Numbers

WeighIn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anna was 9 pounds 0.6 ounces when she was born. 18.5 inches long. She was in the 90th percentile for weight, 25th for height. She has one sister, one brother, six grandparents, four godparents, seven uncles, five aunts and four cousins. She got 1 ml of propranolol every six hours. She spent 80 beautiful days with us. She was 11.5 weeks old when we lost her. Today, she would have been 171 days old … almost six months. She has two parents who will never, ever forget her.

There are a lot of numbers that I know about Anna. But ultimately, the number that I can’t get away from is three.

“How many children do you have?”

Several people who had also lost children told me this would be a difficult question to answer throughout my life. So I thought about it in advance. How would I answer? I told myself I would always answer “three: two on earth, one in heaven.” I coached Henry to always answer that he has two sisters, one on earth, one in heaven. And for Nora, one brother on earth, one sister in heaven. I even practice with Henry: “Henry, do you have a big sister?” “Yes. Nora!” “Do you have a little sister?” “Yes. Anna!”

But like most things related to loss of this magnitude, it is not always that easy. Here’s the part I didn’t anticipate: If someone is asking me how many children I have, he or she probably doesn’t know me that well. Probably, we have just met. Likely, I’m at work. So … do I go from small talk right into the depth of my most agonizing pain?

It is like going straight from the handshake, not letting go and pulling that person off the bridge with me. It doesn’t seem fair. But not talking about Anna – lying and saying two – that is not fair to Anna. And it feels so wrong.

Let me give you an example of how this goes. I was at a work function a few weeks ago. The event was the culmination of a relationship I had been working on before I went out on maternity leave. The guests of honor were Mickey Mantle’s two surviving sons, David and Danny. I worked most closely with their lawyer but had been on calls with the Mantles a few times.

I walked over and introduced myself to David. I said, “It was so nice to return from my leave and see that this event worked out so well.” David, “Maternity leave?” Me, “Yes.” David, “Well that’s just wonderful. A boy or a girl?” Me, “A girl.” “You must not be getting much sleep these days.” Me, “Well, uh, it’s kind of a sad story. We lost her.” And you can imagine how it went from there.

So … how to answer the question. How to honor Anna, be true to myself, but not jump off the bridge with complete strangers. I guess figuring it out has to do with the last part. Not jumping off the bridge. There is an immediate, biological and permanent, permanent  bond that forms between mother and baby — that formed between Anna and me. Death does not erase it. I don’t expect that I will ever be “over” losing my precious girl. But I am trying to absorb her life and her loss into who I am. Trying find strength from it. Some days I can, some I can’t. But I am trying. I am trying not to let her memories, her life pull me into a morass of pain but to lift me up. So …

“Three. Two on earth. One in heaven.”

And I’ll try to shake your hand … and just walk across the bridge.

5 comments.

  1. While we were out to dinner a few weeks ago, an older couple approached us and commented on our beautiful, well-behaved children (it was a good day)… Anyway, this woman asked what our daughters names were… Caroline, Elizabeth & Abigail… The woman smiled a big smile and said, “Oh, Caroline was our daughter’s name, we lost her years ago to breast cancer”, her husband chimed in, “And she was a beauty, just like your Caroline”. It was perfect, honest and real. No apologies. We were touched, and in no way felt we were being dragged off a bridge. They were kind enough to let us ‘in’ and it was sweet and sad.

    Anna has touched and changed so many lives in her 80 short days here on earth. Just because she is in heaven, does not mean she is done. Keep talking, keep sharing. We are here always.

    We will walk across the bridge with you any day. And jump off too, if need be.

  2. What a witness that simple statement makes. “Three. Two on earth. One in heaven.” The certainty that we have as Christians, of life forever in Heaven, gives us all such peace. I pray that you feel God’s presence and the peace that only He can give to you through your grief. Your family is continually in my prayers.

  3. I am your friend Stephanie’s mom. She has shared your sad news with us and asked me if I could write. When I was 13 we lost my 4-year-old brother to leukemia. I was not the mother, but the older sister, so I didn’t go through all the agony of the hospital stays, and I was not told until the very end just how bad it was. But I could see how my parents were grieving. And then came the night when they came home from the hospital much earlier than usual, both of them together, instead of just one, and I knew.
    I remember all of us asking each other at the time, “How could anyone ever survive this without their faith?” That was all that held us together and kept us going. And fortunately, you have that too.
    There was a time when we felt that life as we knew it was over and that we would never feel happy again. And that time didn’t end very quickly, but it did end, little by little. It was good to know that he was with the Lord and his suffering was over. After a while, our pain was replaced with happy memories. My parents, who thought they would never have anymore children, were blessed with 2 more.
    My father is also in heaven now, but my siblings and I gave my mother a collage picture for her 75th birthday. It included 5 pictures, her 4 living children and the one who will always live in her memory.
    Your pain will go away someday, and you will be left with your beautiful memories and the promise of being with your precious girl again.
    May our Lord bless and keep you and your family in His peace.
    Sharen

  4. Hi from the west coast. I haven’t written in a little while, although I have been reading your posts and emails. I wanted to say two things.

    Last week at work our CFO was telling me a story about his childhood and I asked how many siblings he had. He said that he had a brother and a sister but his family lost them when they were young. He then went on to finish his story. What struck me was that for the rest of his life he will always acknowledge his siblings. He didn’t expect or want me to say anything, he just wanted me to know that that they had lived and that they would always be in his mind.

    Secondly, I come to read this blog for several reasons. One, is that Anna and Jenn, by her writing about Anna, does make me want to be a better person. Secondly, I want to see how the family is doing. In addition, Jenn is an amazing and thoughtful writer. Lastly, I want lots of people to know about Anna and I want to be one of those people. I don’t come here to laugh, although I gotta say, the tree story made me laugh. I can just picture a bunch of guys try to move this big thing across the lawn and trying not to make it look hard but straining and finally admitting that it is a mambo thing to carry. I can also see different times–4th of July, labor day bbq, Nora’s graduation when you’ll be having parties in the yard and the tree will be there with you. I also think there will be quiet mornings or evenings when each of you are alone in the yard and you’ll look at the tree and it will bring up memories. Finally, I think this tree with root you to the house forever. After all, I am sure if you decide to move and want to take the tree with you, all of you friends will suddenly be busy that weekend or have a sore knee or need to clean out there garage. That tree is never going anywhere.

    Thanks for writing, Jenn. I know sometimes it is helpful for you and sometimes it is hard, but it is meaningful for us. And now, I must start working for the day, but a part of what you said about Anna and grief and numbers and trees and the lexicon of language will stay with me today. lb

  5. I was at a DCE conference earlier last week, which was the first time I’d had space to grieve in a while. And I discovered a little bit of what you meant. I needed to talk about Anna, to grieve, to remember, to cry. To many that I talked to it seemed like they wanted to fix my tears. But to me, I just discovered that they are a part of life now. I wanted to tell people: it’s okay. I cry. It’s a part of life.

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