I noted that October was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Month and I had thought about writing about my miscarriage, but never got around to it. Then this week I found out about the loss of an amazing young woman, aerial artist, and gifted instructor and find myself pulled back to the topic of loss.
It is incredible how much grief is caused by the loss of a tiny baby in one’s womb. I was fourteen weeks pregnant when I learned that I had lost my baby. I took my first “pregnant belly” photo the night before my doctor appointment, feeling that even though there was not any visible baby bump yet, I’d at least have the baseline photo. But the next day I learned that my baby had probably not actually made it past week ten or eleven; its heart probably stopped beating shortly after my previous doctor visit. My husband and I were overcome with grief and sadness. In those fourteen weeks we had put so much thought into our new future – life as parents! And suddenly it all vanished.
The sadness was immense. We cried so much. In my mind I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that I had to stop making plans. For the previous ten weeks or so I had been throwing ideas around about how the baby’s room should be decorated, how next Christmas there would be an extra person at my mom’s house. What would the baby call my mom? What would we name the baby if it was a boy? A girl? Will she want to play basketball, I wondered? That would make Chris thrilled. Would she take trapeze classes like me? That would make me thrilled. Which diapers will we buy? I had to make my mind operate like a VCR. I had to put the entire Baby Tape on rewind. How do I rewind all of these thoughts and ideas that have been playing in my mind for the past couple months? It took a long time.
When my girls were one and three my husband lost his best friend. We were in shock that a healthy forty-two year old man could leave this earth. And my friend was left without a daddy to her four year old son and one year old daughter. There is no “good” age to lose someone. Yes, it was evident that he had experienced so much in life and taken on amazing things for the good of others. But forty-two was still too soon. I believe in Heaven, so I believe he is watching his kids every day and witnessing their weed-like growth, achievement of new Tai Kwon Do belts, and goals scored in soccer. But it still cheats his children out of knowing him.
The funny thing about Dave is that he was the hub of a set of five guys and was the best friend of each of them. Our friendship circle had a long road of grief. We went to concerts together, feeling the emptiness of where Dave should be sitting. We cried at shows at the Foundry, we squeezed hands at shows at the Georgia Theatre, we raised our glasses and cried some more in the sand on Hilton Head. We bawled at the first concert between the hedges, remembering so many good times in Sanford Stadium and realizing that one person will be missing for all future football seasons.
For myself, not only was there sadness, but also guilt. While my husband had lost his friend, my friend had lost her husband. Even though I was sad about missing Dave, and sad for my husband’s loss, I felt the saddest when I thought of my friend and her two small kids. I cried on the way home from preschool drop-off, I cried during songs at Jazzercise. But over time, and through togetherness, we found laughter through tears, and even laughter instead of tears. Dave is still very missed and sadness still greets us in unexpected moments. But Dave still puts us into action. His words give my husband new ideas at work. And he sends us to the mountains of Montreat every summer.
My Grandma, Grandma Turner, lived to be ninety-six years old. I thought for sure she’d make it to one hundred. She couldn’t hear great, but she’d drive all over Dunwoody getting her errands run and was always ready for a road trip if someone was offering. I was at peace with losing Grandma. But I was so sad. I was in fact surprised how long I stayed sad. Honestly, it was effort hanging out with Grandma. I move like molasses and she’s more of a popcorn kernel on a hot frying pan gal. And despite her hearing loss (or because of) she talked very. Loud. But I loved it all so much. I still miss her. I miss the smell of her house. I miss her force-feeding me pears with mayonnaise, rainbow sherbert parfaits, Edward’s chocolate pies, Coca-Cola, lasagna. I’d eat anything she gave me. And I’d ask for more.
Wrestling with your own loss is difficult enough. Wondering how your children will deal with loss is a whole other layer. Unfortunately, I have two amazing, tough, resilient, and compassionate mom-friends who greet this challenge daily.
This week we lost a twenty-five year old trapeze instructor. My former instructor. Sammy’s former instructor. Ellie’s instructor. I told Ellie yesterday. This morning at breakfast Ellie verbalized something most of us probably roll around in our heads: “I’m just trying to figure out what happened to Laura,” she said, between bites of waffle. We all are, Ellie. (And that is probably what your classmate wonders about her daddy who also recently left this world too soon.) At twenty-five, Laura was an amazing aerial artist, an energetic teacher to adults, a tender yet encouraging instructor to children and a friend of many. The possibilities of her “could haves” are immeasurable. I am left with sadness. But I am also left with the permanent imprint in my mind of her perpetual smile, and her shining eyes. She is taken care of where she is now. But we are left in the land of grief, cheated out of our time with her.