Blog #4: Celebration

17 Jul

Today was Alex’s baptism. Or at least, the day that was scheduled to be his baptism. I didn’t even notice it until we were in church today. I saw a beautiful young couple, dressed up, with a sweet young baby in their arms. The baby was wearing a baptismal outfit- one of those scratchy, white, starched jumpers that makes babies really uncomfortable. As I was watching them, Ben reminded me that today was supposed to be Alex’s day.

How does the church handle that? We’ve never seen them do two baptisms on the same day. Is there a wait list? Did they call that other family and tell them that they’ve had a “cancellation?” Is it like a restaurant, where the church will try to slide another family in when they have an “opening?”

My heart feels heavy. I believe that Alex is already in Heaven- how lucky for him! To be with our Father so early in life makes him a very special boy. Why do I struggle to share in his celebration? Is it selfish to wish he were here on earth? I want the best for my children, so I try to force myself to be happy for my little baby’s good fortune.

We weren’t going to make Alex’s baptism as big of an affair as Benjamin’s. We didn’t feel like having a huge party, making food, cleaning up, getting out invitations. I think that’s common- you do everything too big for your first child, and then you have more realistic expectations for your subsequent children. Alex didn’t get a party at all.

I don’t begrudge the happiness and good fortune of other families. I still love to see babies and I still celebrate when others become parents. What has happened to our family is tragic, and the world needs more joy and celebration than sadness.

As I search for answers to things I don’t understand, I cling to the things I do know. If we get to celebrate a baptism again, it will be huge. If we get to celebrate a first birthday again, we will rent out the town! We will celebrate life at every possible juncture, big or small. And someday we will celebrate Alex’s early arrival to Heaven with shouts of Thanksgiving. One day. Just not today…

Remembering Alex (#4): The Fire Burns– this was written 2 weeks after Alex died.

“I need to go back to work sometime.  My maternity leave is over and I’m using vacation time now.  If I’m using vacation time, I feel like I should be sipping umbrella drinks on the beach somewhere, or at least having fun.

I’m not sure what has me most concerned about going back to work.  I think the hardest part for me is that I have tried to keep my mommy-self and my work-self very separate.  Not that I hide or deny the fact that I have children at work… I just don’t talk as much at work about my family or how much my kids really mean to me.  I’m not sure that endless anecdotes about how Benjamin loves to play kitchen is really deemed “professional.”

Going back to work means putting aside my grief for 10 hours a day to get my “game face” back on.  I’m not saying that I can’t do that- I just wonder if I can take it off when I get home.  If I build up a wall to get through the day without crying, will I still be able to mourn and grieve when I’m back in the security of our home?

Or worse, what if I’m a hot mess as soon as I hit the office?  When you work with hundreds of people, what will it be like when you greet each person the first time?  It seems like I shed tears the first time I see someone who knows.  We talk briefly about it and then the sadness passes.  I can’t do that a hundred times each day.

Going through the process of grieving Alex is like burning a fire.  Grief is a fire that burns, and we are each given a stack of firewood to burn through.  You need to burn through *all* your firewood to get through it.  You can burn through it fast, or burn through it slow.  Sometimes the fire is raging and hot, sometimes the fire is smoldering.  There is no right way to get through the pile of food.  Avoiding the fire makes it harder though.  The wood gets wet and moldy- it doesn’t burn the way it should.

As you’re burning through the firewood, burning through your grief, it’s interesting to see how other people react to the flames.

Some people ignore the fire, and don’t let you acknowledge it either.  They can watch you sit by the fire of your grief, and never mention it.  Even as the ashes float by, and the embers crackle and pop, they don’t discuss the fire burning in front of them.

Other people try to douse your fire with water.  It’s good intentioned, but the fire is meant to burn, not just smolder so that the smoke gets in your eyes.  The more water they throw on your fire, the harder it is to get the fire back once they leave.

Sometimes though, other people can help you burn through your fire… they’re there with fresh air and kindling.  They hunker down with you around the flames and keep you warm.  They also keep you safe to ensure that you don’t get too close to the fire to get burned.   Most important, they make sure the fire doesn’t consume you.  These special people let you burn the fire at your own pace.  They help when you want them to, and sometimes they just watch the flames with you.

The problem with this fire is that you can’t always control it- sometimes it’s a light in the night that is predicable and comfortable, keeping you warm.  Other times, it’s erratic and unpredictable like a wildfire.  Getting bigger than you want it to, and you worry that it’s going to harm those around you that you love.

Sometimes you want to tend to the fire yourself, considering each of the embers as they burn red and orange, poking at the coals as they turn gray and flaky.  Other times, you want someone else to stoke the fire enough to keep it going, and you just want to fall asleep next to the flames.

The fire of grief is unavoidable.  It’s critical to your survival and can’t be ignored.  You don’t know how much wood you have to burn through, but you’ll know once the pile is empty.  In the meantime, you keep throwing logs on the fire.

For me, talking about Alex is my way of burning through the fire.  I like to look at his pictures, tell stories about him and remember him exactly as he was.  Telling his story is my way of honoring his memory, not just mourning his death. 

To all the wonderful friends and family who have sent cards, letters, emails and Facebook messages: thank you for joining me by the fire.  You are keeping me warm, and I like the company.  As I spin stories about my sweet, perfect boy, you hold my hand by the campfire and keep me from getting too close to the flames.  Maybe someday I will return the favor to you, and sit by your campfire.  I promise- I’ll bring the marshmallows.”

1 Comment

Posted by on July 17, 2011 in Uncategorized


One response to “Blog #4: Celebration

  1. Maren

    July 18, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I have two boys, Ben (3) and Alex (1). Before Ben, I lost a daughter at 23 wks gestation. I have been on all ends of the parenting spectrum with grief and jubilation. I can’t offer words of advice, consolation, or peace that you haven’t already heard. But I can offer you the knowledge that a stranger is holding you and your family in her prayers having walked a similar heartbreaking path.


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