I don’t know this guy, but his 5-year-old son died in a swimming pool accident a few days ago.

I also don’t know Poopandboogie , which provided a portal to Ohthejoys, where I first read the news.

But this odd blogospheric network, which I joined because of someone I do know, the former Stepblogger, has become a virtual community I live in almost daily. So I immediately cared, as if it happened to a neighbor. And I followed the links to Amy and Avitable (which some may find offensive) to read more and wound up donating 10 bucks.

Why? Because I’m a relatively new father, wrapped up in the thrills and trials of raising a child. I sincerely feel for my fellow dad, tremendously. Also, in all honesty, maybe it’s a way to ward off the unthinkable, a monetary milagro, exploitation of karma, if that’s possible.

As a reporter I interviewed grieving women who lost their children, and their maternal identity, both suddenly and over torturous weeks. I chronicled one child’s slow, inevitable death in the newspaper. Working in a medical center I saw, regularly, dieing people, including children. I know it’s real. I know it’s horrendous. I know it’s got to be the worst feeling in the world. I wrote here about our own brief cancer scare last year. But, I don’t know how it feels. Thank god, I don’t.

I don’t know how people go on. One of my greatest inspirations is a woman whose daughter I danced with at our wedding, and that little girl has fought longer and harder than I thought anyone possible could to outrun leukemia. Her mother fights demons I can’t imagine — I don’t want to imagine. Our next-door neighbors in Maine, their son, Lucian, who used to swing beside Ella, who is just six months older than she is, has been fighting the same disease for almost a year. His parents have their own incredible struggles.

Almost every day I think about loss. I wander the thorny path of “what ifs.” What if my daughter died in an accident? What if my wife became terminally ill? What if a casual, typical trip to the pool turns tragic? What if our trip to the beach this weekend results in death?

It’s not a paralyzing obsession. I’ve had those before. This, I like to think, is a somewhat healthy fear that keeps me grounded, that makes me appreciate my life. Sometimes it does. Reminders like the death of this stranger’s son aren’t necessary. But then again, they are, because that’s life, and they show me that where one ends, another continues, someway, somehow.

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