I thought long and deeply before posting the above image, portraying the last moments of a dying child (from thanatos.net). This child passed away in the 1880’s, and even if she had survived her 4th year of life, she would be long gone by now. I usually attempt to post only what I think is fairly non-controversial, with the requirement that what I write here should have some emotional impact on me. This picture had such an impact. It is actually quite uncommon for me to experience a strong reaction to all the images floating around the Internet; if I can’t touch an object, hold the photo, somehow have a direct experience to provoke a feeling, I usually do not respond. In this case, however, this little girl is looking directly into my soul.
I am devastated by what her eyes say to me. Here, she is beyond pain and suffering; she has given up the battle and is waiting to die. Whatever fear she may have felt, whatever monumental effort she might have endured to survive, has vanished now. There is an infinite sadness in her face and her gesture, an exhaustion so profound that she can hardly keep her eyes open for the camera. I have seen the look of illness in my own face, when I was only slightly older than she is here. I was in the hospital, bone-thin and very, very sick. I found a picture that my father had taken of that painful period in our family history, and I had a similar look on my face as the child here. It was frightening to see; I can only imagine what emotions were tearing apart my parents during those endless days after the surgeries.
I survived, clearly. I had the advantage of antibiotics and modern technology to pull me from the brink. This little girl had no such advantages, and she succumbed shortly after this picture was taken. Even though the picture of me was similar to this little girl’s, there was one difference (and I don’t yet have the heart to post that picture of me, because I don’t want my parents to see it) in our faces. There is still a spark of will in my five-year-old countenance; you can see I’ve been through hell, but I’m not through. I had some awareness, even then, that I wanted to fight for my life–no matter how painful–and so I still fight.
There is no fight, no will, left in the child’s face above. Her little life is over. She has accepted it. God knows if she has any understanding of life after death, or if her parents were comforted in their faith. Her eyes do not show any hope, any glimmer of impending joy; it’s too much to ask of her. She was given the gift of life and it was taken away before she ever had the chance to run with a puppy or giggle in a field of flowers.
If anyone deserves another chance at life, it is this child. I send her the poverty of my love, for what it’s worth, wherever she may be now.