Sunday, May 17, 2009

There Is No Shortage Of Grief In This World

The odds of a child developing infant Leukemia are 1 in 5 million. The odds of a child being born with infant ALL w/ MLL rearrangement as Peyton was fall somewhere in the ballpark of 1 in 50 million. As new parents facing down such overwhelming statistics it was, and at times still is, very easy to feel alone; like this unexpected loss of a baby is something unique. It was ridiculous for me to have ever imagined a world where babies don't die. My grandmother lost her first two children, and until now I never really understood exactly how strong she was to just go on drawing breath through the experience. Her story of loss had a happy ending, she and my grandfather went on to have 3 more healthy children, the last of whom went on to have me, yet even as she approached ninety she couldn't speak of her first two children without the inevitable tears. Listening as a child to her recount the stories of their lives and passing, I always imagined her world to be a foreign one. Yes, it was sad to know she had lost those babies, but that was years ago; medicine wasn't what it is now, I had always told myself, babies don't just die these days. One lesson that I have learned the hard way is just how naive I was in my thinking. Since Peyton's passing, dozens of people have shared their own stories of loss with me. I wish I found comfort in the numbers, in knowing I am not alone in this but I don't. Instead I find myself grieving the loss of my own child, as well as of theirs. 

Last week Dru and I took a trip to one of the larger cemeteries in the area at the urging of the man who is designing Peyton's stone. He wanted us to visit there because they had a large infant section, and he thought we should see the various designs. I don't know why I had fooled myself into viewing this as an errand. I don't know why I thought I could shop these stones the way you would the racks at Kohls or a car in a salesman's lot. At first I glanced them over one by one, taking in the carved booties, crucifixes and teddy bears. I tried to keep my distance from imagining their stories, their families, and the cries from visitors at their funerals. After only the first few stones I realized I couldn't keep these little ones out of my heart. Each name I passed, each little stone, each little life brought a greater weight down on my heart and I couldn't find the means or composure to do anything but allow the tears to fall... tears for my child, my loss, my feelings and pain; and tears for these beautiful little babies laid out row by row and the parents who loved them. My tears were of sorrow and empathy and anger at the injustice that parents who so love their children should have to lose them while we hear stories daily of parents blessed with perfectly healthy children who choose to neglect rather than love them. There must have been some sixty stones, most from the last ten years, laid out roughly two feet apart, and my greatest heartache came when I realized that some of these stones shared last names. Some of these parents lost children, built the courage to go on and try again, only to return a year or two later to bury another. Standing along the knoll and staring at the proof engraved that sometimes lightning does strike more than once, there really was nothing to do but hang my head and cry some more. I cried for these children and their families, I cried for for myself and my husband, and I cried in a way that I never had before for my grandmother and the pain that she endured all those years ago. 

I could feel the all-too-familiar whirlwind of hopelessness and grief come over me; could see the future as Dru and I had imagined it slipping away, until it hit me. If my grandmother had given up, I wouldn't be here. My mother, aunt and uncle wouldn't be here. My sister, nieces, cousins and their children wouldn't be here. It's funny the way God works sometimes, bringing you to a place so dark only to show you the light back out. My grandmother stormed this hell twice but she did not give up; she did not sell herself short on having a life out of fear of the unknown. I can't lie and say that I look towards the future with naive optimism, even after this little epiphany, that part of me left this world along with Peyton, but every once in a while I allow myself to believe that this cloud so dark and cold just may not loom forever.

Lynette Kraft, another bereaved parent blogger once wrote about the loss of her daughter: 

"God can take a life that is peaceful and sweet (and a blast)....and bring a storm. When the storm hit we were all faced with enormous heartache. But then God began to heal our broken hearts, and life began to hold beauty and happiness again. That's the kind of God we serve."
And so I will try to remember this, even if it is just for today; that  while there is no shortage of grief in the world, and while life sometimes feels completely unfair, that there is the possibility that one day life will begin to "hold beauty and happiness again". Until then, I will trudge along and wait.

1 comment:

  1. Gosh, that had to be so hard to see all those stones belonging to babies. The world of baby loss is bigger than I ever imagined and it's heartbreaking. There is hope for happiness.