I've been quiet the last few days, and not without a reason.
On Saturday, almost a week ago now, my sister-in-law, Sonja, delivered a beautiful baby boy. He was full-term, perfect, and stillborn.
I have been quiet because my heart is breaking.
Writing is how I sort out my pain, my feelings, my heartaches, my dreams. That's why I write in my journal every day. And at first I thought I would just contain my thoughts and feelings about this loss to my journal (certainly many of them have already been recorded there). But because I write in my journal every day, my thoughts are often disjointed and sporadic...I write about whatever I am feeling at that particular moment, and often those feelings don't connect into something very cohesive.
I'm realizing more and more that when I experience hard emotions, I don't want to talk about them, but I do want to write about them. Mike and I have broached some of the most difficult conversations in our marriage through letters. That may sound silly, but both of us need the quiet time and space it takes to thoroughly examine each item, measuring it against what we already know or feel.
I couldn't talk at all on Saturday...not in the morning when Mike's sister, Alisa, called and said the doctors couldn't find the baby's heartbeat; not in the afternoon when we were together with other members of the family; and not late at night after Mike returned from praying with his family and holding Sonja's angel baby. At first, it was because I was in denial. I believed if I didn't talk about it and didn't ask any questions and continued to steadfastly pray that the outcome might change. But once it was undeniable that this devastating thing had happened, then the sadness and grief came flying at me from such a multitude of directions and levels that I did not know what to do with it all. And behind all that grief, the ever-pressing thought, This is nothing compared to the pain Sonja and her family is feeling. Nothing. And I would cry anew at the thought of all they were going through.
Late Saturday night, as all of the closeted emotions came pouring out in wrenching sobs, Mike kept asking, "Is it because you feel sad for Sonja?" I couldn't answer him. I literally could not get a single word to come out of my mouth. But now I'm finally feeling like trying to articulate this complex web of sadness.
Yes, I am sad for Sonja. So incredibly sad. My heart aches for her and her husband and their four other children. At the center of every other emotion I feel is the deep sadness I feel for them. I know how much each one was looking forward to this sweet baby.
I'm also sad for myself. In this light, it sounds selfish, but I was excitedly anticipating the arrival of their baby. Today was supposed to be his birthday, and I had planned to visit Sonja in the hospital and hold and snuggle him for the first of many times. Aaron and I talked often about the new brother his cousins would soon be welcoming into their family. He was excited, too.
On Saturday, I was not only sad but so angry. I've seen this happen to other people...something tragic happens and they wonder how God could be so unfair and unjust. That was exactly how I felt. In my silence, my mind and heart raged. Why would Heavenly Father allow this to happen? If miracles were possible, why weren't we blessed with one? What was even the point of praying if in the end it was all random anyway...one family received a miracle, another family didn't. Maybe their wasn't a God after all because it certainly didn't make sense to take away their baby at the last possible moment.
These feelings of intense doubt threatened to pull me under and drown me. It is in times such as this one that I recognize the wisdom in establishing faithful habits. Daily prayer and scripture study provide a crutch for me to lean on. I was feeling completely faithless, but these habits are sustaining me and pulling me through. Even though I can't make sense of this tragic event, deep down I know that turning away from Heavenly Father will never give me the answers I fervently want. In addition to prayer and the scriptures, I have been so grateful for the talks from the most recent General Conference, particularly President Eyring's, Elder Bowen's, and Elder Anderson's. Little by little, I am rebuilding my faith, and hopefully it will be stronger than it was before. I do have faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ to heal all wounds, but I also know there are some heartaches that, as President Eyring said, will "last a lifetime."
This week also brought with it waves of fear and anxiety. I keep thinking, A week ago we had no idea this would happen. We didn't know we would be going to a graveside service today for our baby nephew. What other events are on the horizon? A week from today will I be looking back on another tragedy we didn't have a premonition of? Life feels so volatile, and it scares me so much.
I also keep thinking about how an event like this not only alters the future but also, in some respects, the past. The future is obvious: we thought we would get to watch this baby grow up; we thought we would get to know his sweet smile and the many facets of his personality; we thought he would be a part of the festivities on Thanksgiving and Christmas. But I've also noticed that some memories from the past will forever be changed in my memory because I now know what happened later on. As a rather inconsequential example of what I mean, a few weeks ago, Max broke a little piece of pottery Mike and I bought when we were in Chile four and a half years ago. It wasn't particularly sentimental and therefore I didn't really mind, but I did say something like, "When we bought that pot, I had no idea that a little boy named Max would break it." Over the last few days, memories keep surfacing, happy memories that are still happy but also laced with sadness because I now know what I didn't know then.
One of the hardest things for me on Saturday and Sunday was just wondering what I could possibly say or do for Sonja and her family. I wanted to talk to her, but like I said, it's so much easier for me to write hard things than say them. Plus, I knew there was nothing I could say that would actually ease the pain. And I also knew there were probably a great deal of things I might accidentally say that would make it worse. Besides being my sister-in-law, Sonja is also one of my dearest friends. She is so much wiser than me, and I trust her opinion completely. I've seen her go through hard things in the past, and I respect and love her so much. In the end, it was Sonja who guided our first conversation, not me, which just showed me once again how truly amazing she is.
The graveside service for little baby Daniel was this morning. We have been enjoying beautiful autumn weather, but last night a storm blew in, and today it was cold with thick, heavy snowflakes falling steadily. I thought I would hate the snow, but while it was inconvenient, it was also oddly comforting. Everything was blanketed in pristine snow, and that word, "blanket," kept repeating itself in my mind. It felt like a gift from heaven: a pure and soft blanket from Daniel to comfort all of us at the same time.
As part of the service, my sister-in-law, Brittany, sang the song, "I Will Carry You." I accompanied her on a small keyboard. Throughout the service, water and snow dripped from the overhanging branches of trees onto the keys, and by the time we performed the keys were wet and very cold. As Brittany was singing, and I was playing, I looked out over the white expanse and felt my fingers going stiff and thought how I would never in a million years have pictured myself in this specific situation. I would never have wished for it, but it was a privilege to be able to do something.
More than a decade ago, a family friend gave birth to triplets, two boys and a girl. They were born prematurely. The girl was strong, and she grew and developed well. But the boys were severely handicapped. To this day, they require constant care and have never walked or talked. One time, the mom said, "In our home, we think about heaven every day." They know that someday, their sons will be blessed with perfect bodies, and they hold fast to that hope. That thought has stayed with me, and it came back to me today with greater meaning and hope.
Daniel has given me a reason to think of heaven every day.