A year ago I was grinding my teeth preparing for the candlelight service (Second Sunday in December, sponsored by the Compassionate Friends -- see sidebar candle for more info) at Children's Hospital. We never had a service for Maddy, so we view it as some sort of obligation to attend the ones the hospital offers us. The indoor one they hold biannually for the children who have died in the past six months was . . . .what's the word? Eviscerating? And I was promised that the December one, held outside, which honors any child who has died, no matter when, was much more freeing. That emotions, instead of sinking like a heavy, dirty, choking cloud from the end of a super-villain's umbrella, rose into the stary wintertime night sky, with the outlines of breath and the faint wisps of candlelight.
This is a popular service -- this year they will read 363 names -- and so they ask attendees to limit the number of tickets they hand out to six (including ourselves). Last year, we thought it would be nice to have support from both of our families: I asked my aunt and uncle to join us, and Mr. ABF asked his father and his father's wife.
The morning of, an overcast not-too-chilly December day with an expected high of 48 or so, my FIL in called to say they wouldn't be coming because it might rain.
I have felt alone in this journey, believe me. There is nothing so lonely as coming home from the hospital without your child. Knowing your child -- your child's body -- is lying somewhere, back there, by herself, in the cold. Feeling as though you are the supreme freak of nature: no one, repeat: no one, has a baby just up and die on them. You are the one. The number 1 on that side of the statistic, 1:whateverthehellbignumber. Your life stops, everyone else's moves on. No one gets you. No one speaks to you. Mothers in Bella's music class literally moved away from me when I told them what happened -- as though it was contagious.
But I'm not sure I felt as alone as I did a year ago on that December morning, knowing that people were deserting us, they were jumping off the ship. Up until now, the loneliness had been about me and my grief, and since I walked a fine line between wanting some acknowledgment for my state of shittiness and wanting to be left the hell alone, I let a lot of it go. But this was different. They weren't just giving us the heave-ho, they were screaming very loudly while deploying their life-vests: your daughter doesn't matter. She is not worth it. She is not even fucking worth a few hours of discomfort (and since when is a chilly night outside in December for an hour followed by hot chocolate uncomfortable? Do people not carol anymore?).
Before having these people give us the supreme fuck you, I had told my new friends in the computer -- the ones who understood because they were freaks and "1"'s just like me -- that I wanted to carry their children's names with me to the ceremony. I thought it would spread the load so to speak, and make my grief more diffuse and bearable. What they did, on the cold night, as I choked back tears of grief and anger, and clutched a plastic baggy containing a few dozens scraps of paper with names written on them, was made me less lonely.
I have learned not to expect anything, because things -- even memorial services -- will turn out differently than I imagined. This year, my aunt and uncle, without us initiating anything, asked if they could join us again. My FIL has remained comfortably dumb. And we will go, Mr. ABF, Bella, and I, and I hope again, my scraps. My names. Your names.
I would hate to forget anyone and this year I'm quite likely to, so please, leave me a comment and include the name of the child or children you'd like me to carry with me this Sunday. I will happily carry initials or "blogsafe" names. If you'd like me to carry a real name that you aren't public with, please email me, TashABF at gmail. They'll join the pile I already have going. When I come home, as per last year, they'll go into a bowl and I'll light a candle next to them every night until they get overwhelmed by Christmas paraphernalia. And then they'll get wrapped up and saved for next year.
Names. They matter. They're worth it. They help me. And this Sunday I want to honor all of the dead children I know.