Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Jose Fernandez, age 24 (Image Source: Miami Marlins)
Is it possible to mourn the loss of someone you did not know personally? How do you put that loss into perspective?  After someone's death, people tend to remind you that you should "live life to the fullest" or "enjoy life as if it was your last," or "tell your loved ones you love them everyday." Well, even when we do all these things, does it really make losing a loved one or someone we cared about any easier?  I think not.  Death is never easy to accept and it is something we, as humans have enormous trouble coming to terms with.  Well, what happens when you feel a huge loss over the death of someone you never knew personally? 

I feel like I am always writing about death and grief, but it just seems that it is a constant flow of "only the good die young."  I have experienced enough loss first-hand but this week was a new one for me, especially as a parent.      

Upon hearing of the un-timely death of young baseball superstar, Jose Fernandez, in a tragic boating accident, on September 25, 2016, my 9-year old was devastated. At first, when he heard the news, he was a little saddened, even saying "he knew he was in a better place," but as the day went by and the story was all over the news, the reality that his favorite baseball player had died, hit him hard.  He was crying intermittently all day, as he recalled seeing him pitch at various Miami Marlins baseball games.

Source: AP
Even in the afternoon, when he was at the hockey rink, his favorite place to be,  he over-heard adults talking about the loss of this amazing young baseball player. It was everywhere.  I thought I could distract him by allowing him to go on his PlayStation when we got home, but that only lead to having more tears come streaming down, as number #16 came up on his virtual roster of his Miami Marlins PlayStation team.

As the day worn on, there were moments when he literally sobbed. It broke my heart and scared me a little too that he could be this affected by the death of someone he did not know personally. He has always been a very sensitive & self-less kid, being extremely concerned about the feelings of others and being overly sympathetic to the well-being of animals or to someone who is not being treated fairly, but this death, this was hitting him hard.

So excited to go see a Miami Marlins game
He has experienced death in the family before, as his aunt died of cancer and his great-grandmother passed away last year. However, he never really got to interact with either of them very much.  He did cry and was saddened upon their passing but this, this was too much, for his young heart to bear and I struggle to understand it, this is also why I write, in an effort to make sense of things.

Which leads me to now - How in the world do I explain to my child not to mourn the loss of someone he never really knew?  I am not an insensitive person, I just do not want my child to suffer every death in the future and every bad thing that happens in the world  as if it was only upon his shoulders.  I recognize it is still too soon, for him to understand that "no one gets out alive."  Even for us adults, it is extremely difficult to accept the death of someone so young and so full of life, however, I need him to know the difference - or do I?

Do I want him to stop being an overly sensitive, caring soul?  Do I want him to stop having empathy and compassion for those he loves, respects and admires?  No! I don't.

The death of Jose Hernandez has hit those of us who did not know him personally, very hard, because I think, we can innately recognize a soul that is pure love, pure life.  His exuberance and his joy on the field was evident. If we, the strangers, feel this enormous loss, I cannot even fathom what his family and friends are going through, and I cannot even begin to imagine the unfathomable pain of loss that his mother and grandmother are experiencing.

It is in the passing of this wonderful young man, who was only 24-years of age, that I have come to realize, that it is okay to feel the loss of someone you never met, especially someone of such an amazing character, as was Jose Fernandez.  While, I still believe it is unhealthy to harp on the death of someone you did not know, it is also a sign of true compassion and empathy and those are the qualities I have always tried to instill in my children.

So as the baseball community and South Florida bids farewell to Jose Fernandez, I will make sure to let my son know, it is okay to express sorrow for someone he admired so much. I am sure my son will learn to watch his favorite team again without being sad but as the days go by, I will also make sure to teach him about what an amazing human being Fernandez was. How he was a philanthropist and did all that he could to help children with cancer. I will teach him how Fernandez risked his life to leave the oppressed country of my parents, Cuba.  I will remind him how he jumped into the dangerous waters during this escape to save his own mother, at only age 15.  I will point out to him what an amazing community member he was and how he lived his life with extreme joy and passion.  I will teach him, that like my own parents and grandparents, he left a dictatorship seeking freedom to live the American dream and how important it is to stand up for what you believe in.

And some day, maybe someday, he will understand that no one lives forever, and that God sometimes takes those who have accomplished their "mission" on Earth, a little too early.

Jose meant a lot of things to many different people and in writing this, I realize now, just how important he was to my son, as well, and how it is okay to mourn someone you never knew.

However, life does go on...


R.I.P. Jose Fernandez

Sen. Marco Rubio tribute to Jose Fernandez 



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