Column: The pain of death and the joy of life

08/09/2012 4:00 AM |

TROY GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Alex and Jane Boardman with their new brother, George.

In my personal experience, life’s mysterious continuum never was more mysterious than during the past two weeks.

The fortnight began with the devastating news of the untimely death of Jonathan Gould, a family friend who passed at the age of 29. Jon was a funny, engaging and loving boy who grew into a funny, engaging and loving man, and he was well on his way to fulfilling his longtime dream of establishing a career in law enforcement. That he died at an age when many young people’s lives are just beginning was a shock to all who knew him.

The former Joan Giger Walker and I were out of town when news of Jon’s death reached us, and we were struggling to make sense of it at the same time we were struggling with another of life’s challenges: trying to keep up with a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old.

They were in our charge for the better part of two weeks as their mother — our daughter, Anna Gustavson Boardman — was gearing up to deliver her third child at a hospital near her home in suburban Boston.

Normally, in my capacity as an aging American, I manage to catch a cat nap in the late afternoon and go to bed after the late local news (or, more recently, NBC’s prime time coverage of the Olympics), but such was not the case during our most recent grandparenting assignment. The little ones are blessed with boundless energy, and by the end of each day of trying to keep up with them I crawled into bed several hours earlier than normal before falling into a deep sleep.

But along with the fatigue of that week came the joy and wonder of seeing two youngsters discovering life for the first time. They literally bounced from activity to activity, and their sense of joy and wonder was infectious.

And yet. And yet there, lurking in the shadows, was the recent memory of Jon’s passing, which tempered the joy and wonder I was experiencing.

And then. And then daughter Anna said it was time to head to the hospital with her husband, William. The time had come.

So we took the kids on another “adventure” to another playground while their parents began to time contractions. And we fondled our cell phones more than usual as we awaited the news we all wanted to hear.

It came around 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 28, 2012. We were eating pizza with the kids in a little joint in Ipswitch, Mass., when the email from their dad arrived simultaneously on our phones: “George Hazard Boardman — healthy and happy. More to folo.”

George is a big (9 lbs., 3 ozs.) and happy (as long as he receives his mother’s milk every four hours or so) child. He cries only when absolutely necessary, and he has been enthusiastically received into his home by his siblings. He has just embarked on his own magical mystery tour, and among the many blessings he already has personally bestowed on his paternal grandfather is the certainty that life does, indeed, go on.

So, rest in peace, Jonathan Patrick Gould. And long live George Hazard Boardman.

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