The Fifth Month
Wednesday, January 1, 2003
Today the dark cloud hit with a vengeance. It was very strange. K. and her family came over to spend the afternoon. We had a really great time. Then they left, and we had about 2 hours before we had to leave to go to church. During that time it was as if a switch had been thrown. My good mood turned immediately to depression and such sadness. When we got to church, she asked me what had happened. And I really didn’t know what to tell her because I didn’t understand it myself. Was it watching her 1 year old? Was it the lonely feeling when the house got quiet after she and her 4 kids left? Was it that I had to go back to work the next day? Was it just that I couldn’t hold the cloud off anymore?
Thursday, January 2, 2003
Today was a disaster. I was so down I cried all the way to work. Then I had to be “perky” and go around first thing in the morning and pass out candy bars to various people to remind everyone to work safely. The thought of making small talk was excruciating, even though I really had had a good holiday. I made it through it, but it was so hard. Then I ended up back in my office crying. I called K. because I was so upset. I was convinced I couldn’t do this job after all and that I wouldn’t be able to focus anymore. What made it even harder was that I was coming off such a good month in December. I know in my head that having some good days doesn’t mean they’re from now on, but it makes it so hard to go back to the bad days. I almost wish I didn’t have the good days because the contrast is so hard.
Sunday, January 12, 2003
It is surely a strange time for me lately. Reading about the new diagnoses, the new losses, and the anniversaries on my board. The situations feel so real to me that it is as if I am living them myself. That seems odd because lately I have felt as if my own situation is not real. Last week I was actually looking at pictures of Abigail and asking myself if she was really real. Did I really have a baby that died? Did she really exist? Did this really happen to me? I wanted so badly to touch her face again, but all I have are the pictures. It is hard to believe that for a week after she died I would wake up several times a night with a start, thinking I was still holding her, and now I can’t even remember what it was like to hold her. That makes me so sad and so mad!
Last night we were in a restaurant and another family came in with 3 children and I suddenly got really sad. I was thinking that we used to be in their world, but now we are in one that is totally different and that they probably don’t even know exists. It is just so sad that we can’t be in that other world anymore. But then another strange thought crossed my mind: how do I know they’re not in my world. Maybe someone is looking at OUR family and thinking the same thing about us. It’s not like there’s a sign on our foreheads or anything (although sometimes it sure feels like there is).
Monday, January 13, 2003
Today I had another rough day. It was like there are so many things right now, but when I try to explain them, they sound like so many little insignificant things. And it feels like it will take too much energy to tell them. So I decided what I really wanted to do was cry. And I just couldn't. It was so frustrating. Finally I was able to cry, and it was really a hard cry. I am surprised that I have cried so hard at work both last week and today. I really haven't cried like that in weeks, maybe months. My baseline has switched from basically up in December to basically down now.
We just got an email Sunday from a close friend about his wife's recent emergency surgery; she nearly died. And he commented about how he prayed all night and he knew many were praying, too. And he is so thankful that she is now going to be ok. His final comment was, "prayer works." Now, I fully agree that prayer works, but I also feel really empty. His wife got to live, but my baby died. By his very statement I feel that Abigail's life has been minimized, that it wasn't as important as his wife's because Abigail died but his wife was spared. In my head I know that's not true, but reading his email made me cry. I know that Abigail got an even greater gift; she got to go right to heaven without having to suffer long in this sinful world. But it is so hard to share another's joy in their "close call" when ours ended so differently.
And at one point at work today I caught sight of our recent family picture and my thought was, "this is my real life" and then I looked at Abigail and once again she looked like she wasn't real and I thought, "and she's not a part of it." I mean, looking at the other kids' pictures, I don't really see the picture, I see them in my mind as they are. Looking at Abigail's picture, I don't remember what she looked like in my mind. All I have left are the pictures, and they just don't seem real. I vacillate between thinking she isn't real and realizing she is real and wanting to throw the pictures across the room because I don't want stupid pictures, I want her.
I think part of what is really bothering me is; is she getting forgotten? I don't even think she was real, so how can those who never met her? I bring her up sometimes, but I hold back a lot because I'm afraid people don't want to keep hearing about her. It would be so nice if someone brought her up. For me, I think about her just about all the time, and it is so hard when it seems that she is forgotten.
Friday, January 17, 2003
Every time I hear about someone who is gravely ill and is "miraculously" cured, they give credit to God for answering their prayers. And sometimes it is really hard to hear it, because it makes me want to ask, "Where were you, God, when I needed you?
Why didn't you answer MY prayers? Why did you heal them but not MY baby?" As I was preparing a lesson for our ladies’ class at church, I found something that hit me right between the eyes and really helped me get a sense of peace about this question. And so I thought I would share it with you.
It is found in John 11, which talks about the raising of Lazarus. When they found out Lazarus was very sick, his sisters Mary and Martha sent for Jesus. They knew he would help them because he loved Lazarus. BUT HE DIDN’T COME! Lazarus died! When he did come, Martha said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” I think in that statement she is saying what we have all asked, “Where were you? I asked for help, why didn’t you help me?” She was confused, disappointed, hurt, sad, and probably angry. And I picture her saying next, very quietly and with a sigh, “But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” She didn’t understand why he didn’t help her, but she still had faith. Not a strong, energetic, rah-rah faith, but an almost invisible faith. And then Jesus asked her if she believed that whoever believes in him will never die. And she said she did – just enough faith.
