The New York Times

The New York Times 14 Feb 2020

My Daughter Died. How Do I Tell My Son?

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How do you explain tragedy to a 3-year-old? Close to five years ago, Jayson Greene and his wife, Stacy, lost their 2-year-old daughter, Greta, to a horrible accident. Fifteen months later, their son, Harrison, was born. Now that Harrison is growing up, he wants to know about his older sister. In the animated video above, Mr. Greene struggles with how to introduce his son to Greta — even though they can never meet.


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Two cruise ships on which four people with Covid-19 have died have docked in Florida - after weeks of uncertainty at sea.

The Zaandam and its sister ship the Rotterdam both arrived in Fort Lauderdale after they'd been barred from ports in South America. They'd also been told they couldn't dock in Florida - a decision later reversed.

Passengers fit for travel will disembark and fly home. Several dozen with mild symptoms will stay on board for a quarantine period. The 14 people with severe symptoms will be treated in local hospitals.

The Zaandam left Buenos Aires on 7 March and was meant to finish its trip in Chile two weeks later - but was barred from docking after a virus outbreak on board.

It was then joined by the Rotterdam for supplies, and both ships found themselves in limbo with no port accepting their call.

Another cruise ship, the Coral Princess - which also has confirmed cases on board - will arrive in Florida on Saturday.
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In August, our son, Harrison, celebrated
his third birthday.
He is our second child.
And yet, we have never parented a 3-year-old
before. Because Harrison has an older sister who
never turned 3.
An older sister he'll never meet.
Four years ago, my daughter, Greta,
was sitting on a bench on the Upper West Side of Manhattan
with her grandmother when a brick fell
from an eighth-story window sill and hit her in the head.
She never regained consciousness.
She was 2.
When Harrison was born 15 months later,
I became a father to both a living child and a spirit.
One child on this side of the curtain,
and another whispering from beneath it.
Greta became our reference point
for Harrison's every move.
We compared their sleep habits, their behavior
on the playground, their first words,
and their first tantrums.
We loved how they were different from each other
and how they were similar. But only until Harrison was 2.
Now that he's 3, we're in uncharted territory.
It is a bittersweet thing watching him reach milestones
that Greta didn't.
Potty training took on the momentous feeling
of an unknown country.
His sister never got that far.
Sometimes, watching Harrison grow,
I'm reminded of how little we'll ever
get to know about Greta.
Harrison's personality is a public fact.
He smiles wider and cries louder
than any other child in the neighborhood.
But Greta's own tendencies and quirks
remain only in her parent's memories.
Once, she was a person imposing her will
on the world.
Now she is our lonely private fact.
When Harrison was a baby, we would tell him
little things about Greta.
Greta loved bananas, too.
Greta was a real pain about sleep.
But he is older now, and I'm more reluctant to say
her name when he is around.
It's not Greta's life I want to keep secret,
but how she died.
A brick destroyed my first child.
And now, I have to deliver the knowledge of that brick
to my second.
It will teach him lessons I don't want him to learn.
So I stall for time, bargaining.
My superstitions about Greta's accident have died down.
I don't cross the street anymore
to avoid passing under construction sites with him.
And the first time Harrison smacked his face
on the jungle gym, filling his mouth with blood,
I stayed calm.
When he reached for me, screaming,
he saw no fear in my eyes.
Recently, he pointed to a picture of Greta
on the refrigerator.
That's Harrison, he said.
That's Greta, buddy, I said, correcting him gently.
That moment reminded me that someday, before long,
my wife and I will have to sit down and explain
to him that he has a sister and why she's not here.
So I hold my breath and wait for the question.
Sometimes, we dread it.
Sometimes, we yearn for it.
But we are on his timetable.
Greta lives inside of Harrison somewhere, murky and
luminescent.
He knows she was a person, and that she's not here,
but that we love her very much.
And for now, that's enough.

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