I was watching a show on Amazon Prime the other day called “The Widow” starring Kate Beckinsale. It’s about a woman whose husband is killed in a plane crash. Or was he? Years after the disaster, she catches a snipit of video on the news showing a man wearing the same hat her husband always wore. She becomes convinced that man is her husband and goes on a dangerous quest to find him.
It wasn’t bad, but that’s not what this is about.
In the course of the unfolding plot, we discover that Kate’s character has fallen into a deep well of depression following the death of her infant daughter.
And when that is revealed, I felt a familiar pang of pain.
Forty-five years ago, my late wife and I had a baby girl. We named her Molly Lynn. She was born on September 26. She died September 27.
In all the years since then, not a day has gone by, not one, that I haven’t thought of her.
For those of you familiar with my Noah Greene mysteries, you know the story. The old adage about novel writing is write what you know. I know about losing a child. It leaves a hole in your heart, a space that time can never heal.
Our daughter died because my wife’s doctor decided that instead of doing a C-section for a what turned out to be a breech birth, he’d use forceps to remove the baby. In doing so, he crushed Molly’s skull.
Afterwards, my wife Jane became severely depressed. She was a diabetic. Diabetics often have a difficult time carrying pregnancies to term. Molly came 4 months early. The irony was that despite the prematurity of her birth, Molly weighed enough to survive. If not for the crushed skull.
Still, Jane blamed herself. If she hadn’t been a diabetic, she said, Molly would have lived. No matter what I said, no matter what her family and friends said, we couldn’t disabuse her of that belief. In her mind, blame was absolute and it belonged to her.
She became desperate to have another baby to prove … well, I’m not entirely sure what she was trying to prove. All I know is that there was a hole in her heart that she believed could only be healed by having another child. That desperation was the beginning of the end of our marriage. Whatever love we had for one another in our intimate moments was replaced by a gnawing, clawing need that was never going to be satisfied. After our son was born (he nearly died as well), Jane and I drifted apart. Our life together was just never the same. As the years wore on, Jane devoted herself entirely to our son before her condition claimed her life at an all too early age.
By then, however, we were divorced. We never entirely recovered from those holes in our hearts.
I write about this a lot in my novels. It’s cathartic in way, but nothing is ever going to erase that awful phone call in the middle of the night from a nurse telling you that your daughter has died.
Noah Greene will never fully get over the death of his child.
Neither will I.