The second 24 hours, day two, were the worst. The Paradigm shifted not once, but twice, as we went to bed on the 13th with what we thought was a severely handicapped child, and woke up early on Valentine's Day to the news that our child was dying. Tomorrow would be reserved for other weighty conversations, but today, arguably the worst in the week, was a sea of tears, and disbelief, and dare I say, rays of relief that at the very least her nightmare might soon be over. I was discharged today, played with Bella in the comfort of my own home, and returned to the NICU that evening to spend the night on the most uncomfortable "bed" I've ever encountered.
When I started writing this blog, a friend of a friend named B started reading. Her three-month old daughter K died, on Valentine's Day, almost a decade ago. It's not uncommon for me to wake up the morning after a post and find an email in my box from B. She's been a wealth of support, especially with the distance she now has from her daughter's death. I wrote her last week to tell her I would remember her and K today, and she wrote back two things I've been mulling over since. One, Valentine's actually wasn't the worst day for her either; it was the day, a week before (coincidentally, the day I sent the email), when they found out about the cancer. I guess for some of us the actual death is peaceful relief of the pain inflicted earlier; the moment of discovery that your child will die becomes the nadir from which everything, including breath stopping, flows forward. And two, she reminded me that by remembering her, I am in fact forwarding the gift bestowed on me by this awful experience: if there is anything we as mourning parents do, it is that we now have the capacity to remember others. It's a lousy silver lining, to be invested with this sad rite. And I thought of this image of all of us, as pavers in a road, each quietly taking their place, thankful that the previous pavers have already laid out the path and tamped the ground for our block. And we fall into place, on this road, awaiting the next set of pavers ahead of us. We support each other, hold each other in place, but perhaps most importantly, we are the ones invested in remembering each other's children. It's awful this path that simply keeps extending on into the horizon, but look backwards, and you'll see the path, overgrown in places, disappear into the distance behind you, too. B, thanks for breaking my fall, showing me the way, and reminding me that what I now do for others is in fact a grim positive change resulting from Maddy's death.
B, and K, I'm thinking of you both today.