Feb 27, 2010

His Quiet Presence

Has it really been almost a year since I last posted? I apologize... It takes a lot of strength - and overcoming reluctance - for me to sit, and think back to 2006 and remember. The details really do slip away... In the words of Anne Blythe (Anne of Green Gables, when her firstborn daughter Joyce died) "It's knowing that someday this won't hurt as much that is the hardest". It's true, someday, it won't hurt as much. And thinking back to my stunned pain, compared to the secret breathtaking regret I try to smile through today, I never thought I would get through the day without borrowing a tissue.

Actually, in all honesty, I'm not a crier. I perform marvelously in front of people. I don't do it on purpose though...I try to be honest in all aspects of my life. But there's something about a crowd of people that dries my tears and nudges me towards a smile, no matter how in-genuine it may feel. I think deep-down that I'm loathe to bring people - even close friends - down to my level of despair. I know what it feels like to be without the words to comfort, and I hate to impose that on anyone. It's unfair of me, in a way, to rob my friends and family of the opportunity to comfort, but truly, I always find it myself. I reach out for God, and eventually, in His subtle nature and in the slightest of whispers, He answers and calms me.

I had a wonderful childhood, truly. We were "middle-class" and I was homeschooled by my stay-at-home mother. It wasn't without its scars, of course. When I was nine, we adopted family of four children. They came with their set of problems that disrupted the comfortable household lifestyle considerably for the next nine years of my life. There were circumstances that would have shaken the core of a weaker child, and destroyed her self-esteem and confidence for life. But God, as usual, knew what He was doing, and walked me through each turbulence. I still reflect on my childhood as wonderful, and I am grateful for the disruption in the "perfection", because I know I would not be as strong without it.

On the Thursday after losing my son, I nearly gnawed my knuckles to shreds. (Heh, sounds like I'm trying to make an alliteration...) I had to go home that day, and while getting out of the hospital should have been a cheering thought, I was filled with dread. Leaving the hospital meant getting on with my life. It meant acknowledging this really happened. I procrastinated as best I could without aggravating my husband. Ty was anxious to get home. He was already stressed out and vexed that we'd been in the hospital as long as we had, and would have dragged me home if he could have carried my still-bloated frame. I dallied in the bathroom, fussing over washing up. I pilfered sanitary pads and those fishnet undies anything else I thought I wouldn't get in trouble for taking. Finally, when I could linger no longer, I resigned myself to the customary wheelchair ride out, cringing and avoiding stares as we rolled past the lobby. My face flushed pink, which is unusual for me, and I felt hotly embarrassed to be leaving the hospital with only a dumb stuffed teddy bear in my lap. Ty helped me into the car, and I swallowed my tears of mortification. The pain from my incision helped distract me, as I could barely climb into our SUV without crying out. I don't remember the drive home at all. I imagine it was without much conversation. We never envisioned ourselves driving home from the hospital in the first place, due to planning a home birth. But now that we were on our way home, sans baby, I am sure neither of us much needed to spell out the irony.

When we got home, I was wrapped in love, almost literally. Our Bible Study group had gathered at our home to decorate the interior with balloons and a huge sign that spanned the windows saying, "We love you Chelsea". My eyes well up to even remember it. To walk in to a festive atmosphere that was carefully adorned with love was exactly what I needed. To know that despite what was surely new territory for this young group of friends, they were thinking of me and doing their best, was like gauze on my wound. It still stung, but it was instrumental in healing.

The next day, Friday, we buried Wiley. We decided not to have a viewing or anything like that since we had had an autopsy. I tried then and try not to now really think about what he might have looked like after that. So we decided, numbly, just to have a small family gathering around the gravesite. Driving up to the cemetery was the longest car ride of my life. It felt completely surreal, I couldn't really wrap my head around what we were doing. When we arrived, his tiny casket was sealed tight and setting atop boards covered in green carpet covering the tiny hole. I noticed, with some pity towards the gravediggers, or whatever they're called nowadays, the dirt previously occupying the hole mounded up on the other side of the road. It must bruise even the most dissensitized of hearts to have to dig such a small hole for such a purpose. It was a small gathering of family. Only our immediate family, really, with grandparents and one or two aunts and uncles. I can't even remember who all was there, to be honest. My parents arranged for the deacon from their church to preside, and he spoke briefly and honestly. He knew me from when I was a small girl, and I imagine it killed off small pieces of him to speak over my son's funeral. When he closed, Ty stood up, and with a shaking voice and on bended knee with his hand on Wiley's casket, he prayed out loud. He prayed for the son he would never meet on this earth, for his soul, for our understanding, and for God's sweet mercy to help us through this. It was simple and beautiful, and stimulated a round of tissues for everyone. When he said "Amen.", my aunt released a dove she brought. The dove circled around us, and took off joyfully towards the south. Someone, my brother I think, quipped, "I guess Heaven is that way!" We all chuckled, grateful for the chance to do so. A friend of my dad's who had arrived without notice sang "Oh Danny Boy" in a low, emotional baritone and then just as quietly left. The whole ceremony was beautiful and very peaceful, without any pretense or format. As we were all leaving, a pure white butterfly circled around my head and landed on my hip. Ty, my mother and I watched it with concentration until it flew away. None of us said a word.

