Today there are now two months between us and us with Gwen. It is as much time as we had with her here, save two days. Yet, I know, it will always be yesterday in my heart and tomorrow in my heart that I was and will be, with her. My deal, my battle, my challenge is "the now" without. I live here. She does not.
What is asked of me now is to learn to be in this place with her behind and before me, ever out of reach yet ever present in my mind. To learn to ache but live anyway. To love, to laugh and smile with Lillian, with the world, in honor of Gwen. I actually feel called to a higher plane of existence, less I do injustice to the horrible day by which everything else I now can measure.
Horrible is a weak word. That day, before I could say "boo," tore my heart out, stomped on it, wrenched it out like an old wash cloth, gnawed on it and gave it back to me with some big chunks torn clean off. I think it also was replaced upside-down and backwards inside me.
It's a long recovery from that type of attack. And, I just didn't see it coming from a zillion miles away. I'm left with what I'm wondering may be a permanent lump in my throat, constant sinking feelings, and complete bewilderment, not to mention a total distrust of every future day I must meet.
Anyway, after that, it would feel odd to get angry at menial inconveniences and annoyances; to buy into the drama of everyday life. It would take forgetting Gwen to really have a horrible day. It would make light of the day I held her for the last time, therefore making light of Gwen herself.
So, I'm tempered now, against the world. I'm challenged to remember and reflect on that. Gwen is my hardest teacher. Add to that Marie. I have so much to learn.
Trying to Surface
I look forward to the day where May 14th is not the first and last thought that weaves through my mind when I wake and before I fall asleep. I read recently an assurance, that, that day will come. "Closure" will not. But, this author suggests, "the 'bad thing' will always be there, but when it begins to take its place among the good things life offers, we're on our way."
I will always live with me holding Gwen. Me, sitting there, holding Gwen and unable to join the world. That "me" is always right beside this "me". I knew when I left that room that day, then it would all really begin. She would really have died. I could have sat there holding her forever even as her tiny, little spirit was long gone. At least my arms weren't empty.
And I would say, in a lot of ways, I don't think I've joined time yet. I have been floating along, hour by hour, day by day, without ability to think or plan ahead. So, in some ways I am still sitting there and not yet "next to" that moment.
It's a weird place to be, to be honest. And anything "good" around me often feels muted and even fake or forced sometimes. I'm not miserable. Rather it's the feeling that I'm still floating back up to the surface, that's all. It was a deep dive and it will take some time to swim back up. Sometimes I don't have the energy. Sometimes Lil takes all I've got and I can't hear my own thoughts shouting to be heard. But, little by little I can see the surface becoming clearer and I can hear the "real" world's noises muffling through.
Sometimes I want to jump into the far future....where I have two children here with me again... . I suppose that is because I long for something more familiar than this nightmare - I want to have that definition of myself again - "mom of two" (two earthy children, as it will be). But I know that is only me trying to escape and that there is no way to get to that imaginary place.
Of course, that is also the problem with that "dream" anyway - it is completely a dream and all imaginary. That path to such a hope will be slow and my heart will be so weary. My heart lives in fear of having another child. It believes I will loose that child again too, unexpectedly and without warning. It is almost a protective belief, so that perhaps I can "prepare" myself. As if! But, none the less, that is the state of my heart.
Another pregnancy and all the weeks involved, each a mountain of hope - it is daunting. All the known uncertainties. A newborn baby to try to keep alive. Ignorance is such bliss and I don't live there anymore. For now, I'm sure I don't have the strength for that journey. And I know I don't have to make any decisions now, so I won't.
Faith is a Way of Waiting
I was away and now am home again. Nothing really has changed in the way I experience myself here in my house. I know, I know in time I won't always think "Gwen should be here, I should be having to counter-balance everything by her needs". I know eventually I won't be so aware that I'm not called to that duty anymore. Now, washing dishes is just washing dishes. It's not a sprint to get as many done as I can before she notices I set her down after falling asleep in my arms. Nap time for Lil is only nap time with plenty to keep me so busy, but none of it involving holding a baby while she sleeps, me resting so peacefully, contentedly with her, feeling as if the time sitting still is well-earned as a mother of two young children.
