Life had different plans
The day before yesterday (Thursday, May 1, 2014), I had plans to hit the month running, or at least walking. Post the first entry in the new series I’ve been working on. And then meditate—for at least ten minutes (a day)—a personal goal I’ve set for this May. Neither happened though. This day, life had different plans in store.
Morning road blocks. My old refrigerator had been crying for a few months. A sick, whining sound. On this morning it shook and sighed; lights out, literally. It stopped running.
I got my coffee and noticed then, my dog staring up at me with big apologetic eyes. Not for the death of my fridge, I’m pretty sure. Although he does sense when I’m sad or stressed. No, he was apologizing for the slimy, grassy puddle of puke on the carpet.
“Aww, Reggie. It’s okay,” I told him. How could I be angry at that face? Meditating and writing were moving to the bottom of my list.
Reggie watched me spray, clean, dab, wipe, spray, clean…and I sensed what he was thinking. Man, if I just had thumbs like you I’d help you clean up that mess, I would… I kissed his little coconut head and tried to just be in the moment—the way he was. Interested, helpful, even without thumbs his eyes were cleaning, focused, devoted. I tried to use these cleaning minutes to breathe and not think about anything else. Not quite the meditation I’d had in mind, but…
Back in the kitchen, I chucked a few things, milk, cold cuts, cheese…into a cooler and filled it with ice. I’d have to head out today and hunt down a new refrigerator. My original posting plans would have to wait.
Turning into a complicated thing
Hours later, after shopping a few home stores, I was hating the fact that choosing a basic thing like a refrigerator was turning into a complicated thing. I didn’t need a four-door fridge, an iPad in the door, or the latest German innovation. I took a break and headed for the mall where I’d grab lunch in the food court then check Sear’s appliance department.
I was “welcomed” at Moe’s and ordered a “Personal Trainer,” a veggie-taco salad. I sat and ate and people-watched. Pairs of moms poking at salads, chatting, babies sleeping in strollers. Retired couples eating without talking. Fashionistas walking by, laughing, holding cell phones. Couples strolling, holding hands. Cleaning women silently sweeping, spraying, wiping off tables, picking up trash. Invisible someones saying nothing, asking nothing. I admired these women in their maroon and black uniforms floating around the large eating area with their carts and brooms.
One, an older woman, maybe sixty, with short practical hair, was very focused on what she was doing. Watching the floor, pushing her broom toward her dustpan, meditating? Another, a middle-aged woman with dark quiet eyes, was wiping tables. And another, a younger woman, maybe in her late twenties, with a blonde ponytail, appeared from out of nowhere. She stood nearby and held up a wallet to the older woman who stopped sweeping then.
“Wanna see a picture of my baby that died?” the younger one said.
They were only a table’s distance away from me. I couldn’t help overhearing. And I couldn’t help wondering why I hear these things.
“Your baby?” the older woman sounded shocked.
“Yes, she was born April twenty-first,” the blonde ponytail said.
“When? Last year?”
“No, nine years ago. She had a heart condition. She died May twelfth. She was twenty-one days old,” the younger one said.
The older woman shook her head at the photo in the wallet for at least fifteen seconds (a polite amount of time). Then continued sweeping and moved away from the mother with the dead baby in her hand, who seemed determined to find someone else to show and tell.
An unspeakable thing
I finished my salad, munched on chips and salsa, and crunched this young mother’s words in my head. “Wanna see a picture of my baby that died… April…nine years ago…heart condition…May…” Then mixed in my own thoughts: My baby died yesterday…April 30…seven years ago…heart condition…Look, that’s him, I show the photo in my mind. Yours was 21 days old? Mine was 3,346 days old. I kept my mouth shut and continued chewing. Nice one-upmanship, I chided myself. It just wasn’t the right time for me to meet this stranger and offer an ear. I was feeling too weighed down, carrying my dead child.
It’s so easy for moms of living children to share their proud mom info. How many do you have? Oh, me too! How old are yours? Oh, mine too! It’s so hard for moms of dead children to share, because the dead son or daughter story is taboo. Unspeakable. Forbidden. Unexpected. Horrible. Shocking. Unless it’s told to another with the same unspeakable story.
I kept watching. The other cleaning woman, with the dark hair, had begun wiping a table nearby. The blond pony-tailed woman approached her, like she was on a mission. With her chin up she said again, “Wanna see a picture of my baby that died?”
The darker woman’s eyes became huge. “What…?”
“She was born April twenty-first. She died May twelfth. She was twenty-one days old,” the ponytail said again.
The dark-haired woman looked stunned. Like she wanted to run, but couldn’t. Oh boy, I thought. Who to feel sorrier for?
Why am I buying a refrigerator?
I packed up my trash and left. As I walked through the mall toward Sears to shop for a fridge, thoughts and questions ran through my head.
Why do we bereaved parents need so badly to talk about our dead children? Why do we need to show their pictures to co-workers, strangers even?
Because we do. We are never detached from our deceased children.
Why do we recount the days they lived? Why is it so important that we state the dates of their births and deaths?
Because it is. Their time mattered, matters. They matter, still.
Why am I buying a refrigerator the day after the day (seven years later) that my son died? Why are we so alone? Maybe I should go back…find that young cleaning woman, introduce myself…ask her about her loss.
Because she really needed to talk about her deceased child. Sometimes, we really do need to talk about the traumatizing experience we’ve been through.
So I might. Will I? Go back? Should I? Why not? No, maybe another day. Not today.
I walked into Sears (appliances on my left) and a cheerful salesman greeted me.