Apr 11, 2009

I Should Be Crying

Wednesday's dull gray outfit filled the room as I opened my eyes. The night before had been suprisingly restful, and for the first time in at least five days I felt like I had actually slept. I looked around the now-familiar room, feeling a dull ache in my throat as I realized anew my current situation. I struggled to sit up, clutching my fresh scar and feeling for all the world like my guts were going to spill right out of me. Ty, awakened by my rustlings, stood immediately and helped me to a sitting position. We spoke normal pleasantries at first, but soon lapsed into a silence. A part of us felt sure Kay would be walking through those doors, with Wiley in her arms for us to see again. It felt impossible that the son we had only just learned about, and the baby we had known about for more than nine months would never be seen again in this life. We didn't speak about him for now, but every time I looked into my husband's eyes I saw the failure of my most important task. Kay did return, empty-handed. She asked me how I was each time she came into the room, I smiled, feeling sorry for her, and said I was doing fine. She exchanged glances with Ty often, trying to read his expression. He was unreachable, lost in his own world of confusion and astonishment.

Later in the day, after struggling to complete a simple task of walking to the bathroom and back, all the while clutching my sagging belly, I earned myself a nap. While feigning sleep, I overheard Kay asking Ty how I was "really" doing. She was concerned that I had not cried yet, nor acted normally sad for my loss. He shrugged it off, unable to comprehend exactly what she was implying.

My brother and sister-in-law came to visit again, bearing sentimental and meaningful gifts. Later one of my uncles, my father's brother, came to sit with us. He was a Hospice nurse, and was easy to be around. Ty openly teared up in front of him, explaining in manly terms how he felt. Uncle Matt nodded, his pity professionally undisclosed, and offered worthwhile advice.

Towards evening, when Ty and I were alone again, we pulled out the sheet of song lyrics that my sister-in-law had given us. "It Is Well With My Soul", by Horatio Spafford:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.


It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.


My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!


For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.


But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!


And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.


Spafford's life was much worse than mine, even at present. First, his financial security was destroyed along with the great Chicago fire. Shortly after that, all four of his daughters were killed in a sea collision. His wife alone survived. For him to write these lyrics made him a strong believer indeed. I did not feel this way at all. I felt angry, and worse, aloof. My soul was in turmoil, a breeding ground for uncontentment. Ty had also spent some time earlier downloading some songs he felt appropriately mirrored our situation. One of them was "This Woman's Work" by Kate Bush. A hauntingly beautiful song, especially when viewed in conjunction with the movie it's famous for, She's Having a Baby, with Kevin Bacon. (A movie we have owned for years and have seen many times, but will never be able to see again, I am sure) I obligingly put the headset in my ears and listened to his "mixed tape" of MP3's. Meanwhile, he called his grandparent's in Florida to give them the news.

Pray to God you can cope
I stand outside
This woman's work
This woman's world
Oooh, it's hard on the man
Now his part is over
Now starts the craft of the father

I know you have a little life in you yet
I know you have a lot of strength left
I know you have a little life in you yet
I know you have a lot of strength left

I should be crying but I just can't let it show
I should be hoping but I can't stop thinking
All the things I should've said that I never said
All the things we should of done that we never did
All the things I should've given but I didn't

Oh darling make it go
Make it go away
Give me them back to me
Give that little kiss
Give me your hand

I know you have a little life in you yet
I know you have a little strength left
I know you have a little life in you yet
I know you have a little strength left

I should be crying but I just can't let it show
I should be hoping but I can't stop thinking
Of all the things we should've said that were never said
All the things we should've done that we never did
All the things that you needed from me
All the things that that you wanted from me
All the things I should of given but I didn't
Oh darling make it go away
Just make it go away now.

I barely made it through the first stanza when suddenly my dry body moistened. Tears formed in my eyes so effectively that I barely realized I was crying. Without any warning, without any preamble, I realized what everyone around me had already realized. I had lost something that had been a part of me since the day he was created. Over nine months of daydreams, hopes, and pretend rear-view-mirror conversations were suddenly erased as if they never were. 21 inches of son needed to be buried in a few days, and I was about to be the leading woman in that show. Fear and anguish gripped me so surely, that I felt nausiated to my very core. Ty got off the phone with his grandma and clasped my hands. I was still listening to the rest of the song, fully comprehending my life without Wiley while he stared at me, tears forming in his own eyes. I thought ironically that he could tell Kay now, that I had now cried, and in fact am normal. Ugly, jerking sounds made their way out of my body as I sobbed and sobbed for my unknown son. He is gone to me, and it will be so long before I see him again.

