Sunday, August 25, 2019

8 Years

August sixth. It's the day we "celebrate" Luke's birthday. Celebrate always seems like a strange word for the day. But I guess that's what we do. This year it happened to be on a Tuesday and we happened to be in Utah which also happened to be "Two Dollar Tuesday" at Thanksgiving Point." Jeremy tells me, "going there is something Luke would like to do." So that's where we spend the first half of the day and then on to our regular traditions of pizza and a hike. Being in nature always just feels like the right thing to do. A little closer to God. A little closer to heaven. A little closer to Luke.

Eight years. It was hard to believe it's already been eight years. I know for some time heals and for others the grief is still so rich and deep that they scoff at that saying. I'd say for me it has healed. I wonder how that might be different if I had lost a child whom I'd KNOWN versus a child who I only carried in my womb. The thought of losing one of  my other kids who I know and who are an intricate part of our daily lives seems like such a greater loss, one that I'm not so sure time would heal.

We strangely haven't been in Utah on August 6th since 2011, the year Luke died . . . the year Luke was born. Trevor took the kids on "tour-de-Utah" pointing out different places. In Provo it was simply things like "that's where your mom and I lived when we were first married" or "that's the building I took most of my classes." But on the way down  to Provo stop was a bit more melancholy. "This is hospital where Luke was born. This was the parking lot where I was when I called Grandma to tell her Luke had died."

I wasn't really in the mood for going down that road of all those emotions. So maybe in avoidance or maybe in a recommitted effort to actually do something to pay-it-forward I quickly told my family I'd be right back and hopped out of the van and went in side. Nothing looked familiar. They have either remodeled the labor and delivery wing or I was in such a fog walking in to that hospital eight years ago that I wasn't seeing my surroundings --only feeling the depth of the laborious task ahead of me - to get the baby out of me. What an awful terrible chore a woman has to do. I don't feel that way about birth. I love giving birth. But to have to birth a baby who is already deceased, that feels like one of the most cruel challenges a woman has to face. Writing these words I can almost feel it. It sits in front of me. It's a wall. It's something that feels impassable. Yet somehow in that foggy haze of emotions I put one foot in front of the other, checked in to the hospital, changed in to a gown, got all hooked up to monitors and IV's and began what felt like the longest road in front of me.

Eight years later much of it still seems blurry. Was that just because of how I was feeling or has time added the filter that softens the edges and makes it all less poignant?

So here I am in the hospital again and I'm introducing myself to a woman, I've already forgotten her name. I don't shake her hand for fear that I might still be sick, yet I greet her with a big smile and explain why I'm there. It's only an instant before I'm waving my hands at my eyes as if to dry out the tears that I feel welling up beyond my eye sockets. I feel it in my throat and eyes, "Today is my son's birthday who was stillborn. I gave birth here 8 years ago." I don't cry and just as quick as it came the emotions descend back out of my face, perhaps to my core where they are buried and only surface occasionally now. I ask her about the items they give to families who experience loss. She walks me across the corridor to a closet that has a permanent sign next to it "bereavement supplies" and I am somehow reminded of a fact I knew but push aside and forget, are dying all the time. Sometimes it feels like those sweet gifts were just for me, but no, the premature dying just keeps on going. I guess I don't think about it often because that's just too hard. I'm better at life when I can push that pain back down inside where it sleeps quietly as if it were hibernating. I'm good with it there. Yet I don't want the pain to be so forgotten that I don't reach out  and do my part to give back. So I take a quick visual survey of the things they provide to families of loss and start scheming how I can provide similar items, if needed, at my local hospitals.

Then just as rapidly as I raced in to the building I scurry back out to our van filled with three waiting children. How different that exit was than my previous exit. When I had rushed in to the building I had not only looked around for familiar details but was quickly taken back to the strange, strange feeling of leaving a hospital empty handed. And as I sit here and type my mind turns to the moment of turning my baby over to a stranger, albeit a kind stranger, nevertheless a complete stranger. A moment you have never even conceived or entertained, but suddenly you're living the moment of someone taking your baby. As I sit here now I regret not taking more time. More time to just be and observe and to hold. But I guess no amount of time would have been enough. I could have sat in the labor room for a week holding my baby and it wouldn't have been long enough before I had to hand him over to the mortuary employee.

I decided that we'd hike the Grotto in Payson canyon. Hardly a hike, more like a little walk to a charming waterfall. We had done it when I was pregnant and then with family in town for the funeral somehow we decided to do it again. It just seemed like the right hike to do on his "birthday" since we were there. Being back I could clearly see myself in my red athletic-style swishy pants (that I've long let go of) walking the path. I was walking with family even possibly chatting, with my hands in my pockets, yet carrying something. Carrying the weight of the fresh, fresh grief. When grief is that fresh it is tangible. You feel it. Always. Even if you're smiling, you feel it. Even if you're talking about something else, you feel it. It's thick. It's ever present. It's consuming. All consuming. 

Now as we hike the trails with our kids I look around and notice the charred trees from last year's summer fire. I think of those trees engulfed in flames and completely consumed. There is no escaping it. There is no avoiding feeling it when you're surrounded by flames. Those trees were showing me the consumption that grief carries. That consumption that does, like the flames, pass. But you're ever changed from it. I am no longer engulfed in the tangible nearly taste-able woes of grief, but my limbs are charred, like a tree that is split open to reveal its history through the markings on its rings, there will always be years that I know are marked with those consuming experiences.

How different life is for us now. The aches and longing for parenthood have been filled overflowing with parenthood. I ached for this life. Back then I was probably committing to never complain about anything regarding being a mother. Yet it's hard. It's hard work. The challenges are every growing me in to a new person. Yet this is the life I chose. It's not easy, so I recommit to finding the magic, the moments of smiles, the laughter, the silliness. All the things I longed for. They're here, but it takes more work to find them than I would have thought.

Silly kids surround me as they explore and splash and play --the colors of the rocks catch my eye. So vibrant. So varied. These rocks remind me how different we all are and how different grief can be for each of us. Yet the water washes over all --shaping, changing, and making anew.


Your brother and sister speak of you often. Your name has brought mastery to the letter "L" as we practice our letters. We don't know what you're like, but the kids like to think they do! May you be keeping busy watching over us and doing whatever work there is to do beyond the veil of this mortal existence. Oh how we look forward to you joining in on our crazy shenanigans! 
With love,
You mommy