Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Paralyzing Heartbreak

This has been a bad week by anyone's definition. Last Wednesday morning, my lungs started feeling a little strange. By 5 PM I was feeling very ill, and the next day I couldn't get off the couch. It seems to be a case of classic seasonal influenza with all the toppings - chest congestion, fever, chills, profuse sweating, headache, fatigue, body aches and loss of appetite. On Friday, I developed a whopper cough and a sore throat, but still had to get a kid to a routine checkup at the doctor’s office. It feels miraculous that that even happened. I have been more or less (mostly more) miserable ever since, especially since I have hardly slept in 5 days. If you haven’t already, please go get a flu shot.

During that same interval, we had some minor car trouble, I got to clean up my 3 year old's steamy salami vomit (sorry for the visual), and I received an urgent meal request for a new mom at our parish (organizing care is my volunteer "job", and there is currently no one to cover for me). I have been overwhelmed.

But you know, even as unpleasant as that has been, I would repeat this same week forever if it would change what happened yesterday. You see, yesterday we went to Mass with our family, and we had to simultaneously say hello and goodbye to a beautiful nephew we never got to know in this life. The shock is still hanging in the air. Stillborn. I cannot even imagine the pain and suffering his mom and dad must be experiencing. The loss of a child is said to be one of the most excruciating and traumatic losses a person can experience. I fully believe it is.

I have experienced some death in my life, but nothing so intimate, so crushing to hope and expectation, as the nearness I feel right now. Losing a long anticipated child before he breathes, before he opens his eyes, before his parents get to tell him how much he is loved... As it turns out, grief doesn't come in a neat package, with the weight carefully tallied in pounds and kilograms on the front. Grief is boundless. I understand so much better now that grief cannot be shared, only carried side by side. My cross to carry in this season is the helplessness to shoulder theirs, or even to understand it.

I think my point in writing this post is to acknowledge that this tragic loss happened. I am deeply affected. The beautiful little boy I saw yesterday will always be a part of our family... His mom and dad will carry him around in their hearts every day as long as they live. And yet, we all have to actually go on living. There is no other option. I need to acknowledge his life here before I can to continue to write about inconsequential things like sewing, refinishing furniture, and baked goods in the future. Because, really, those things are nice, but we'd do without them in a second if we could have prevented those we love deeply from experiencing this sort of paralyzing heartbreak. The reality is - often to our deep heartache - that we can't bargain for a different future no matter how much we’d give... It's not within our ability. But we can choose life and hope and joy even in the long shadow of death and sorrow. We can keep loving these grieving parents every day through prayer and action. We can choose to let a hard-purchased strength going forward in this life be part of the legacy of a sweet baby who we will finally get to know when it's our turn to go Home.

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