Oct 19, 2008

Pictures of You

Overwhelmed by exhaustion and other emotions as yet unnamed, we kissed Wiley's head and handed him to a nurse to be taken down to the morgue. I was finally admitted to a private room, my parents tearfully left, and we were able to sleep.

Sleep was broken, at best. A nurse came in every hour to check my vitals and administer more drugs. I woke up each time she came in, trying to smile to ease her discomfort. I didn't dream in between her visits, and often Ty was awake as well. Tuesday morning rolled around, and Ty and I looked at each other, but didn't speak. My mom arrived, red-eyed, around 9:00am, bringing flowers. Following her was my dad, Ty's parents, my grandparents, my older brothers, my Sister-in-law, and my Aunt. Each person stepped tenatively into the room, eyes red and puffy, and as each arrived they came directly to my bed, bent down and kissed me, saying softly, "I love you Chelsea, I'm so sorry." I was surprised to hear those words from my aunt, and to see my Grandfather's tears. I never knew these people really loved me, and yet here they were, grieving alongside me. My room quickly filled with cards and flowers, and I found myself plastering a smile on my face to show I was brave. My mother leaned into me and said, "it would be nice if everyone could see and hold Wiley, should I ask to have him back?" I cringed, imagining his body decaying and stiff, but nodded. He was brought in quickly, and Kay, our nurse, explained that she had not taken him to the morgue, believing we would want him again. Wiley was passed around the room, bringing fresh tears to already-swollen eyes, and finally put into my arms again.

I stared at him and felt my eyebrows pulling together in concentration. He didn't look any different than last night. He was cold, but not stiff. He was a little bluer than last night, but I still expected his eyes to open. My mind worked furiously as I tried to will his eyes to open. It didn't make any sense that this perfect little boy, who was only sleeping, wouldn't open his eyes and look at me. I laid him in my lap and opened his blanket. He was long everywhere. His arms and legs were long; his torso was long. He had chub everywhere, and I smiled to see how big his tiny hands and feet were. I pressed my lips to his forehead and smelled his baby smell. Even in death he smelled wonderful to me. I smoothed my thumb from the tip of his nose into his thick, dark hairline and repeated it. I couldn't stop the movement, his softness was a drug to me, and I swallowed lump after lump in my throat while I stroked his face. My eyes were the only dry eyes in the room. I blinked, trying to form tears so I wouldn't look cold, but my whole body felt dry. I felt cold. I touched his ears, his toes, his fingers, and his knees. I kissed his cheeks, and rubbed his chest. He was wearing a diaper, which made me smile at the irony, until I saw a reddish brown liquid seeping from his ears and nostrils. I wiped it away with the blanket, and looked up at my mom. She answered my unspoken question while helping me wipe the liquid away. It was fluid leaking from his organs as they atrophied. I realized the diaper was probably collecting even more of the fluid, and sighed. Looking back, I feel regret that I didn't remove the diaper. His butt had been so long positioned in my belly directly under my ribs where I could place my hand, that I feel sorrow now that I never took that diaper off to see that little butt.

My brother Jesse brought his digital camera, and took several pictures of Wiley. We had a few from a disposable camera from the night before, but Jesse's ingenuity was what carried me through many dark days in the future.

Finally, Kay, our nurse, came in and asked if we wanted an autopsy. We shook our heads no, and she gently suggested we consider it, and that if we did want one, we would need to give Wiley to her within the hour to take to the morgue before the warmth of the air further decayed his organs. Less than an hour later, we decided we did want the autopsy. I needed to know what caused the infection that robbed me ever seeing my son open his eyes. Before handing Kay our son, I kissed his forehead for the last time and looked hard at him to preserve the moment in my memory forever. I gently lifted his eyelids, and for the first and last time, our eyes met.

I've been looking so long at these pictures of you
That I almost believe that they're real
I've been living so long with my pictures of you
That I almost believe that the pictures are
All I can feel

You fallen into my arms
Crying for the death of your heart
You were stone white
So delicate
Lost in the cold
You were always so lost in the dark
You how you used to be
Slow drowned
You were angels
So much more than everything
Hold for the last time then slip away quietly
Open my eyes
But I never see anything

If only I'd thought of the right words
I could have held on to your heart
If only I'd thought of the right words
I wouldn't be breaking apart
All my pictures of you

Looking so long at these pictures of you
But I never hold on to your heart
Looking so long for the words to be true
But always just breaking apart
My pictures of you

There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to feel you deep in my heart
There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to never feel the breaking apart
All my pictures of you

Note: I won't post Wiley's pictures here, but if you want to see him, his website is here