Waves of memories of times at the hospital - especially nighttime there, for some reason, wash through my mind at various times, too. And now, as I walk into these flash backs, I can't hold Gwen and think "oh thank Goodness she is here with me and okay now and all of that is behind us for now..." Instead I feel the strong urge to get in my car and drive to CHOP and go sit in the room in the step-down unit, or go to where her bed was in the CICU pod and just be where she was, where we didn't know what the future held and we weren't in denial that we could loose her (although we really were, you always are with your children even if their life is so clearly on the line).
There is a new hospital here in town. They closed the hospital building, where she last was, where I didn't really get to say goodbye to her in her "body-clothes" while looking in her deep blue eyes (she really was gone by the time we arrived even as they desperately tried to convince her heart to beat again. That memory is the hardest to "live" with. My stomach churns every time I am there again in my mind. I want it to turn out right, each time I am there). That building closed about a month after the little room there hosted her last hours. So, in some ways, I'm glad of that. And yet, I even long to go sit in that room again. Why is that?
I can only guess to really do so, to see her not there, in each place, would just be asking for and inviting some aggressive pain. But in my head, I still envision doing just that and in my vision I'm peaceful. Again, I'm sure that wouldn't be the case. It's as if part of my brain is searching for her, convinced I simply misplaced my baby and if I'd only retrace my steps, go where I last had been with her, then I'd find her there just waiting to be scooped up and brought back here where she belongs.
I wonder if that is why the urge is so strong - there is a battle in my own brain about what is really going on here - and one part of my brain really thinks I'm pretty dumb and feels extreme urgency to go get her, for heavens sake! There is part of my brain that knows she gone. There is part of me that whispers "I still feel her" and it struggles to convince me that she is not totally out of reach, that she is close but not in the same way as when I could hold her in my arms here and now.
So in all that, here's a little honesty - I know I'm not supposed to, “grieve as those who have no hope.” But, sometimes I do. And, yet, especially more recently I have welled up with overwhelming excitement at the idea of seeing her again (and then I tell myself, I hope that's true. And then I say, it is the better, more beautiful thing to believe, and it offers such strength for the day, and if ignorance is bliss, why not choose This as my ignorance of which I'll be Bliss about, since I lost the other kind anyway). So why not? So darn it, I am going to her. I'm going to see and be with her again. And "bleh" to anyone who wants to challenge that (I've been reading a lot of Frog and Toad books to Lillian these days. I borrow the excellent expression of "bleh" from Toad.)
So, sometimes I let myself dream of that day. If you know how excited your are just at knowing you are having a baby, or that you learn you are going to be a parent however it may come about (I want to leave room for those who adopt because I respect those who do so), and you know how you feel the day they enter your life as a child you can hold, then, can you scarce imagine what it would be like seeing them again once you've had time to actually experience them here breathing the same air with you for any amount of time and then had to say goodbye?
I would never want to leave my Lil. Never. But, should I have no choice in the matter, then I would find myself walking a familiar path, so similar to when I had to go to Gwen in the hospital and say goodnight and goodbye to my other little one. I walked into the hospital streaming my face with tears every night, so torn between to deep loves.
But to walk from one too one, if I were to leave here - and to see Gwen again after what already feels like 100 years - I think you'd find me running. So, I walk forward. I'm half here, half there. And, I'm not sure my feet will ever really touch the ground here fully again. And I'm not sure that is a bad thing either. I almost see it as a gift. But I can't really explain it, it's an experience of mind that words just fail, fail, fail. It's probably some choice too, but I see it as Gwen's choice, her gift to me.
And, after I wrote this, I just randomly picked up my little "handbook," called, Healing After Loss. Of all the places to open to, I read this on the page before me:
"Faith is a way of waiting - never quite knowing, never quite hearing or seeing, because in the darkness we are all but a little lost. There is doubt hard on the heels of every belief, fear hard on the heels of every hope." - Frederick Buechner
Pause. Read again. Wow. If that doesn't cut to the theme of where I wandered today in writing this silly thing. That's it. Right there. Doubt and Fear as a strong, imposing-upon chasers to Belief and Hope.
