Monday, April 19, 2010

To let it go

I've written before about the lines I love from Mary Oliver. You can hear Jess at After Iris Reads Aloud read the poem "In Black Water Woods" for Henry.

The pause before the last line has had me thinking today about letting go of his body.

"Let me hold him one more time." And who ever has him hands him back to me and I hold him close. Even as I hold him, I know that I have to let him go, that telling him it was okay to go, singing his spirit out as it flew, that was not enough. I would have to put him down, walk away, not hold him again.

In that pause I feel that last holding, the last hand on him as I back away slowly and then turn and walk out of the room. How do you do that? I still don't know.

I loved him.
I held him close as if my life depended on it.
And the time came too soon, but I let him go.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Henry's tree, gray skies and blue

Here's Henry's tree on a gorgeous sunny day and on a gray overcast one on which the blossoms looked even brighter.

On the gray day, as I walked Kathleen around the neighborhood, I paused to admire the blooms in the gloom and a flash of red streaked past the tree. A cardinal sat in the lilac bush behind the peach tree and we watched each other for a bit. Then I sighed and the cardinal flew off.

Wishing you blue skies and hope

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hope in bloom

I had been thinking about Henry's tree, the peach tree I planted for his first birthday, before I knew that peach trees are hard to grow. Vicki was talking about the Japanese magnolia that she got as a gift when her son Evan died, and I thought of Henry's two trees, the hawthorne that's thriving and the peach tree that has struggled. 

The danger, of course, of planting a living thing as a memorial is that it will die. And in some ways this is not so terrible. What's a tree compared to your baby? But really it seems awful, one more bit of death, one more failure, one more thing that didn't work out. 

Henry's tree is planted in our backyard, a companion to the peach tree we got as a wedding gift. Our wedding tree got off to a good start. Then two summers ago, leaves yellowed and began to fall in early summer. Exploring, we found the lower trunk being liquified. We thought the culprit was a peach tree borer, though further research suggests more likely a rust of some sort. Last year, our wedding tree lost its fruit and then its leaves and then stood there starkly, naked, dead. This is no metaphor, no symbol, despite the statistics. Brian and I are doing fine, though there was a period last spring when all of our communication felt like  a challenge or a debate. 

As our tree slowly failed, I watched Henry's tree, wondering if it would succumb to the same fate. The leaves yellowed some, and I found a soft spot on the trunk. I sighed and waited for the inevitable. 

The other day, I noticed the faint pink buds swelling on Henry's tree the other day. Now they have burst wide open. 

Hope in bloom. 

Friday, April 9, 2010

It brings me back

It seemed like the memories of being at Children's had faded some. I could remember but not be immersed. I could see what had happened without being thrust back onto the floor. This seemed like a good development.

Then last week, somebody asked me if I had any advice about support for her friend whose son is being treated at Children's. As I tried to think of what had helped, I found myself back there walking those halls, lost and floundering, exhausted and anxious. My chest was squeezed tight and I could barely breathe.

Yesterday, my friend Tricia posted that she had spent several hours in the ER at Children's with her daughter, Riley. She lived at Children's for months and months with her baby too. I read her comment on Facebook and hoped Riley was okay, but at the same time, my heart jumped up and choked me. I remembered bringing Henry to the pediatrician and ending up in the ER. I remember bringing him into the ER after finally being released from the hospital. And I remember how stressful it was to simply approach the hospital again, without a sick baby. I thought of her arriving at the hospital and all of what I had been through there flooded back, and I imagined her struggling through her own morass of memories weighed down by the fear of the current situation. I send her hugs and hope.

I am still haunted by the three months I spent there with Henry. I don't look back and think that was nothing compared to losing him. It was a different kind of unbearable, that I had no choice but to bear.

When Henry was getting close to discharge, I got more and more agitated. As much as I wanted, no needed, to get out of the hospital and get him home, I was terrified. How could I keep him well? Could we see family at Christmas or did we have to isolate ourselves that much? Would I miss signs of withdrawal?  Would he ever come off oxygen? What, really, could we expect for him? What if he got sick again? Would I miss symptoms of his condition worsening? What if he had a low-grade fever (DANGER, DANGER) in my mind that doctors who didn't know him brushed off? I had been away for so long, could I bear to barricade myself in the house with him all winter?

And the answer were: I couldn't keep him well. Even before we left the hospital, he had a little bug brewing in him. We did see family at Christmas—by that time he was gone. We weren't home long enough to have problems with withdrawal or try to wean him back on oxygen or figure out what he could do. He did of course get sick again, and I was paralyzed, to scared to bring him to the hospital, and he got worse rapidly. And he had a fever, and still, I was unable to bring him to the ER. I ended up in for most of the winter without him, lost in the blur of missing him.

I'm sitting here now, taking deep breaths, shaking off the grip of hospital fear that grabbed tight onto me, but every now and then I find myself smiling a little half smile as tangled up in that anxiety find the little glimmers of hope and kindness that sustained me through those three months that feel like a lifetime.

It does often now feel like a different lifetime, and yet, it seems I am not as far removed from it as I'd like to think I am.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter, Then and Now

Easter three years ago, I was still waiting to meet Henry, still naive, still happy.

Easter two years ago, Henry missed his first Easter. I was newly pregnant again and anxious.

Easter last year, Henry missed his second Easter. Kathleen was toothless, sitting supported.
I was a jumble of happy and sad.

Easter, this year, this day, Henry is still absent from the egg hunt*. Kathleen is toothy grins alternating with fussing, wanting her mama to hold her. Most of the day I was okay, tears welled in church and at his grave. Most of the day, I marveled at how my baby girl has changed in this last year, how different, toddling around, picking up eggs, dropping them to pick up a leaf. She gave me kisses today. This is brand new today, and so sweet.

*(He was in the picture with all the grandchildren though. My mother-in-law had Brian run in and get a picture of Henry to hold, so he would be part of "all the kids.")