Child as Buffer Before Death

Confessions of parental guilt are rare and are likely only to be expected in certain limit-situations. For example, in the case of the Dutch author van der Heijden, whose son was killed in a traffic accident. Whereas Schopenhauer still supposed that no one who was thinking clearly would ever decide to beget a child, van der Heijden confesses: “We took the decision to have a child. I conceived it wilfully and knowingly with her… And now Mirjam and I are left here, until our respective dying days, with a loss the size of life instead of a living son. It was all a lie, then, this sense of safety and protection that a family of our own had seemed to guarantee. It was a stinking lie to imagine that our child would be a kind of buffer before the lonely chill of our own deaths.” (van der Heijden, Tonio) Van der Heijden’s nativistic frankness deserves great praise; but he appears not to be fully recognizant of the fact that, in begetting a child as a “buffer before death” – one that unfortunately “died before his time” – he had in fact exposed this child himself to the “lonely chill” of the inevitability of dying.

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