“Hello! How you doing today?”
In a millisecond:
“My son died. His heart… He was 3,346 days old. Wanna see a picture of him?”
I thought this, but of course, I said this:
“I’m doing fine, thanks. How ’bout you?”
“I’m great! What can I help you with today?”
“Well. My refrigerator died. So…”
There’s all different kinds of crazy losing your child will cause, for sure. As I wrote elsewhere, I blog because I have to talk about Philip. It wouldn’t be possible for anyone to actually sit and listen to all I have to say, and my throat would be raw before I was done.
Lovely post, Deanna. Thank you.
Thanks for replying. You’re so right, Denise. Good thing we can type into these sane little boxes, add pics even, and post it–crazy and all!
Reblogged this on MourningAmyMarie and commented:
Today is 9 months of living this unimaginable life without Amy. Just this morning I mentioned to my husband how while there seems to be an auto pilot switch that kicks on after this nightmare which helps us to survive, we are not wired to “get over” losing our daughter. And certainly, we will never forget Amy because love just never dies. Writing helps me to release the anger and the pain but when I logged onto wordpress today, I discovered this well written post which I wanted to share instead of more of my own grief rebel musings. Deanna, I may not know you personally, but I sure seem to know some of your heart. My deepest sympathy on the loss of your beautiful Sam.
Thank you, Dee. Your comment is really important to me. So much in fact, I’m going to post a quote inspired by you this morning. My heartfelt sympathy goes back to you for the loss of your precious Amy.
Such a powerful post and the kind of observations I come across too. You will hold your lost one in your mind forever and it makes one wonder how many of us are having the same conversations in our heads? My thoughts are with you x
Thank you. And yes, it sure makes one wonder, doesn’t it?
Very thought provoking…thank you. I’m so sorry about Sam. He was such a beautiful child. He should have had the chance to grow and blossom. Tell us all about him. We’re all here to “listen”.
Thank you for saying this and for “listening.” I will tell more stories about Sam–especially with this encouragement.
Reblogged this on The Infinite Fountain and commented:
This is a post from a bloger that I follow, and who follows The Fountain. It is an interesting topic. I don’t yet find myself compelled to share my story as much as this young woman does, but I can certainly understand why she might need to. I still tend to keep it to myself around people that I don’t know, seriously, I don’t really want to bum them out. I don’t usually get into conversations with other parents these days about our children, for precisely the reasons the author writes about. I might progress to this stage, but for now, I just walk around in my mask and smile and nod. In any case, thanks Deanna for a thoughtful and thought provoking piece.
I appreciate the kind words.
Reblogged this on Loss, Grief, Transitions and Relationship Support.
It’s another Father’s Day without my son, Josiah. How do I live for my daughter when all I want to do is die myself. My marriage is falling apart. I have nothing to give to anyone anymore. I’m as dead outside as I am inside now.
First, I’m sorry…I’m sorry…for your pain, and sorry that you are having to live with this burden. I have been exactly where you are now. Once, someone (a wiser someone) told me that, “In time, you’ll be a different person.” I didn’t care then. I wanted my son. I didn’t care about “in time”, or changing into a different person. I just wanted my son to be alive. And if not, then, yes, I’d be a different person—I’d be dead. That’s all I could see. Another wise someone told me that my extreme response was normal. Okay, so being the walking dead is normal? Yes. What else could we be after such loss but dead inside and out? So, what next? I have a few suggestions/questions: [1.] Can you talk to anyone, a professional? If anything, just to vent out some of the pain? [2.] Can you tell me about Josiah? Write something, anything that comes to you? I could post your words and let other willowers weigh in (with your approval). Maybe you’d feel less alone? (use the “Contact” page for privacy, and I will keep you anonymous, if that’s what you want) [3.] I’m hesitating as I type this, but it’s all I’ve got right now—Your dying questions, your crumbling world, your hopelessness–these extremes are normal. But not permanent. I’m not suggesting that your misery isn’t permanent, but your ability to live and deal with the misery is what changes. I’ve learned this. It’s a waiting game. The hardest work you’ll ever do (grieving, parenting your living child, staying married…) And, in time, you’ll be a different person. I know these words may not mean anything to you right now. When people said these things to me, they didn’t mean a thing…then. So for now just know that I know…and I’m so sorry.
Two more things:  If you’re up to it, read my post “Save yourself…” just to know that “One needs to grieve to almost death before they can live again.”  You HAVE something to give. You have GIVEN me something. I have been in my own slump for over a month now, exhausted, overwhelmed, and questioning my direction. And you have helped me to focus again, and keep trying…
My anonymous friend, I hope I have said something helpful, and that you feel less alone.
Again, I’m sorry
This post spoke to me because my baby only lived 15 weeks. No one else wants to see his pictures. They only want to see, hear about, talk about, or know about my living children. Which, naturally, is 99% of my family related conversations. But. I often wanna talk about him. I save that for late night talks with my husband b/c he wants to talk about him too. Sometimes I write about my Thomas. Often, I feel inwardly uncomfortable with “non-grievers.” I know it’s me, but it’s there.
Unfortunately I’ve found this to be true: the majority of people (besides willowers) will avoid conversations about our deceased children. Leaving us to feel even more isolated–and uncomfortable. It’s so challenging. I know how you feel–inwardly uncomfortable… It’s there for me too. The burden, sadly, seems to be ours, to change this, to mention Sam, and Thomas, and make “non-grievers” learn about our need to keep our dead children’s memory alive in conversations. Your comment has reminded me to work on this.