It’s late and the house is quiet. I hear only the constant hum of the fan and the intermittent coughs of Cooper down the hall. I can’t sleep tonight. I’m overthinking again, feeling everything and nothing at the same time.
I have a friend, one of my dearest friends, who has mastered the art of “making lemonade” out of almost any situation with what appears to be very little effort. She’s relaxed, patient, compassionate, forgiving, dependable and a thousand more qualities that make her a wonderful woman. Anyone who knows me well would never describe me as cool, calm and collected. What comes naturally to me is planning, being one step ahead, relishing in control. First name: Type; Last name: A. If you are familiar with True Colors I am Gold-Blue. So basically, I seek to follow the rules and always make the right decisions while keeping everyone around me happy…I aim to please…to a fault.
A lot of “life” has happened lately. All around me, not necessarily to me. In less than two weeks, our family lost two wonderful great-uncles, plus we’ve welcomed a gorgeous baby girl named Sophia Stanton Ebert to the family. The circle of life is a beautiful thing. The two men lived long, full lives and leave behind families and friends who adored them. Sophie is a 9lb. 6oz. bundle of cuteness, healthy and incredibly loved. One life begins as others end. I think of Sophie and pray her life is also long, full and one day she will have an adoring family of her own. Sophie sleeps in her cousin Audrey’s crib. A gift from my daughter to my niece. Priceless…
I love this time of year. I love the extra sparkle of life at Christmastime, a celebration of when Christ was born. The warm glow of Christmas lights is unlike anything a lamp can give off. The crackle of a fire and the scent of cinnamon and spice trigger happy memories with my brothers putting out cookies on Christmas Eve, or waking up too early and running to our sleepy parents begging them to wake up, or that time the boyfriend I loved with my whole heart gave me a ring and I said yes. Audrey would have loved Christmas too, it was built into her DNA. Last Christmas, my belly was starting to round out with baby Audrey and we assumed this year the holidays would be busy with a bouncing baby girl.
I had a long overdue haircut the other day. The new stylist asked me a typical “getting-to-know-you” question, “Do you have kids?”
My answer lately varies. This time I only told part of the story. I smiled and told him all about our four-year-old Cooper and left it at that. He is easy to talk about.
But, I disgraced her.
Instead of honoring her with the truth, I dismissed her completely.
I assumed it would make the stylist uncomfortable. I decided for him that he didn’t want to hear my sob-story. I didn’t even give him the chance to know about her.
What if her story could have somehow helped him or someone he knows? I guess I’ll never know. Shame on me.
I’ve gotten pretty good at saving the “feelings” for later. Later, when it is a more convenient time. “I’m too busy to feel right now, perhaps tomorrow.” A week later something hits me and I all but fall to my knees. What is the point of going through it all if I neglect to share her story?
From this point forward, any time I am presented with an opportunity to talk about her, I will. She earned at least that.
This stage in “The Process” has certainly been the most difficult. I compare my grief stages to those of a wound:
• You walk past a shelf and accidentally cut your arm on a piece of metal.
What felt like out of nowhere, she died.
• Initially, adrenaline keeps you from feeling the pain.
I felt numb for the first week or so, adrenaline allowed me to leave the hospital that fateful day. Adrenaline helped me smile my way through her service. Eventually, the numbness wore off…and I started to really feel it.
• Next, the blood starts gushing and it hurts. A lot.
The pain of her loss felt overwhelming and consuming. I hurt everywhere, all of the time. My heart felt as though it was bleeding and broken. I wasn’t ready to go back to work yet. I didn’t cry…I wept.
• The blood starts to clot and the gushing stops. The pain is still ever-present, but the healing process begins.
I was able to ease back in to “normal” life, working, starting an endowment program in her honor, hosting fundraisers, etc., throughout which the pain persisted. I was exhausted and felt like I was working hard to keep up.
• At some point in the healing process, the wound builds a protective layer; a hard scab which allows the skin below to heal.
Tired and worn out, I moved into a place of being hard and rigid, angry and alone. I assumed family and friends are tired of hearing about it so I detached. Doing everything possible to avoid bringing those around me down. A cold feeling.
• Once the wound has healed almost completely, the protection is no longer needed and falls off. But underneath? A scar. Permanent and visible proof of where trauma once took place.
I’m not sure I’m there yet. But I’m working on it….working through it.
Now, it’s even later. The house is still quiet. Too quiet. It lacks the whimpers and whines of the babe we wanted so badly. Tucker, our miniature Australian Shepherd, tip-toes into the bedroom, sits with perfect posture and I can just barely see his eyes looking at mine. Sometimes he seems to have a sense when one of us is sad or needing comfort. If only you knew, Tuck.
Insomnia wins. I silently walk across the house to Audrey’s room. I don’t flip on the light. I sink into the big, comfy rocking chair and take a deep breath and slowly begin to rock…forward, back, forward, back…I rocked Cooper one-thousand forward and backs in that chair. I wouldn’t dare compare the loss of Audrey to those who have lost a limb, but sometimes it sure feels like a piece of me is missing.
Sweet Audrey, you are incredibly loved and deeply missed. You were sick and the odds were stacked against you, yet you made lemonade. You lived. God gave us you. A gift. 81 days of hope. 81 days of understanding love like we couldn’t before you. I’m still learning how to live post-Audrey, but I’m doing it. I may not be my best and will always be imperfect, but I will not give up. I will continue to tell your story.
Love & Hugs,