This is something I wrote before Gracie was born, I know now how the story ends but these are some thoughts I'd like to keep and this blog is as good a place as any!
I have always been big on “luck.” Four-leafed clovers, wishing on stars, the whole bit. So when I started driving and a friend gave me a keychain for luck, I took it pretty seriously. It is called a Kokopelli and has been with me on almost every drive for the past fifteen years.
A while ago my husband and I traded cars and, thus, keys. I jokingly warned him to take special care of my good luck charm, but after a while I forgot all about it.
In November 2010, I lost my son seven days after he was born. To say it was the hardest, most painful experience of my life does not do it justice. Despite the absolute heartbreak, his life and death taught me plenty about love.
I learned about the love of friends. That is a love that brings people from hours away, just so they can stand in a hospital and grab your hand when you walk through the longest hallway of your life. Their love arrives with a broom in one hand and a ham in the other, so that even when they can’t take away the pain, they can give you the time to deal with it. A friend’s love fills your house when it seems too empty and then quietly slips away when the world seems too full.
I learned about the love of family. That is a love that fills a church on a day when it would be so much easier to stay away. Their love takes care of the details you can no longer face. They are brothers who try anything to make you smile and sisters who run cool fingers through your hair. Family love tells you that there really are no wrong answers. You can cry, scream, and laugh minute after minute and hour after hour, and family love will be there to hold you when you are through.
I learned about the love of parents. That is a love who relives painful experiences to help you learn that there is life after loss. I learned that, no matter how old you are; in your darkest days there is comfort to be found with your head in the crook of your mother’s neck or against your father’s chest. A parent’s love reminds you of who you are, that even though your life has been turned upside down, you are still a girl who loves to wear big earrings. . . swim in the ocean. . . read good books.
I learned about the love of a husband and a wife. I learned that is has nothing to do with looks, kindness, or a good sense of humor. It has to do with the person who is there to literally hold you up when you fall down. It has to do with the person who crawls into bed beside when you can’t get out of it; it has to do with the one person who really understands. It is love for the one who was there for every second, who knows exactly what it felt like to be there in the beginning and in the end. This love cannot be replaced; it is not interchangeable because no other person knows what it is like to be his mother or father.
I learned what it means to love a child. I learned that love feels like something locking into place; it is a love that makes sense of the world. The love of a child will make you fierce, it will make you hang on for dear life, and it will give you the strength to know when it is time to let go. This love made me a mother, and that is something even death cannot take away. I am every bit my son’s mother today as I was the day he was born; this is a love that does not fade.
I learned a lot about love. But I don’t know that I understood the meaning of love until now.
Twelve weeks pregnant with our second child, I received a phone call that we were at a high risk for a child with Down Syndrome or a possibly more serious abnormality. After losing my son, I know there are much, much worse things than a child with a disability. That no matter what the outcome, all that we have learned about love will be poured onto this baby.
But it was so hard to get another phone call like that from a doctor’s office. A sick déjà vu that I was not sure I had the strength to take.
After a night of many tears, I managed to get myself up and dressed the next morning. My husband left early for work, and I grabbed my keys and walked to my car with swollen eyes. It wasn’t until I turned the ignition that I realized the addition to my key chain: my Kokopelli dangling on the end of the chain, ready to provide me luck for another safe ride.
What I have learned about love is that it comes down to people who touch your life, but more than that the meaning of love is about those people who are able to bring you hope when you think there is none. The good luck charm my husband placed on my key chain that day was like my mother’s shoulder or the home-cooked meals from friends. It gave me that little glimmer of hope that was enough to keep me hanging on.
I don’t, and won’t, know what will happen with our second child until he or she arrives into our arms. But no matter what the outcome, I am no longer afraid.
Shortly after I lost my son, a well-meaning person told me that life was all about loss, and our job on earth was to prepare ourselves for these losses. I disagree. Life is not about loss. Life is about people. Life is about the people who will love you through your loss . . . the people who will bring you hope. Life is about love.