She arrived mid-morning on the first day of a new month, nineteen weeks pregnant and bleeding. And I volunteered to take care of her.
She needed somebody to be willing. And I knew what to do because I’d done it so many times before.
We sped her to ultrasound. And then, the radiologist called.
He told me the results first. And as soon as I hung up, I wished his words away. No matter how many times this happens, it never, ever, gets easier.
To know information that will change the course of someone’s life, before they are informed, is a suffocating weight each and every time.
The doctor tells her. And she cries.
And pulling up a chair, I sit like a bird perched on a wire with nowhere to go–content to stay with her as long as it takes.
Because who just walks in like an impersonal robot to begin admission forms and start an IV, when a woman has been told terribly horrifying news?
That the bleeding means she’s in labor,
That the baby’s heart is strong right now, but it won’t be for long,
That when babies are born this young, they can not survive.
Today is her baby’s last day to be alive.
So I sit.
And we talk.
Her tears well up in waves and roll down. And her husband heaves without producing any sound at all, as I gently inquire about their choices.
Chaplain or priest.
Seeing or holding.
Burial or cremation.
Pictures taken or photos left behind.
It seems so wrong to have to verbalize such things, and no matter how many times I do, it never gets easier.
I reach across and grab her hand, willing to hold it until she lets go.
I whisper I’m sorry, and I wait, with nowhere else pressing to go.
The silence deafens.
She doesn’t allow our eyes to meet, and I don’t force her to. But I reach across with a box of tissue in hand–a meager offering to a weeping papa whose fatherhood journey is ending far before it ever started.
To grieve with another in the silence of their presence, THIS is holy work. [Tweet this]
And for this day, I’m leading this walk into grief. And it’s a hallowed journey–a space reserved for hearts to lean into the immediacy of tragedy, and initiate the embrace of the profoundness of their suffering. This suffering they would have never, ever chosen.
Grieving a death is not a journey for the weak.
And today, they need me as they’re plummeting toward this valley of grief which seems to have no floor–a free-fall to uncertainty and despair.
This free fall is the initial plight of one who grieves.
I start her IV and complete her admission record. And it’s 3 o’clock before I eat any lunch. I steal away some moments for my heavy heart. And I eat while I read.
And in a divine moment, God meets me in the midst of Lisa-Jo’s words…
“There is light and life in the darkness . . . God knits babies together in the secret dark. And we can plan all we like, but we have no actual control of the outcomes. We bear witness to the miracle . . . Small wonder that to get a glimpse into their secret world, we need to go into darkened rooms lit only by a flickering screen to read what we can of who they are becoming. But God already knows. He already delights. He has already been singing over them in the dark, secret hours of spinning life out of strands of DNA–an artist at work . . . upward and forward and deeper into the heart of God with each new life He entrusts us with.” ~Surprised by Motherhood
And after lunch, I know what I need to do.
I retrieve the ultrasound machine, and roll it to her room. And together we peek, one last time, into the secret dark to see this precious life that’s still inside. And indeed he’s there. His heart beating strong, oblivious to what is to come.
I take pictures, and there are more tears. She closes her eyes, and whispers thanks.
And it’s a holy understanding between us that needs no words. Because the next time I take pictures of their sweet baby, he will already be with God.
She delivers just before my shift ends, and I place him in the unheated warmer.
His translucent skin is so thin, with veins so intricately visible beneath.
Five fingers, five toes, and little eyebrows.
But there are no lungs, and no movement at all.
Earlier, what was only spoken words, becomes reality before our eyes.
Their baby boy is with God.
Death is the end of our physical time with our loved ones on earth. And the sharp pain carves deep, as we who are left, strive to keep living on.
Death is loss. And grieving is holy work–a work done amidst crashing waves.
Wave after wave.
With tides rolling in, and tides flowing out, in a never-ending cycle of adjustment.
Grieving is a lifelong process, and is a journey that takes time. So much time in fact, that often, it never fully ends.
Instead, we learn to live with the ongoing ache and loss, hoping its intensity fades over time.
And on these journeys of grief, we need each other. Together with hands holding hands–our silent presence giving strength to weary, grieving hearts.
What has helped you grieve a loved one, a dream, or a lost opportunity?
What happened when you gave someone the gift of your presence?