Think about this. Martha has just been “let down” by Jesus. Jesus, who loved Lazarus. She thought she knew Jesus and could count on him. Then when she needed him most, he didn’t come. She was devastated and unsure of why and what to do next. And she was consumed by grief. Then she told Mary that Jesus was calling for her.
Mary was so consumed by her grief that when she arose to go to Jesus, those with her thought she was going to the tomb to grieve. She had been weeping for 4 days; they couldn’t think of anywhere else she would be going. And her first words upon meeting Jesus were, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” The exact same statement, and, I’m sure, the same emotions. Just like Martha, Mary was terribly shaken that Jesus had not helped them in their time of need. She was weeping, and when Jesus saw her he groaned in the spirit. Then Jesus wept. They thought it was because of his love for Lazarus. But he knew Lazarus was going to be raised. He was crying because Mary and Martha and those around them were in so much pain. He groaned in spirit. He was hurting with them.
And then they asked the same question we ask, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” The answer is YES! YES, he could have! But he didn’t. Why? Wasn’t it incredibly hard on Mary and Martha? Yes. They had tremendous pain and grief, and Jesus hurt with them.
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but NOT because Mary and Martha were faithful, or because they prayed, or even because they were hurting so badly. His heart hurt with them and he wept, but that’s not why he raised Lazarus. V4 says Lazarus’ sickness was so that the Son of God may be glorified through it. And v 45 says that many who had seen, believed. That’s why he raised Lazarus, and why he healed so many in his ministry. Physical health was not really the point. Spiritual health was.
And so what I take away from this is: heaven is our hope. Jesus has NOT deserted us. And we have to hang on, sometimes by a thread, and continue to trust God. We have to continue to have faith in him, even if it is very quiet and faint. And we can know that God is hurting so badly when he sees us hurting, and he will help us through it. And by doing this, we can bring glory to God. And, maybe, by seeing our struggles, some will believe. And in the end, He will wipe away all our tears and He will make it all right.
Saturday, January 18, 2003
I have actually been acting like an engineer the last 2 days at work. That is, I've been walking around the shop asking lots of questions and not solving anything! But it feels like I'm doing something now instead of just sitting in my office crying.
I had car trouble on the way home from work last night and had to call Steve. It's hard to believe it OVERHEATED when it was 10 degrees outside! What a great night to be working under the hood! While Steve was working on it, I jumped into the warm van to sit with the kids. They were both asleep with their heads leaning in toward each other. I suddenly felt this intense wave of emotion as I looked at them, thinking about how precious they are and how much I love them. And I thought, “This is my family.” And then I smiled, because I thought, “Abigail is with me always.” It was really strange, because I felt so happy that she is always with me, instead of sad that she's not here. Maybe K. is right that if I can let go of my fear of forgetting her, some of the happy memories may rise to the surface again.
I also had a kind of neat experience Thursday at work. They brought the mobile mammogram unit and while I was in there filling out the paperwork one of the ladies asked about my locket and if I had a picture in it. I was so excited to show her picture and I said, "Yes, this is my baby." And they looked and asked, "how old is she now?" And I said, "Actually, she died." And I got a little teary-eyed and one lady apologized for upsetting me. I told her it was ok and our plant nurse, bless her heart, said, "she likes to talk about her. She's a very special baby." Sometimes people can say or do the right thing, too.
I spend more time calling and emailing people than I ever did before. And even at that I don't have time to send to everyone as often as I'd like. It is what is important to me now and what I am interested in. Instead of not thinking much about anyone else when I get busy, I look forward to getting some time to call or write to others. So I think I have really learned the value of friendships that I hadn't seen before. Even though it is really hard to lose Abigail, I have gained so much else in relationships with others that I wouldn't have gained if she had lived. I just hope that I remember that.
Sunday, January 26, 2003
Last night I went to a celebration where we would see many people that we hadn’t seen since Abigail died. I ended up doing very well but there were a couple of strange things that I noticed. First, no one mentioned her at all. However, by the way many of them asked how we were doing and hugged us, I knew what they meant. They were just afraid to upset me, since I seemed to be doing well. And I would say, "I'm doing OK." I just didn't want to go into a big explanation with everyone and just talk about me. But I was not happy that I ended up saying I was doing OK. So I was disappointed in myself, like I wanted to say, "Ask me again, I'm not Ok, let me talk about Abigail." But I missed my chance.
And at one point, when they were commenting about how my other kids had grown, we were talking about their blond hair and whether they would stay blond. I told them I had dark hair as a baby, and I thought, "And so did Abigail," but I didn't say it. I felt like if I mentioned her it would be like those old EF Hutton commercials and everyone would stop talking and listen and watch to see what I was going to say or do. And it made me SO MAD that I didn't feel comfortable saying it!
And there were a few friends who completely avoided me. They stayed across the room or had to tend to their kids whenever we were in the same vicinity. They never even said hello to me or looked me in the eye. I just wanted to tell them, "It's not contagious!" I know that they just didn't think they could deal with it, but it's only 15 minutes for them; for me it's for the rest of my life. I just didn't realize that in addition to losing Abigail I would also lose some friends. That is so sad.
So overall I was glad I went, but it was a real eye-opener for me, both for how I acted and for how they did. On the other hand, I am really learning to appreciate those friends who have become closer and dearer to me because of Abigail. They are truly a treasure and a blessing. Another gift from Abigail.
January was really a rough month, especially in contrast to how well I did in December. I guess it is the cycle of grief.