In the early ’90s in Liverpool, England, Denise Bulger was shopping with her two-year-old son James, and she turned her back on him for literally 30 seconds. When she turned around, he was gone. Later, surveillance from the store would show James being led away by two males.
That day, James was walked to the railroad tracks where he was beaten with bricks; sexually mutilated; had paint poured into his eyes and batteries stuffed into his mouth, and then was left lying on the tracks, where he was cut in half by a train. It was determined he died after his skull was caved in with an iron bar, done by the assailants before the train hit him.
After serving an eight year sentence, one of the murderers would later state the incident never would have happened had Denise not taken her eyes off her son. Later, he would be re-arrested for charges involving drugs; assault; and child pornography, as well as violating his parole by visiting the site of where he committed the murder.
Perhaps James would still be here if Denise had him on a leash or in her arms while she was shopping. Might he also be here if people did not abduct and kill toddlers for no apparent reason?
Most of us find it very easy to simply leave other people’s children alone, or maybe play with them and NOT abduct and kill them, or perhaps abduct them and not kill them. Most of us. However, any of us with children will tell you that it is impossible to literally never take your eyes off them.
It doesn’t stop everyone from offering that useful bit of advice in occasions where someone’s child has died, perhaps in an accident. Recently, a small boy in my town was killed in some sort of camping accident when he became separated from his family, and other parents were too quick to point out that they don’t have to worry about things like that happening to their kids because they never take their eyes off them – the implication being, of course, that only careless parents will ever suffer the loss of a child.
How is that remotely helpful to the family who took their son camping and maybe let him run ahead of them or gather wood or find a bathroom instead of literally watching him every second? Do any parents do that? Who are they?
My guess is the self-righteous parents who “never took their eyes off their kids” have, at some point, glanced in another direction. Perhaps they sent the kid to school or even left him with his grandparents overnight. Maybe he went to a birthday party or a dentist appointment or he fell asleep and you, at some point, ceased looking at him. Have you ever, during your child’s infancy or toddlerhood, showered? Perhaps even while you were the only adult in the home? My guess is you have. My guess is that at some point you had to make dinner or take a phone call or get some work done and you left the kid in the high chair or play pen or watching TV and you turned your back on your child even though it only takes 30 seconds for someone to come along and abduct him.
My kids have, to my knowledge, never been abducted, but one time I wasn’t paying attention while I was juggling my 18-month-old, a stack of books and two plates at a potluck, and the baby squirmed, fell from a 3-foot chair and broke her leg.
Would it never have happened if we had been paying attention only to her and not our plates? Maybe. Or maybe she would have broken her leg at some other time. We of course rushed her to the hospital and got her leg in a cast, and no one felt the need to tell us that their kids never fell because they were such careful parents.
Perhaps their kids never fell. I’m guessing these parents screwed up in other ways, ways which escape their memory when they are immediately confronted with a parent who screwed up and now has a kid with a broken leg. All that matters is their kid never broke his leg. Maybe he got suspended or failed the 4th grade or had to have all his teeth pulled at age 2, but he never broke his leg, and my kid did.
And, sometimes it really is a parent’s fault that their kid is dead. I had one a few years ago, an infant who died in a hot car. Only Mom didn’t just leave her to go to the grocery store; the baby had already been dead 24 hours by the time she was found. She had been left in the car for two days. There is no excuse here. This is not human error; this is not “no parent is perfect.” This is an absolutely preventable case of child neglect that went on for days and resulted in what was likely an agonizing death.
I have met with more than one family whose child was intentionally aborted for being the wrong sex. (Female, for those of you who still think that abortion forwards women’s rights somehow.) Ok, sign here and here and here; initial here and I’ll take care of that baby you changed your mind about after it wasn’t exactly what you wanted. Hey, maybe I’ll see you in a few months, wink wink nudge.
I have seen my fair share of drownings. I am not at all surprised that so many children can drown, even right under the watchful eye of a perfect parent, due to the false portrayals of what a drowning looks like. In movies you hear the kid screaming for help. He’s thrashing and sinking under the water. In a real drowning, he will be quiet and still, and may not sink. My brother drowned (as an adult) and people who were there said he just looked like he was floating on his back. He died within minutes of falling in the water.
I truly do not understand how any parent could have a pool. It’s just not worth the risk. In every child drowning I’ve seen, it’s the same story every time: each adult thought “someone else” was watching the kid. Maybe some of these stories are lies and Mom was passed out drunk and there was no other adult, but most of these families were married couples and were probably telling the truth.
I’ll still never tell these parents what I think of their pool, or their abortion, or how they like to get high and leave their kids in the car until they die. It’s not my job. I take care of human remains in accordance with state law and the wishes of their family, and I have also taken care of murdered spouses while the not-yet-charged murderer sat in the room and told me how he wanted his wife’s funeral handled. Until he has been charged with a crime I cannot treat him differently than anyone else burying his wife. The cause and manner of death are irrelevant when I am the funeral director. Whether he killed her, she killed herself or no one ever figures out how she died, embalming is embalming and that is primarily what I do.
And then sometimes I black out and lose memory because I cannot deal with what has happened; with not being able to speak. I can’t ever say to someone who seeks out my professional services, guess what – your child’s death was a senseless tragedy and all your fault. Most of what I speak of, ever, has taken place years ago. I simply can’t think of it very soon afterward.
The boy who died while camping is not my case and I’ll probably never know whose fault it really was, if anyone’s. But on a list of the top five most offensive things you can say to someone whose child has just died, right up there with “god needed him more than you did” and “everything happens for a reason,” something like “my kids won’t die like yours because I’m a better parent” has to be number one.
Denise Bulger eventually remarried and had more children. I hope she let them out of her sight. I hope they climbed trees and went on sleepovers and went to school and learned to drive and went on dates. I hope they were allowed to live their lives even if it was scary for their mother, and it must have been, because her son’s killers are now free men. They are still quite young. They served their eight years and were released with false identities, school records and tax information. They have jobs. They have had girlfriends. Girlfriends with children.