Still, 2 1/2 years later I find my tired mind traveling back to the first days of losing Eliza. Somehow those memories pull at me almost like they are willing me to remember. The mind is tricky; in the first moments of tragedy it is kind. Its like being completely covered with a blanket. From underneath you can sense terrible things are happening but you can only see the outline, the shape of it. And the sounds are muffled, sometimes you can understand but most of the time it’s just white noise. While it’s happening it’s blurry and it feels like you are floating over your body, watching it happen but truly not believing its real. And then one day when you aren’t expecting it the blanket is ripped off. It takes a little while for this to happen but when it does its like looking directly into the sun. And then it all floods in and you are acutely aware of every detail. The details that you were initially shielded from, the ones, that if we felt completely we would most certainly not have survived. They are a freight train.
And so the day came when I could remember the sound of Aaron’s voice when he told me that “Eliza is very sick”. I remember vividly the feeling of knowing what was coming next. It was more than just panic, it was this intense need to go back in time just a few moments and not pick up the phone. It’s what I imagine it would feel like to jumping out of a plane without a parachute and then very quickly regretting it. I remember not being able to catch my breath, the room spinning out of control ready to throw me from my feet. I can actually hear the sound of my voice screaming “Eliza is dead” in a sound that can literally only be described as primal. I remember falling to the ground and screaming for someone to help me. I remember my body shaking so badly that I thought I would die, I begged that I would die. Their were quick moments of complete calm but then I would abruptly be sent back into a swirling world that I no longer wanted to be in. And still, today, 2 1/2 years later I can feel it like it is happening all over again.
I have shared this with many of my loss mamas and I have sat with these women and heard every detail of their loss. Although there are different circumstances they all agree that remembering all of the details is part of the grief and it’s not something that we can pray away because it is quite literally what grief is built on and now it is part of who we are. Underneath everything that we show the world we are broken because not only is a piece of us missing but it’s changed every part of us that remains. Everything we do and say and feel is a result of the pain we have experienced.
But through it all we are brave because we keep living even though the alternative would be easier. We get through one day, one minute one-second. We live each moment with intention because we are living not only for ourselves but for the ones we lost.
I was with my dear friends Dana and Eric this past weekend in Los Angeles. They are foster parents to two little girls. Baby K has been with them for 17 months, since she left the hospital and Baby A was born 6 weeks ago and was placed with them as soon as she was released from the NICU. These babies are beautiful and sweet and I fell in love with them at first sight. My friends explained to me that when you begin fostering you know from the beginning that the ultimate goal is reunification with their birth parents, but of course you get attached and at some point you realize that THIS might not be forever. And so they soak up every single day. They sit on the floor and play toddler games for hours, they hold Baby A while she sleeps even though all the books say to teach them to fall asleep on their own. They kiss them and hug them and tell them they love them at least twice an hour. They quite literally live in the moment because for them there is no promise of tomorrow. But really isn’t that true for all of us? None of us are promised tomorrow, not even our precious children.
When I told my friends I didn’t know if I could do it, that I felt like it would be too painful for me to have to give them up they nodded in agreement. A few hours later almost as if she had taken some time to really ponder my comment Dana walked in to my room. She said that being foster parents wasn’t for them it was for those precious little girls and all the other children that may one day come through their front door. That they are giving these children a safe and loving home while they need it. They are giving them the best life they can no matter if it’s for 2 months or two years and along the way they have been given so much more than they ever imagined. This is what they are called to do and they will do it no matter what the outcome.
What a huge lesson in love. What a huge lesson in grace.
Really that’s all parenting is; giving our children love and safety no matter what the outcome might be. It’s the ultimate love story. I would never have said “I’m not going to have Eliza if there is a chance it may cause me pain”. Can you imagine everything I would have missed. Rocking her for hours because my arms were her favorite place to sleep. Making the craziest sounds over and over again just to hear her big belly laugh. Letting her stay in the bath tub until her fingers wrinkled up because it made her smile. All the little things that we do day after day without even thinking about it…all with no guarantees.
So all of the pain, all of the suffering; would I would I walk through it again? Would I stand in the pit of the most unimaginable grief?
Would I give 4 1/2 years to Eliza again knowing the outcome would be the same?
yes. a million times. yes
“But what do you call parents who lose children? It seems telling to me there is no word in our language for our situation. It is unspeakable, and by extension, we are not supposed to exist” ~ Jayson Greene