the results were inconclusive. Sean’s death remains a mystery.
A little more than a year later, our daughter Jodie was born. If Sean had not died, I doubt we would have had another baby that soon.
Would Jodie still be Jodie if she was born another time? Would she be a different person if she had a big brother?
Our daughter Lacey was born three years later. Would we have had a third child if Sean had lived? If not, we would not have our granddaughters, Annie and Zoey.
And what would it have been like, for me, to have a son?
I wonder what kind of boy he would have been. What kind of man.
What would he be doing now? Would he be a journalist, like his old man? (God, I hope not.)
Would he have his own business, like his sisters? Would he be playing third base for the Red Sox?
Would he be married? Have kids?
I often think about such things, especially at this time of year.
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