When Everything Stops

This past weekend, our infant son fell quite ill. He got a very high fever that kept spiking up to a worryingly high number, then falling a bit, then spiking again. He was completely lethargic. He seemed most content simply resting with his eyes open while being held, which is as far away from his usual chattering and clapping and noisy and boisterous self as can be.

At the same time, we found out that an old friend of ours (“Walt,” from an old post) was in hospice care. We have had difficulty staying in touch with him since our move because he was fairly reclusive. While juggling our child’s illness, we tried to find out where he was staying so that we could visit him, but shortly after we found out, we learned that he had passed away from liver cancer.

Did I spend enough time with Walt? My wife spent more time with him than I did over the past few years, checking in on him to make sure he was doing all right.

Is my son going to be okay? The warmth from his cheeks often felt so hot against me.

All of the bustle in the world just stops sometimes. I have so many ongoing concerns, yet all of those seemingly important concerns just melt away when things like these happen.

What’s really important, then?

Is it more important to buy another computer game off of Steam, or to spend an hour visiting an old person whose week you’ll make just by visiting them?

Is it more important to hold your healthy child for a moment and tell them that you love them, or to pay no attention to their childish games while you’re busy watching the big game?

So often, when you start cutting things down to what’s really important, you begin to realize that most of the stuff you spend your money and time on really doesn’t matter all that much. There are so many other worthwhile and genuinely valuable things to do with your time, and often that leaves your money there in your checking account to make it much easier to take care of yourself.

Goodbye, Walt. Thanks for a final lesson that I’ll remember deeply.

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  1. Courtney says:

    Hope your little one recovers quickly. I have a young son too and understand how terrifying that sort of illness can be. Hugs to you and your wife right now.

    And, so sorry about your friend Walt. May he rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon him.

  2. Sarah says:

    Hope your son is feeling better. My son was also running a high fever this past weekend. It is amazing (not in a good way) the change an illness can bring to a child.

  3. Eboo says:

    My condolences on the loss of your friend. Sometimes a loss reminds us of the important things in life, and that seems to be true for you at this time.

    I hope your son recovers quickly. As a parent, I understand the fear that overcomes when your child is unexplainably ill. I hope that it is nothing too serious, and is over soon.

  4. Such a good reminder of what is truly important. Thank you.

  5. Wojo says:

    I’m sorry to hear about Walt’s passing. While I’ve never had a loved one fall seriously ill or pass away, I’ve had similar experiences during the birth of our child and while I myself was sick. The world can be falling down around us, but when health is at risk or other important life events are happening, we just forget about all the “rest of it.”

  6. Burnette says:

    Wow, I can definitely sympathize. I’m sorry for the sudden loss and also the illness of your child.

    I recently lost a close family friend from pneumonia. Even though he lived a full life, but I felt guilty not having seen him for almost 5+ years and then popping into the hospital 2 days before he passed away. It definitely makes you grateful and appreciative of the memories you do have with that person.

    As for your infant’s illness, that can be scary too. I recently went through a heath scare and my bf and I have revamped our lifestyle to be focused on healthy living.

    Life’s little setbacks are wake up calls, or what I call “slaps in the face”, just reprioritize and value our life :)

    Good luck with everything!

  7. PF says:

    thank you for sharing this. I wish good health to you family, and a sound mind to you as you deal with loss.

  8. Sandy E. says:

    My husband died in 1995 from pancreatic cancer, and do you know that today, I received a nice card in the mail from UCSB stating that they received a gift in memory of my husband and it gave the name of a friend of his that I haven’t been in touch with since. And so after all these years? 16 to be exact. What a true friend he is! I just wrote him a long heart-felt letter thanking him today for doing that. It deeply touched me.

  9. Jeanette says:

    Sorry about the loss of your friend Walt and hope your son’s health is improving.

    Yes, it’s always people first, although the excuse is often that one is “too busy.” What are we humans so busy with? Buying? Video games? Being online. Spending money. Showcasing our possessions in the best light? Taking care of our “stuff”?

    Working seems to be the biggest excuse for most people, even if it is “legitimate” but the reality is most of us work so much that it depletes the time and energy we need for our “real” lives, as it were. And what is the real cost of that??? A question rarely addressed. Right now, people are staying in jobs they loathe so they can spend a fortune on a child’s education…in the meantime, they have no time or energy for their families. Where’s the real investment here?

    What fascinated me is how few comments (8 as I write this)there are on this post. It’s as if all the voices who are ALWAYS commenting on every post just seemed not to see this one. Interesting.

  10. Amy B. says:

    Trent, thanks for the great reminder of where our focus should be. Sorry to hear about these troubles.

  11. Jay says:

    Thank you for taking the time in spite of your challenges to remind us of what is really important in life. My prayers are with you and your family, especially your little one.

  12. Corith Malin says:

    Re: Jeanette – people grieve differently and death is a hard subject for many people.

    Trent – I’m sorry for your loss but more so I’m happy that you found someone you care about as much as you did Walt. Sometimes the pain of losing someone overshadows the joy in knowing someone.

