nonsensical text

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

the box on the shelf


When I was younger, I was always quite proud of the fact that I was not a very materialistic person, but like so many of my self-interpretations from years gone by, close inspection sometimes highlights unexpected details. I like my things – my TV, my computer, my moist-heat heating pad, my pillows and blankets, my music. I enjoy having an ability I didn’t have for most of my life (including many of the married years) – that ability to get what I feel like eating from the grocery store. I have become rather attached to some of the more material aspects of my life.

Julie from Using My Words (formerly The Ravin’ Picture Maven) says this about the Hump Day Hmmm Today: “I am so distressed for the people of California who've been affected by this fire. 1600 of them so far have lost their homes, lost everything. It's made me think about loss, what we value, and potential gain. Let's write about that. Imagine losing all your material possessions (except the few you can carry)... Or, tell us a story about some sort of loss. If you can inspire through hope, and tell us about something you gained from it, and real value, please definitely do that.”

A question that is sometimes thrown out for pondering among friends is this: “If your house was on fire and all of the people and animals were already out safely, what would you try to save?” As a child, I got to test this theory when the firemen arrived at our door one day. We lived in a town home, and one of our neighbors had a furnace which exploded. There was a fear that this explosion was going to set off a chain reaction, so the firemen were evacuating our entire court. I grabbed my favorite stuffed animal and my guinea pig as I chased the cat out the door. Weighing my answer today against my answer so many years ago, I guess I haven’t really changed that much. The first things I would reach for would be the irreplaceable things – the photos, the poetry, and one very special box. Ironically, that box already represents loss, and sacrificing it on top of the injury already sustained would be a sore trial indeed though the contents would seem too trivial to merit such a reaction – a few cards, a few pictures, a very small, satiny nightgown, and a simple knitted hat.

On Friday or Saturday, I will open that box. I will allow my fingers to touch the cloth and the cards, my eyes to scan the visible remnants; I will allow the tears to come. I am a bit hesitant to figuratively open that box today, so close to the anniversary of that day. There is a risk to opening the floodgates prematurely and allowing the associated emotion to wash over me. My suspicion is that the built-up melancholy on this particular year is enough to overwhelm me.

Ten years ago, on Sunday November 16, I went to church as I have on most Sundays in my married life. After church, I was worn out, antsy – perhaps the best way to describe that day is simply to excerpt some letters I wrote a few weeks later.

December 7, 1997 (two weeks 6 days)

Dearest Caleb-

In about three hours, it will mark three weeks since your father and I left for the hospital to find out you were gone. Just about an hour ago (that week), you were jumping around inside of me. When I came home from church, I was so tired. Nothing was unusual about that; I was tired every moment that I carried you. I went upstairs to take a nap at about 3 and had a lot of trouble sleeping soundly. When I finally woke up, around 4:00, I was in terrible pain. It felt a lot like labor with your oldest brother, except there was no break between the pains. I was worried. I told your father, “Either I am severely constipated or I am in labor.” He responded that I couldn’t be in labor. Oh, if we only knew how wrong he was. A few minutes later I looked down to notice that I was bleeding. That was when I really got scared. But my son, I never thought you would die before you were even born!

Going to the hospital, I tried to comfort myself by thinking of what they would probably do - administer drugs to stop the labor, observe us for some time, and send us home. I prayed that I would end up feeling stupid for going to the hospital when nothing was wrong.

The nurse strapped the monitor to me and immediately we heard a heartbeat, but she looked concerned and took my pulse. She then moved the monitor, stating that I was so upset that it was picking up my heartbeat instead of yours. No matter where she moved it, she kept coming up with my heartbeat. So, when they wheeled in the machine to do the sonogram, I was quite aware of the fact that there was no heartbeat in your chest - that you were just lying there, little fists clenched, motionless. I didn’t want to believe what I saw, so I didn’t let it sink in quite yet. Then, they told us what we saw. They explained the blood clot next to the placenta. They told us you were gone. Still, it wasn’t real. I didn’t think I would grieve until later. I do tend to be delayed reactionary.

I still had to deliver you. They would administer pitocin to try to induce active labor. You needed to come out of me. As long as I did not start hemorrhaging severely, that meant vaginal birth. In the state of shock I was in, I could deal with delivering you, or I could deal with the pain, but I could not deal with both! I didn’t just want an epidural, I wanted drugs! I did NOT want to think. I did not want to feel! I got the drugs - something called Stadol, which is in the Valium family, AND the epidural. But, nothing took the pain away. When the Stadol would first start working, I was okay - a bit oblivious to everything around me. But soon, it would begin to wear off, and my emotions would wake back up, and I couldn’t take the pain. I couldn’t take the pain of childbirth, knowing that I wouldn’t have you at the end of it. I am afraid I was quite a baby.

When the time came to push you out, I was screaming in anger at the world. I was screaming that it hurt so badly…that I didn’t want to push, to have the pain - that I just wanted you out of me! And then there you were. I had hoped, even through all of this, that somehow, miraculously, you would be alive, even after all we had seen with our own eyes. I remembered those times that Christ chose to bring people back from the grave. Even when I saw that you weren’t alive, a part of me hoped that when I touched your fingers, some of the life would come out of me and breathe into you the life that was so obviously absent. I wanted to make up for whatever it was that I did that took you from me. I could not stop feeling that I killed you.

