When we first awaken from a deep sleep, there is often a blissful gap between consciousness and engagement. Whatever has accompanied us into our nocturnal world remains there for a brief, elusive moment and we are aware only that we are awake.
“Good morning, Mrs. Junior.”
A young lab tech stood beside my bed. I noticed the clock. 7:07 a.m. In her hand was a tray of tubes and syringes, ready for a routine blood collection. My eyes took in the hospital room and registered her pleasant expression.
The muscles in my face began to smile in response, and suddenly awareness ambushed my spirit. Tears welled and immediately spilled. Grief, an independent entity, reared up, flooded in and filled the vacuum in my formerly sleep-protected brain.
Emotion surged through me, but another moment had to pass before my mind could attach the wave of sorrow to knowledge.
Once knowledge came, it remained.
Our Wendy-baby had died.
Concern and confusion registered on the lab technician’s face as I broke into sobs. Did she think she’d done something wrong?
I didn’t want her to feel badly. This wasn’t her fault.
“It’s okay,” I said stupidly. “It’s just that our baby died a few hours ago. I’m alright.”
In the midst of my tears, I noted the young woman’s discomfort. Maybe this was a first for the lab tech. Maybe she was upset no one had warned her. Maybe she wanted to turn and run. Whatever her response, I came to an understanding within myself. This lesson was hers to process. It was not my job to make others feel okay. I carefully gathered this insight and tucked it into my heart.
The blood sample still to be taken, she tied off my arm with a rubber tourniquet and drew the needed blood as my tears silently soaked an already damp pillow. With my free arm, I reached for a hospital-issued tissue and scrubbed at my face.
My mind wandered in the disjointed way a mind sometimes does.
When you cry, your nose runs. When your nose runs, you use numerous tissues to stem the flow.
The more I wiped, the more my face hurt. Why did it hurt? Oh. Tissues are paper, paper made from wood fibre. Revelation! I was scrubbing my damp, salt-irritated skin with wood shavings.
This would not do. I needed something soft.
My mind slipped back to childhood admonitions. “Take a hankie with you in case your nose begins to run.”
I wondered, Who do I know who might still have a cotton hanky? Of course. My mother, Wendy’s grandma. I’ll call and ask for hankies to sooth the ravages of grief resulting from the death of her granddaughter.
Strange how thoughts, images, yesterdays and todays weave together.
The lab tech bravely made eye contact and gave a gentle nod, before leaving. I was thankful she didn’t try to speak what couldn’t be said, putting me into the position of making a polite response. I wiped my face again. So sore. I found a tube and applied some hospital cream.
Dead. I practised the knowledge.
Wendy is dead. A defect undetected until birth, lungs undeveloped, she could not survive.
Our Wendy-baby is dead.
But then, unexpected, a wash of blessing filled me.
The pregnancy itself was wonderful. Wendy had been wanted, loved, safe and healthy, strong and secure within me for nine glorious months. She heard my songs. She heard her father’s voice. She heard her big sister’s giggles, felt her bumps and cuddles. She saw light filtering through her safe home in my womb, and was warm in the darkness of her mother’s sleep.
My grief was profound, but that grief was for those of us left empty-armed. It was not for Wendy.
A thought drifted by. I caught it. Turned it around. Caressed it.
Maybe our Wendy’s spirit was so perfect, she didn’t need a lifetime of lessons before she went to be with God. If that was true, it meant we were chosen to be the parents of a pure spirit.
Fanciful? Perhaps. But I liked it. I would hold my thought and keep it close as the days of grief ebbed and flowed. Time had been our enemy as we’d sat by her while her body slowly succumbed, but now I found it to be a friend as well. Time would move us slowly, steadfastly away from the heightened emotion of the event. Time would allow us to take the best of our Wendy into the future, but leave the hurt behind.
Join me next week for Ch. 22. Birth & Death Announcement
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