From the moment I found Alice on the day she died, I have been asking myself, “Why? Why did this happen? Why did she die?”
Everyone wanted to know why. The detectives who came that day investigated every nook and cranny of my home to find out why. The medical examiner’s representative asked me countless questions about Alice’s last 72 hours to find out why. The medical examiner himself performed an invasive autopsy to find out why.
When you don’t have the answers to such an important and terrible question, your mind tries to find solutions. I often thought it was my fault. That I had done something that facilitated her death. Although whatever I would have done would have been unintentional, I knew the guilt would be too much to bear.
I had been told that we would find out cause of death from the medical examiner’s office after 6 weeks, but 6 turned into 10 and 10 turned into 14 and 14 turned into 18 and we still had no answers.
At first I called their office often, asking for information and being turned away, but after a while I stopped calling. The pain of hearing, “the file is still open and there’s nothing we can tell you until it’s closed” was too much for me.
I hadn’t contacted them in several weeks, but on May 15th, I finally called again. I expected the same response and I put up walls to try and not be hurt by the news. I was shocked when the receptionist said
“Her file is closed. We have cause of death”.
My heart started racing. I was so afraid they would tell me she couldn’t breathe from being in her rock and play, or that she had suffocated on her swaddle. I knew the guilt would simply be too much.
They couldn’t give me more information over the phone. I hadn’t filled out an official autopsy request for myself. Alice’s pediatrician had filled one out so that we could go over the results together, but we had anticipated getting the results before we moved to Idaho. I immediately called her office. She was in with a patient, but they said she would call me back.
I called again at 4:50 to remind them about me before their lines would close at 5:00. I told the receptionist that I needed the doctor to call me back tonight so I wouldn’t lose my mind. She told me she couldn’t find the report and they never received it. I was put on hold for several minutes and eventually Alice’s doctor came to the phone.
She seemed genuinely upset and apologized she hadn’t called me sooner. “I found the report, but I didn’t know it had gotten here. I hadn’t seen it until just now. I’m so sorry. I will read it to you”.
It was preceded by a lot of medical jargon but eventually she said, “Cause of death: undetermined”.
Alice officially passed from SIDS. (Sudden infant death syndrome defined as when a baby 12 months or younger dies during sleep with no warning signs or a clear reason.)
She continued on to say there was no indication of positional asphyxiation from the rock and play, and that they did not suspect she had suffocated on her blanket.
Strangely, I was so relieved. Although I wasn’t given a concrete reason for her passing, I didn’t have to hold on to the guilt I felt about her death.
To me, this was an acceptable answer. Although I know I will wonder exactly what happened, or why she exactly she died throughout my life, for now it is enough to know there was nothing I could have done.
I don’t understand it, but I know God had and has a plan for Alice. Her time on Earth was brief, but it was complete. I feel it’s my responsibility to carry on her legacy and allow her short life to continue to be a force for good.
With this answer, I imagine an angel came into her room, simply scooped her spirit out of her body and said, “It’s time to go”. It allows me to imagine a swift, painless death for my perfect girl. So from now on when I ask myself, “Why did Alice die?” I will find peace in the answer, “Her mission here was complete. God had a plan for her, and He simply called her home”.