Preface: As many of you know I had a stillborn daughter 11 years ago today. I am not writing this to look for sympathy, or validation, but to simply express how I feel. I am not really even sure how I feel but have had a swell of emotion today that has not been present in my soul and in my tears for many years. I am certain I am being directed to take the swirl of thoughts in my head and work on organizing them. I thank anyone reading this for their patience with my clumsy words as I struggle to express my feelings. I hope however, that some comfort or tidbit will reach you where ever you are in your day.
Happy Birthday Margaret,
I visited your grave today, as I do every year. It is almost embarrassing that I only go once each year. Your tiny body is only a few miles away yet I busy myself with the mundane tasks that fill my day. I get it, there is no real part of you that is in the ground, that thought is silly. You are infinitely far away yet permanently close to me. Perhaps it is my under developed sense of the universe that keeps me tethered to what I can see and touch. I do know this, it is hard to walk up to your marker, the only real thing that ties you to this mortal plane, and look at the state of things. Your name could not be read, covered with dirt, weeds wandering aimlessly across the smooth granite, almost as if they don’t care. I apologize for not being a better steward of your home.
As I scratch and wipe at the words etched so professionally across the slab tears well up. Eleven years ago I wiped those same tears away. Hell, they are streaming even as I write. I am not sure if it is simple OCD that makes me struggle to see the disarray or if I detest what it represents to me. Fists full of grass are no match for my persistence, the dirt is fine, almost like powdered sugar. It brushes away with ease, the hard part is getting it out of the porous carvings. I think it makes me cry because there is such a strong tie to the event of your birth and death. It feels like a teaching moment, you remind me that you can clear away the dirt, I can scratch and yank at my past sins and failures, they will come out, they can be wiped away if I try. It strikes me that once a year I come and reset the grave site yet I rarely reset my own life, my own heart. I smiled in wonder, a perfect little soul, whom I never watched draw breath, is teaching me. It’s a wonder I have made it this far in life.
Don’t get me wrong, I think of that unimaginable day more often than I should. Sadly, or thankfully, time begins to dull the sharp edges and the pain becomes something akin to a bruise, not a knife. I search the deep recesses of my mind for details, they too are harder and harder to pinpoint. But what is not hard to pinpoint is the emotions that come with the loss. I am grateful you were born, I remember holding you and being so proud of how perfect you were. You were perfect, never a single sin, never a bad thought, never a harsh word that you can’t take back. You had only ever felt love, I cling to the notion that there was no pain in your death. You only ever found nourishment from you mothers love. You only ever heard my voice sing to you, never yell or be a clumsy parent. There is my next lesson.
I always wondered what stamp you would leave on this world. You would have been a fierce voice I am sure. You would have told me to be kinder to people less fortunate. You probably would have said, “Dad, don’t yell at that guy who cut you off, he maybe just lost someone special and is not thinking about driving”. Margaret, I still cause pain, I still fail, but you certainly showed me how silly my anger is. Your lesson in love showed me how to be a better father. It took a long time to sink in, it is still a daily crap-shoot, but it is near the front of my mind all of the time.
Random thought – Singing Children of the Heavenly Father at your burial is still the most beautiful song I have heard. Thank-you for sending that music past my ears right to my heart.
I know I am going on, but this is my mess flowing onto the paper and I have sat on these thoughts for years. It seems I am compelled to write them down.
I do believe you ushered in some major changes in so many lives. I can say with no hesitation that my need to know my son Nathaniel surfaced and never went back down after our day together. You did not allow me to justify being away from his life. You showed me how much not getting to know someone hurts, it hurt him and it hurt me. I could never reconcile that. You probably already know this, but I still had many demons and battles of my own to fight before I got the courage to be a man and bring your brother into the fold. I don’t regret taking that step for a second and, in a strange way, feel like getting to know him was your doing. I do regret that it took so long. The message was in a language I could not decipher, it was just love. I don’t know if you orchestrated it, volunteered to come and help, or the spirit or the universe or whatever flows through us knew I needed to be moved to the right place. Sorry honey, I didn’t get it at first.
On this day that will rank among the most intense in my life, I look back and smile. I don’t think it is possible to really quantify pain or attempt to rank the supposed greatest moments in your life; we are all on our own journey. Every moment builds you and defines you. Let me tell you what I do know Margaret, I have become more empathetic to other’s pain. I understand how much it hurts, I didn’t even get to know you and I was stunted. I try to imagine losing an older child after they have laughed under your roof, sat on your lap, and looked into your eyes for many years, I cannot fathom it. I don’t think I feel my pain to any greater or lesser degree than anyone else, but I am sure I feel it when others struggle with grief. I look at the body of a small child washed up on the shore of Greece, the bloody toddler clinging to life in Libya, the starving child staring at me on the TV and feel that enormous wrong. Honey, I am a better human now. I care for people, not just ones I know or who look like me or pray like me, or believe in my dogma; humans.
I am glad you came into my life. I am sure the lessons that others gleaned from your brief appearance are different from mine, that is what is amazing about being visited by perfect grace and love. I remember sitting with the doctors discussing the possible reason that you were not allowed to join us, they simply said, “I have no explanation, she appears to be perfect”. You were perfect and always will be…happy birthday.