Elliott Lowell TaylorApril 22, 1971 – February 11, 1986
I wept with joy, my heart overflowing with praises to God as I drove back to my apartment fifty years ago today.
I had been waiting alone at Johns Hopkins Hospital for hours. At long last, a physician escorted me to the nursery where I stood outside the glass as a nurse held up a bright red nine-pound screaming newborn infant.
My baby. My firstborn. My son. A more precious gift from God than anything I could imagine.
I was twenty years old.
Free-flowing praise continued nonstop. I visited all day every day. At last mother and baby were home. (In those days, a cesarean section meant a week in the hospital for the mother and no fathers in the operating room.)
He had long black hair and long eyelashes. No matter how he was dressed, everyone assumed him to be a pretty little girl.
Elliott was precocious from the start. He walked, no, he ran, at 9-months. Climbing on tables, emptying cupboards, smearing shortening all over the kitchen and himself, hanging by his fingers from the fish tank. When his sister joined him 14 months later, he’d climb out of his crib, walk across the window sill and jump into hers. By the time he was four, he had already taught himself to read with thorough comprehension. At eight, he reassembled a shattered watch into working order. Schools had no idea what to do with him. There were no gifted and talented programs at the time. He skipped grades, took Latin at a girls’ Catholic high school, learned calligraphy, wrote poetry, and screamed through all pre-calculus mathematics by the time he was ten.
If his classmates knew he was younger, they didn’t seem to notice. He had a ton of friends, played ice hockey, road his bicycle all over town, skillfully navigated double black diamond ski slopes on his first outing, free-climbed massive rock formations, joined the German club, gobbled up foreign languages, and dove into every aspect of science. He learned to sail and canoed the back creeks and rivers.
When we moved, he quickly adjusted to a new school. He had male and female friends, including a romantic relationship. He was on the varsity wrestling team. Of course, he got straight A’s.
Perhaps he was bored. Perhaps he lived in a fantasy world. He was certainly impulsive when, without warning, he killed himself.
He was not quite 15, a junior in high school.
It was my 35th birthday.
Had he lived, what would he be like at age 50? He had the potential to be anything. Perhaps he would have been a medical engineer, or a research physician, or a physics professor. Maybe first he would have been an Olympic skier. Would he have married? Had children? I wonder how many and what they’d be like. Would he live near his parents or in another country?
The tragedy of every death is the gap left in humanity. Humankind would be better off if Elliott had lived. That is the case with every young death – Tamir Rice, Adam Toledo, every child murdered, every child who dies by suicide, every child cut down by cancer, or drowned trying to reach freedom. However they die, their deaths are tragic.
And we are all the poorer.
Those of us who are bereaved parents are in a club we never wanted to join. We alone know the lasting pain that never leaves us. Our tears, like a spring snow, bring life.
If God gave me a choice between having Elliott for 15 years followed by 35 years of heartbreak, or not having him at all, I would without hesitation choose Elliott with the pain. His short life enriched mine in ineffable ways and drove me deeper into the only ultimate source of comfort, the Author of Life.
I see them coming again
Her in her ankle-length
Black organza gown,
Her face and head covered by a
Long black Spanish veil;
Him in his formal black suit,
Top-hat, tails, cane, gloves
They have knocked at my door many times.
I run and hide, not wanting their company
Fearing their presence
Today, however, I welcome you!
Madam Sorrow and Sir Heartache
Fling wide the door
Come in! Come in! I embrace you
Both for the gifts you are
Together we weep and remember
In each other’s arms we settle
Deeply into the Sorrowful Passion
Where Ultimate Love blooms