So then, I read a little more. And, the authors note and reflections about the above quote lead me to want to keep writing today, this time about Grace. Martha Hickman in Healing After Loss wrote;
"...every once in a while some minor miracle of insight and confidence, some serendipity with no explanation other than grace, renews us, and we are willing to relinquish our need to know the details. Instead we trust that all shall be well."
I see Grace as a little, dancing, butterfly, fluttering around us always. And sometimes she takes our breath away by landing on us. And our souls are tugged upwards and for no good reason that is logical and sound we find ourselves with the strongest Faith and Love we've ever felt. We are sure that all is Good. We actually feel eternity.
Grace really is no small thing.
I think the above quote speaks as to why and how I understand grace to exist and work in our lives. I never thought much about the idea of "Grace" before. Yet, Grace has been on my mind so much during this ordeal. The first newborn baby I held after I last held my Gwen, is named Grace. In my mind that was no small coincidence. So probably in part because of that, the word "grace" kept floating into my thoughts.
I would think things like, "what does it really mean"? Grace has so many uses and applications. It is something we are given by God and something we are challenged to give to others as freely. It so often is thrown around as a word, it is something we "say" before a meal or even do, as in "being graceful".
It can also be something of a fleeting gift of experience, that little "butterfly moment" I wrote of. One that eases your soul a little. It helps you find peace and strength, maybe even enough to reach out to see if you can find some hope for clinging. Today, I looked up the word "Grace" and one of the definitions is; "a special virtue, gift, or help given to a person by God." There it is, a dictionary definition of grace. There it is to define the better parts of my walk through, or my swim up, or whatever you want to call this exhausting, long, confusing, state of extreme "bleh."
A Lucky Find?
This leads me to want to go ahead and place a poem today, here on Gwen's site. It's one I've been planning to place here, just didn't know when the spirit would move me. Today seems right. It is one of my favorites that I've loved for years. It is about four-leaf clovers and Grace.
Towards the end of May I found two four-leaf clovers totally by accident. They were so randomly found that I could almost make the case that Gwen and Marie actually handed them to me. The first one I found completely without effort. I was teaching Lil what clovers were. I reached over, plucked one and showed it to her. I said, "this is a clover" and as I looked at it with her I saw it had four leaves. I didn't know these actually existed. I didn't see anymore around. It left me a little speechless.
The next day or so, in a totally different place, I decided to test this happening and see if they were just all over the place and I had never looked. I didn't really expect to find one. I looked down and there it was, my second four-leaf clover. I looked again to see if there were more. I really spent effort and time. There were none.
What could it mean? I don't know. But it was weird. Gwen was born on St. Patrick's Day. She and Marie both died on the same day. I found two, four-leaf clovers without wanting to, without trying, without even knowing they were more than a simple and fun myth.
When looking into the history of the four-leaf clover, I learned that the fourth-leaf has both represented "luck" and "God's grace." What I love about this poem is that "luck" is from God - so in this case, grace and luck are one and the same. That is as it should be, I believe.
I know a place where the sun is like gold,
And the cherry blossoms burst with snow,
And down underneath is the loveliest nook,
Where the four-leaf clovers grow.
One leaf is for Hope, and one is for Faith,
And one is for Love, you know,
And God put another in for Luck --
If you search, you will find where they grow.
But you must have Hope, and you must have Faith,
You must Love and be strong -- and so --
If you work, if you wait, you will find the place
Where the four-leaf clovers grow.
So, in closing for my post, two months to the day this fog settled upon me, I say "grace to you" whomever finds themselves here reading through my ramblings. Not "luck." Not "Good Luck." Modern usage has sapped the real and deep meaning behind that word. I think we ought to package the idea of luck as from God, therefore more aptly defined as "Grace" - otherwise, luck is so empty and meaningless. It can't even be sought.
But in stillness, you can invite Grace. With a still heart there is a landing place for grace. Even if it it is broken in 1,000 pieces and barely recognizable. Grace can visit upon us. Thank God for that.
In Letting Go
In Moving Forward
God Give me Grace
Grace Guide me
A pensive, sleepy, moment
(with toys supplied by her sister)
(I downloaded these and more from my dad's camera last week. These are new to me. I am glad for them. And yet, new photos, well, they bring about fresh, new grief for each moment these photos represent that I can't have back. I love them and I can't stand them all at once. See why grief is exhausting?)