Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Void

I've been reading A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. This particular section caught my eye:
"If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to 'glorify God and enjoy Him forever.' A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knee, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild."
Ahhh, C.S.: what a great man. I find it amazing that he, who was obviously never a mother, and more pointedly, never a grieving mother...could teach me something about myself---about how I feel each and every day since losing Will. The fact that I have been robbed of that "maternal happiness" is precisely why each day has been so difficult. I trust that Will is at the feet of Jesus-that he is enjoying all of heaven's glories...I believe that God did not take my son...that we live in a fallen world where we collide painfully with death's hideousness, and that my loss is a result of such a collision. I know that, even if God didn't take my child from me, He can use THIS...this nightmare, this pain, this struggle--He can take and make it something beautiful and precious. But my joy has been ripped away from me--and even my faith cannot restore that loss. I will always feel this emptiness...from what I hear, it will become more manageable...less intense...not quite as excruciating. But it will be there. So...for now, I choose to focus on what I do have, what I haven't lost, what is still within my grasp. Because that emptiness--that loss, will invade my consciousness quite often enough on its own. It comes, unbeckoned, and it doesn't need to be simply arrives. But I can fill my remaining minutes each day with things that bridge the gap between pain and joy: the feel of Nan's hand on my back when she hugs me...Shannon's smile (now appearing more frequently--and I revel in it)...the comforting sing-song quality of my mother's 'phone-voice'...the familiar "bookish" smell of my current readings (still my favorite pasttime)...the warm consolation of Herschel sitting faithfully at my heels...these are the things I relish right now. And my ability to treasure these things--to embrace the goodness present in my life--is a gift in itself. The "void" I feel is surrounded on all sides by abundance and blessings. I am grateful.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control! We are, to be sure, a miracle every way; but our powers of recollecting and of forgetting do seem peculiarly past finding out. "
Jane Austen from Mansfield Park

Anyone who knows me well knows how I love Ms. Austen. And her words (and the words of my other favorite writers) are providing comfort and inspiration quite regularly these days. This quote made me think about my memories of Will...of the moments that have remained vivid throughout the past weeks. I don't understand why my memory has latched onto some of them, yet completely dismissed others. So, in an attempt to reflect and find solace in these memories, I thought I would list some of them:
-The first tear that slid down the side of my face when I realized the monitor was not going to pick up a heartbeat from Will because there was no heartbeat anymore. I was lying on the examining table in triage (ironically, this was the same examination room I was in just 18 hours earlier...listening to his healthy hearbeat with the same fetal heart monitor). The two nurses were trying desperately to locate a heartbeat--moving the monitor all over my belly, but as the minutes passed by, I knew. Despite the presence of these two nurses, I was so alone. I knew that Shannon was going to walk into the examination room in mere seconds. And I knew that I would have to tell him his son was gone. And that tear felt so cold and so heavy. And if I close my eyes and focus, I can feel it trace its path all over again. That tear was only the first of thousands, but it matters the most to me because it marked the precise moment when the hopes I had been storing up for 9 months abandoned me, and my life changed forever.
-My daddy's hand. I remember lying in the hospital bed after being induced. There was a chair next to my bed, and I asked someone to bring Daddy in to sit with me. It took him a moment to arrive at my bedside, but before he sat down, he gently grabbed my hand and kissed my forehead. And my father, who always has so much to say, could only say one thing: "I wish I could take this from you." And nothing that anyone has ever said to me has been more true or more loving. I know that, despite his age and the condition of his body, he would have taken my pain away and carried it all for me if it was possible. I held his hand...the hand I have held so many many times during my 31 years, and although it is older and more fragile than it was when I was a child, I felt five years old again because there is strength and wisdom in that hand. And that same hand, in its strength and wisdom, has comforted me through every scraped knee, and disappointment, and sorrow of my life.
-Will's cap. After I delivered him, the nurses gave him his first and only bath. They dressed him in the clothes we brought to the hospital--the clothes he was supposed to wear when we took him home with us. They wrapped him in a blanket and gave him to me (I think Shannon may have held him first). I won't go into all of the details of his appearance, but he was stunning: absolutely beautiful. At some point, I gave him back to Shannon so that he could wheel the bassinet next door--we let our loved ones look at him and hold him and say their good-byes. I asked to see him again, and when Shannon handed him to me, he had a blue and cream knitted cap on his head (which hid the head full of dark hair that proved he was MY son, indeed). This was the last time I held him. I rocked him and soaked his face with my tears. I kissed his nose and his mouth and caressed his back. And I rubbed my lips back and forth across that little knitted cap, while I whispered my last words to him. I called him all of the pet names I already had for him: baby boy, little lamb, my angel, my son, baby Will, my sweet boy. I told him I was sorry. And as I whispered these words to my son, my lips continued to brush the knitted cap until they were chapped and raw. And when I am alone sometimes, I conjure up that sensation--the feeling of his little cap against my burning lips, and I am with him again...tracing his spine with my hand...inspecting his perfectly formed fingernails....noting with amazement his flawless complexion...taking a desperate, fleeting inventory of the little person I had waited so long to meet.
-The tree outside my window. When I woke up (after 3 or 4 hours of sleep) the next morning, Shannon was sleeping on the padded bench across the hospital room. Above him, I saw light through the window--a tell-tale sign that the sun had risen and my first day without my son had begun. Outside the window, a tree was waving in the wind. The quivering of the leaves and bending of the branches held my attention for at least ten minutes, and I couldn't figure out why. And then it hit me: I was awake because I was accustomed to being woken up by a squirmy Will in my belly that same time each morning. But my belly was empty. My belly was numb...thanks to a hangover from the epidural. But that tree, in its constant motion, reminded me of daily wake-up call--and I missed him, truly missed him for the first time.

Sonnet 30
by William Shakespeare
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

My first attempt

I am attempting this blog thing for the first time. Not really sure how to proceed...I have been inspired by the writings of my new comrades-in-arms: Samantha and Molly. Both are grieving mothers, just like me. Both lost their sweet babies to stillbirth, just like me. But unlike me, they have both been blogging for quite some time. They write so effortlessly. Me...not so much. Despite being an English teacher, I find writing about myself to be difficult. But Susan, you say...surely you can write---you teach writing to your students nearly every day. Not that easy, folks. I can write, sure--plays, screenplays, literary analysis essays, research projects, etc. But I've never been good with journaling...not so good at turning the writer's eye inward.

But my lack of blogging prowess notwithstanding, I feel the need to get IT out. A month has gone by since losing Will. Concerned visitors tapered off at least two weeks ago. Daily check-in phone calls are dwindling. And I'm okay with that. It's just that life is moving on...despite the fact that I am stuck. My heart is with my little Will, but my Will is gone and my arms are empty. Doing normal things like paying bills and grocery shopping and cleaning the house are overwhelming right now. Grief is the only thing at which I currently excel. It is my constant companion:
"Grief fills the room up of my absent child,Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me . . . " William Shakespeare from King John

For now, I'm done. This will have to do for my first foray into the blogging universe.