'Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.'
--C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
I am a rather stoic person. When there is a tragedy, whether it is sudden or takes place over time, I am calm. I am the arm to lean upon, the shoulder that soaks up the tears, the calm that takes charge. I have heard, many times over the years, that I am unfeeling, abnormal, accused of not caring. I can count on one hand the numbers of times that I have lost it on the spot. My calmness, though, is not about not feeling the pain and fear and grief of the situation--it is there, always there, but I take a deep breath and move forward because that is what needs to be done. Even as a child, I controlled grief because I was needed by others--for my mum when her dad died and she was hurting so very much, for my dad when he lost his father and needed a hand to hold, for my cousin who sobbed in my arms when my grandmother passed. I was needed and so I took that deep breath and stood strong. Tears and anger and grief came later, when I was no longer needed, but no one sees those.
A little over five months ago, I sat in a hospital bed, cradling a beautiful, tiny, precious sleeping baby girl and listened as a doctor told me her heart was defective and that while he hoped it would resolve itself, they may need to do open heart surgery. It is one of the few times where I have broken down immediately and cried with my little girl in my arms. Surgery, on such a tiny baby. So many risks, so many things that could go wrong, so many unknowns. But for the next five months, I researched, I discussed care and symptoms with doctors, I kept a smile on my face for my boys because S is my worrier and I did not want my six year old living with the fear my worry would bring, I spoke calmly of surgeries and recovery and what needed to be done. Any tears shed were a single one here and there, quickly breathed away because there were things to do and moving forward was the only choice.
The other night, a mother on one of the CHD boards I read shared her heartache with the group--her precious little girl had passed away. Other mothers shared their stories of loss with her to help her feel that she was not alone in her grief and guilt and sorrow. For the first time since Dr E first told us that our new baby might need surgery, I was overwhelmed. There was no breath deep enough to push the tears aside. Tears for the mothers and fathers that had to say goodbye to their children, for the children who never got to live their lives, for Baby I and the struggles she has already had in her short life, for myself and the fear and pain and sorrow and anticipation of what-may-be that is my constant companion. I try not to think about it often because if I did, it might cripple me. I am afraid. Afraid that I will not see her grow up, afraid that I will never hear her say "I love you", afraid that my boys will grow up without her. But if I think of these things for more than a few seconds, I might be paralyzed and miss the time I do have with her. So I will hold her close and kiss her soft little cheeks and surround her with my love. Those moments of pain are my reminder to cherish the life I have with her right here and now.
I appreciate all of the thoughts and prayers all of you have for my sweet girl. But perhaps from today on, you would also send a prayer of strength and healing and peace to all of those mourning the loss of their precious little ones as well as a prayer for those who are waiting to see where this journey will take them.