You didn’t breathe. You didn’t suddenly come to life like the ending of a Disney movie. You were out of my reach forever. I kissed you and held you as tears wracked my body. I looked at your father and cried out “He’s dead! Our sweet baby is dead!” Even knowing you were gone, I could not let go of you. Oh how tempted I was to play the “what if” game. But I knew there was no healing in that. I knew nothing could come of it and I just had to face the fact that you were gone forever.

You were born one minute after midnight, so technically, the date on everything is the 17th of November, but to me, it will always be the 16th because on that day I knew you were gone.

I was so concerned about the wellness of everyone else - the nurses, your Mom Mom and Pop Pop, my mother. I had to let you go…they needed to do a D&C on me to remove the massive blood clots. They promised me I could see you again after if I so desired. Although they couldn’t knock me out to give birth to you, they could to remove the blood - and they did. I don’t remember how long it was - I don’t really remember getting to the operating room or to the recovery room after. I do remember seeing your father and eventually both of our mothers afterward. I do remember holding you again - kissing you again - trying to convince myself to let them put you in that bassinet and wheel you away forever. I do remember sitting, alone and awake in the middle of the night after everyone had gone home. I felt as though I could sleep if only they brought you to me. I could curl up with you in my arms and drift off into dreams. But, I refrained from asking for this - knowing somehow that to do this would be entering into a long path of denial. So instead, I flicked through channels on the TV as I stared off into space feeling emptier than I ever had in my life.

When I looked into a mirror, I was so swollen that I was not recognizable as myself. But beyond that, the eyes that stared back at me were not my own. Oh sweet Caleb, I couldn’t see ever getting past the loss that I felt that day!

Today, as I sat in church, I felt sort of numb and disconnected. Nothing feels like it means as much and yet every feeling seems so much more vivid and weighty. At most times, I am able to live life again. Something changed about a week ago that gave me the ability to move forward. Through all of this, I have felt the hand of our almighty Lord upon me, holding me together when I could not hold myself - letting me cry upon His shoulder when I needed it - drying my tears when the crying time was spent. But now, I can see moving onward. I am able to look at the future again without viewing it ONLY in regards to what stage we would have been in with you, had things been different.

I don’t really know where I go from here, my sweet child. I know only that I need to keep my eyes on God lest I shatter. I miss you.


Time passes, wounds heal, scars fade. But that box? It holds the only physical proof I have of my son’s life. I know with all of my being that losing everything we call our own would sear me deeply, but I also know that they are just things. I have lost more than things in my life, and God upheld me.

There is, in times of deep vulnerability, a spark which smolders, a spark so small that it can often only be seen in retrospect. The survival instinct, the fighting spirit instilled within us by our creator feeds on that spark and grows. Sometimes, the beauty of gratitude, of priorities, of community spirit is allowed to shine so brightly only because the many concealing layers of the extraneous have been peeled away.

Today, so close to the ten year anniversary of Caleb’s death, I am thankful for the friends I have made that would never have crossed my path had it not been for our mutual losses. My prayers are with any and all who experience heart-rending dispossession whether it be material or emotional. I hope that they are able to turn their eyes away from what isn’t and seek comfort in gratitude for what remains.

It may be trite, but there is some truth to the saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

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11 Comments:

  • Gratitude and comfort in what remains.

    Beautiful words.

    I am so, so sorry for your loss. You are brave to share that letter today.

    By Anonymous Emily R, at 11:21 AM  

  • You have me in tears; grief, sadness, and awe at what you went through and shared so beautifully with us.

    Thank you. (HUGS)

    Julie
    Using My Words

    By Blogger Julie Pippert, at 1:11 PM  

  • Thank you for sharing that.

    By Blogger melissa, at 2:17 PM  

  • Thank your for sharing something so personal. I have not lost a child, but I, too, have been amazed at the Lord's strength to hold me up in times that I think will undo me.

    By Blogger TwoSquareMeals, at 3:29 PM  

  • I am so sorry for your loss. And glad that God has brought you through it.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 10:01 PM  

  • I'd like to think that I'm fairly eloquent when I can be, but the words fail me my dear friend. Having my birthday last week, I will also remember what you've written, and cherish, if not a life lived fully, but a life, and knowledge that Caleb did give you many things, that are a part of you and as you share that part of him, it becomes...well, a part of us.

    By Blogger Fletch, at 12:06 AM  

  • oh, wow. what a horrible, sad thing that there is really no words for and yet you found some, beautifully.

    By Blogger jen, at 10:33 AM  

  • You and Caleb will be very close in my heart tomorrow, T.

    ((((((hugs))))))

    By Anonymous Sheila(626), at 2:37 PM  

  • Wow, that is a powerful post. I love what you wrote in your profile, that God is raising Caleb for you. What a beautiful way to put it.

    My prayers will be with you this weekend.

    Thanks for coming by my blog.

    By Blogger painted maypole, at 3:13 PM  

  • sigh...it just completely sucks doesn't it...

    ((hugs)) my friend

    By Blogger spidermama, at 4:15 PM  

  • (((((((((hugs and prayers))))))))

    Thinking of you......

    By Blogger Mel, at 9:00 PM  

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