Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Much Love, Aunt Sarah

I often hear folks say that it is hard for them to relate to their friends (especially their childless ones) after they lose a baby.  After all, how could they understand?  But, more so, I hear that people feel like their friends (parents and nonparents alike) dont "get" their grief, dont "get" them, that they just dont understand.

It's hard for us to let people in when we are so overcome and devastated by a truly incomprehensible grief.  But, although they didnt carry our children in their wombs, many times our dear friends carried them in their hearts and their grief is one often overlooked.  

We've been really lucky to have so many people who choose to walk this grief journey with us.  From the countless friends who came to Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander's memorial services and, in some cases, took part in them, to the ones who brought meals or just sat with us.  There are the ones who call or email on birthdays and those days throughout the year when a lost child are most visible.  These men and women have never told us to get over it (and in many cases have affirmed that to do so is impossible).  They have held us when we cried and have cried with us.  They have expressed the loss that they feel and, in the simplest of terms, have just acknowledged how much this whole thing sucks.

They have rejoiced (even though they too were afraid) with new pregnancies and have rallied support in times of trial.  They've hugged babies and memorial boxes alike.  They kiss Bobby and Maya, and remember the children they cant kiss in the wind and rain and snow.

Dont get me wrong; the last 3 years have seen me lose friends or lose touch with acquaintances.  I think that is par for the course.  It's going to happen.  But my "real" friends.  The ones who truly wanted to be with me through thick and thin... They are still here.  And they dont try to sugarcoat the truth or tiptoe around the hard questions.  And that's why we're still close.

Last night, after Bobby and Maya were in bed and Peter and I were watching Modern Marvels, which is what we were watching as I made dinner on the night Nick was born, I happened to flip on my computer and see an email from Sarah.  I knew the moment I saw the opening words that I would be a mess by the end, but I didnt realize just how deeply it would touch me.  Or how cathartic it would be.  I'd run out my anger at the gym, but there was still a deep sadness that refused to come out, even after I'd written Nicholas's birthday letter and had his meal.  As I read her words, the floodgates opened, to the point that I found myself puking I was crying so hard.  But, at the end of it, when I finally fell asleep afterwards, I awoke with a new sense of peace...   He's not coming back; none of them are.  Nothing can explain it away or give a good enough reason for any of it.  But in being gone, they are still here.  Bobby and Maya are here.  They are a part of me and a part of Peter and a part of them.  By the four of us being here, our children/siblings who have passed are here too.  But just as beautifully, by our friends and family who remember, they are here too.  

A special thank you to Sarah, for giving me permission to post her beautiful birthday message to her godson.

Hello Nicholas,

I can't believe that you would be three years old today.  In some ways it seems like just yesterday that I got that frantic and emotional phone call in the middle of the night between Friday and Saturday.  And how on Saturday I didn't know what to do with myself because I felt so powerless.  I went to the gym and swam 10 laps.  I was too angry to swim any more than that, but at the same time, I wasn't sure what to do next.  I was driving around aimlessly on my way home from the gym when your Daddy called and asked if I could go clean up the kitchen so it wouldn't smell.  How could I not?  You had just died and your parents were beside themselves and nothing I could do would change that, so the least I could to was load the dishwasher and wipe down the counters and put the pork chops in the refridgerator.  I could feel your presence in the house.  And a heavy sadness, especially in the downstairs bathroom.  

The next day was Super Bowl Sunday.  I was driving FUT to work so we would only have one car for our plans later in the day, and so I could go for a run along the Schuylkill Trail.  On our way, Daddy called again and asked if I would mind picking up a few things from the house and driving them to the hospital for a stay of an unknown time.  I was elated to be able to do something, anything, but sad because I never in a million years imagined that I would have to do an errand like this.  I was on autopilot as I gathered Mommy and Daddy's things - phone chargers, flip flops, socks and underwear.  It didn't occur to me to look up directions to HUP, and once I got nearby I parked in the first place I saw and ended up wandering for over 15 minutes trying to find the entrance.

And then Mommy and Daddy told me the details of your unexpected entrance into this world.  I was amazed and terrified.  I somehow thought you had been miscarried.  And yet the fact you were born, and fought and lived for so many minutes, is what allows me to relate to you in a special way.  As a first born child myself, I understand you as the first born - your need to take care of your siblings and those around you, sometimes to the extent that you forget yourself.  I know you were lower and that is why you were born first, but I think that you knew, that maybe if you went first, then your sister might have a chance. And I know you were happy to do it for her.  And I think you knew that Mommy and your sister were in distress, and that part of your fight and motivation was to live long enough to make sure that they were ok, in the capable hands of the EMTs and doctors.  I think you lived the longest of your departed siblings, despite being the earliest, because you were the oldest and it was just in your nature to take care of the others.  I understand this feeling - I pray that I never have to sacrifice myself for one of my sisters, but I would do so in a second.

I can't help but think what you would be like now as a three year old.  It's hard to imagine, since if you were indeed here at three years old, your brother Alexander would not be, at least not as we know him today, and your sister Sophia would probably also be different from how we know her.  And who is to say who, and how, and if, Bobby and Maya would be.  So as hard as it is for me to think that you have passed, it's equally hard to think of how things would be if you were still here, since they would be radically different from how I know them today.  This is hard to put my mind around.  The only common demoninator I find from you living or you dying is this:  It's hard.  Babies are not supposed to die.  And that is why I don't remember the ride home from the hospital the day after you were born.  All I remember is getting home and crying my eyes out and being angry at a world and a God that could allow such an awful thing to happen.


I imagine the three year old you as having sandy colored hair in loose curls.  You are quiet but alert, well spoken, and you like to smile and laugh.  You are a dutiful big brother and are quick to point out if the gate was accidentally left open or if the family forgot to pray before a meal or that it is time for lunch or to go to bed.  Your respect your younger siblings and give them the space they need to be themselves, but you still love playing with them.  I think that you would especially like to draw with Paw Paw and that you would love Hide and Seek.  Since you are 3, you would love hiding in the same spot again and again and again, and I would delight in finding you, and it would be no trouble for me to act as if I didn't know where you were until I found you in your "hiding spot" each time.

So my little Godson, I know you are up in heaven keeping tabs on Sophia and Alexander, and sending love and giggles to Bobby and Maya, and helping out their guardian angels who are on perpetual overtime.  I admire your courage and your commitment to the family. 

Thank you for being you and for being in my life.

Much love,
Aunt Sarah


Kakunaa said...

What a beautiful kind and needed :)

Devon said...

what a beautiful letter!

Juliet said...

What a touching letter. I cried when I read it.

Joanna said...

You're very lucky to have such good friends.

Baby Smiling In Back Seat said...

What a special godmother and loving friend.

quadmom said...

I nearly cried reading this. What a wonderful friend and godmother to your firstborn son. What a blessing. Her love for Nicholas is very evident.

one-hit_wonder said...

beautiful - too beautiful, in fact, for me to finish reading. too much for me today. i'm so glad you have this letter in your possession.

Christy said...

What an amazing letter. I am weepy-your babies are SO SO loved.