  13. kristine says:


    Thoughts are with you and yours. Thank you for sharing. My son got a staph infection in the nursery as a newborn, and I remember how harrowing it is to have a very sick baby, when hoping was the larger part of what I could do.

    Jeanette, I am sorry that in a post that stresses appreciation of others you felt compelled to close with a snide comment.

  14. Marta says:

    I have been though the illness of a child like this. Be sure if he is truly lethargic, you bring him to the doctor. Like you said, nothing is as important as the ones we love.
    I’m also sorry for your loss. I make a point of telling people I care about that I love them. I’m sure Walt knew how you felt about him.
    I’m wishing all of you health, healing, and love.

  15. Michele says:

    Trent et al.
    You have to make all kinds of decisions throughout your life- sometimes, you are yelling at your bratty kid, exasperated at your crabby parent or spouse, pissed at your co-worker or too busy to do something you feel obligated to do so you let it go…and it’s part of human nature to have those reactions. You cannot beat yourself up when someone dies, or falls ill, or is hurt, or has a tragedy in their life (or your life) because of ‘what ifs’. You do the best you can.
    Yes, we all have regrets, but to worry if you did enough, to second guess your gut reaction, well, that’s just not productive if you are a normally kind, caring person. We do the best we can with what we’ve been given. Do you really ignore you kids to buy a game or to watch ‘the big game’?? Probably not- but do you get involved in a ‘big game’ or something you enjoy sometimes? Yah, probably. Well, you know, that’s OK. It’s not usually a fatal error if you do something you love once in a while.
    Glad your child will be OK and you learned something from Walt’s death. It’s obvious you loved Walt, and you love your children, so you should not feel guilty. I seriously read guilt all over this post. Trent, you know you did the best you could so continue to do so and don’t burden yourself.

  16. Peggy says:

    Hi, Trent, sorry to hear about your little one and Walt’s passing. I agree with Marta #14, that if your son is still feverish and you haven’t already done so, please take him to the doctor.

    I believe that Walt knows how much you care about him and he doesn’t want you to continue to feel bad.

    Thanks for sharing. We all need a reminder about what’s really important in life.

  17. deRuiter says:

    What’s important is did you take the very sick child to a doctor or the emergency room? Mooning around the house about how sick a child is while he has a raging fever is asking for trouble, you’ve got health care through your wife, take the child to a doctor before his temmperature gets so high he’s in danger of death or permanent injury. You can think about some old sick person with whom you haven’t been in much contact in years, after you get the fever down.

  18. Money Beagle says:

    Sorry about all the down news. Hopefully it gets better. With our little one and another on the way we always try to keep in mind that memories are more important than stuff because after they’re all grown up, they’ll forget all about the stuff but the memories will be there.

  19. Randy says:

    There’s an old song that says “stop the world and let me off.” I’ve thought that so many times.

    Hope your son is doing better. Walt obviously meant a lot to you. Glad you posted about him.

  20. Jessica says:

    I’ve learned this lesson too many times in the past year, myself. I suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of my son last summer and was hospitalized for it, in a psychiatric unit. It was horrifying, I cannot even describe the experience.

    I’m working on getting a plan in place to (hopefully) quit my job this year to stay home with my children. My life was almost taken from me, and now I’m taking it back and enjoying it.

  21. Char says:

    Trent, I am very sorry about your loss. On another note, you’re right on target about “most of the stuff you spend your money and time on really doesn’t matter all that much.” We had the greatest Christmas this past year – witht the exception of one brother, my whole family was pretty much unemployed, and we had a Homemade Christmas — this will stay in our minds much, much longer than the Christmases of the past where we had the money to buy glitzy items for each other. Just the ingenuity and craft in each of us – the creativity, love and care that is inside us in infinite supply — overwhelmed me. I know now what’s really important.

  22. Terry says:

    Condolences and hope your son is better soon. Thank you for this post. Just what I needed to hear today.

  23. Karen says:

    My condolences and healing prayers sent

  24. Jackie says:

    I hope your little one is better soon!

  25. Tracy W says:

    As others have been saying, my condolences, and my best wishes for your son’s recovery.

  26. aj says:

    It is a shame that it takes events such as this to jerk us back to reality, waking us up, reminding us what matters most.

    I often think about my Grandfather…he passed away when he was 93. During the last 10 years of his life I was too preoccupied with high school, friends, then college, a bad marriage, and my two little girls…I did not make enough time to spend with him. I deeply regret it, but I can’t change it. The only thing I can do is to make sure that I don’t make that mistake again with any of the other people I love in my life. And teach my children to do the same.

    I hope all is well with your son by now. It is so hard to see them like that, especially when they are young.

    When my youngest daughter was about 3 she had a febrile seizure due to her temperature spiking…it was relatively harmless but the image of her eyes rolling back in her head & her nonresponsive-ness was one that was hard to get out of my head for a VERY LONG time. I didn’t know what was happening at the time, and it scared me to death. It ended up she had something that they could not identify but just had to run its course. The main problem was being able to keep her temp down. Sister had it too but managed much better as her temp never got that high.

    Prayers & condolences to you!

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