16 May 2010
Loneliness and Hope
Mother Teresa said, "Loneliness and the feeling of being unloved, is the most terrible poverty."
There is a very sense of poverty then after your child dies. There is a desperate sense of loneliness, and the curtains on the world fade. There is no one who knows this as well as the parents of a dead child.
Around this time, about three weeks before Grace died, I sent a desperate middle-of-the-night email to my midwife. I told her that I couldn't stop crying. I told her that I felt overwhelmed, depressed, and incredibly sad. I told her that I didn't know why, that I'd never experienced this with my other two children, and I hardly knew what to do.
There was, of course, nothing to do. The baby's heart beat. My check ups didn't detect anything unusual and all my stats were normal.
My midwife did the only thing she could which was to reassure me that hormones can play havoc with our bodies and that many women feel emotionally unsettled.
I still have that email.
I read it sometimes, and my body goes cold. A numbness settles.
Was this some kind of premonition? Was this the precursor to what was coming? There were signs coming out me from all angles. Only a month before this email, on Easter morning, Sophia, age 2 1/2 walked out the back door at a friends house, down the driveway and headed on her own away from all of us, three blocks from the party. She was crossing a busy street, wandering around, with no one running after her.
I thought she was in the house with Terry, and he thought she was outside with me.
A couple found her and carried her from house to house knocking on doors: Is this your child? Do you know this child? Until they found our party, until they found us, laughing and chatting, Easter candy strewn all around us.
And I looked at this stranger carrying my daughter confused in that moment of the series of events leading up to this. Time began to slow way down and my head began to pound as I pieced together the story.
I took Sophia in my arms, and she immediately fell asleep. I held her and cried, and saw before me a flash of what it meant to lose a child. And I remember thinking, This would be my undoing. This, losing my daughter, would send me over the edge and into an abyss that I could never return from.
Was this a sign, a premonition of what was coming?
I could give you more instances, more examples, but I think the point is simply that in all of this, I never could have predicted that I could have survived this sort of thing. I never would have predicted that seven years later, I would find hope, seek joy, find laughter and sing.
If we were made aware of our traumas, if we could see what was coming, surely we would try to run the other way.
But by some miracle of grace, we do survive and sometimes, if we are lucky, we come out stronger in the process. Certainly more vulnerable, but stronger too.
And therein lies the dichotomy in all of this grief: Here is my grief, for sure, present, daily, surrounding me and yet here is grief's companion: joy, present, daily, surrounding me.
And hope does exist because I am surrounded by people in my life that give me hope, that give me reasons to live. And still, and yet, there is Grace alive in my mind, missing in our lives, wreaking great havoc on my heart and expanding my ability to love.
The weeks are closing in on me. The memories come at me like shooting stars out of nowhere. I can be staring up at a sky filled with light, filled with stars pulsing in the night and then suddenly, one drops down quickly, out of the night sky, appears before me in a flash and disappears.
I can see Sophia in my mind, two and a half years old, walking down a neighborhood street. Was she looking for me? I have to believe she was. And I was unaware that she had walked out of my life for a moment while Grace still growing inside of me was living her life in the only way she'd ever know--inside of my body, forever cocooned from the world, sheltered within my womb, her little heart beating its last beats forever with just a few weeks to go.
Hope still exists.
Shadows move in and out of my life.
Grace continues to matter.