The Never Ending Story, Part 2

[Quick aside to say that Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the Day After Christmas were all great days. If I don’t get to recap them anymore than that, I just wanted you to know. This may have been the Best Christmas Ever (so far).]

Christmas Eve, we went to my SIL and BIL-IL’s house. The kids, not surprisingly, were hopped up. We managed to get everyone to eat a decent amount of dinner (Feast of the Seven Fishes — everything was delicious; my MIL and SIL outdid themselves again), but the children still had energy to burn. The plan was to go to service, come back, have cookies, and open presents. My SIL decided to put on some dance music so the kids could get their wiggles out.

Now, in case you are not aware, SIL’s son, Nephew, was born about 6 months after we lost Gabriel. He is one of many children born in 2003 who reflect our son back at us. The majority of the time, it’s nothing notable, just a fact.

Nephew *adores* Michael. I think he was more excited than Dan when he found out we were having a boy. Nephew has been, literally, odd man out, with a younger sister and two girl cousins. One of the sweetest things he ever said to me was, “I can’t wait to teach him (Michael) how to play catch.” I’m not sure M was even born yet. That’s how excited Nephew was.

M, of course, pays back the adoration in kind.

So, fast forward to Christmas Eve Living Room Dance Party of 2012. The girls are skipping around, Nephew is grooving, M is jumping and waving his arms up and down. Nephew and M start holding hands and jumping together; Nephew even picks M up and twirls around with him for awhile. M is throwing his head back and laughing, laughing.

And, for me, it’s funny and bittersweet all at once, and grief, that devil, that old friend, is a wave that rushes over me. I forget about it, you see, so when it comes, it engulfs.

I blink back some tears, and smile a little, and then I look across the room and into the kitchen where my husband is standing, his face to the wall, his hands gripping the counter, his shoulders slumped in a position that I recognize as late-stage grief — the wave is over him, too. And I go to him, wrap my arms around his torso, and press my face into his back.

“I know,” I say. We cry together.

I don’t know who notices our moment. I don’t know how long it lasts. It doesn’t matter; it’s our moment; it’s our grief. The wave recedes enough for us to gather ourselves together and go through the rest of the evening.

We attended service at my SIL’s Presbyterian church. As we were pulling in, Dan observed, “This is where we came for Compassionate Friends.” He was right. “I just wonder sometimes,” he went on, sitting in the parking lot, our live son in the back of the car chatting to himself (the girls had traveled in another car with Niece), “what kind of big brother he would have been. If he’d have been a good cousin. If he and [Nephew] would be good friends.” More unanswered questions.

Rather than deepening our grief to attend service at this building, for me, it brought it full circle, closed the loop for this year. We went in to pray with our children, our family, our Nephew and Niece, to hear the music, the Word (John 1:1–5 was one of the readings), and to light our candles against the darkness.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

“…the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:16

In the wake of grief, again, is peace, is life, is light.

++

If you’re curious, here’s The Never Ending Story (Part 1), from April 2011

Oh, Rick

If you follow politics at all (and I, unfortunately, do), you may have seen Rick Santorum come under fire for being a hypocrite.

The charge stems from the pro-choice left and pro-choice feminists who accuse Santorum of exercising a right for his wife (late term abortion) that he would take away from other women. He would, frankly, outlaw all abortions if he could, even in the cases of preserving the health or life of the mother.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like Rick Santorum. The term used in a conversation on Twitter was “theocratic neocon”, and I think that is spot on. Even as a Catholic, I don’t like that much religion in my politics. I’d like to see the end of social conservatism as it is practiced in American politics today. I don’t think government should be involved in personal, medical, or sexual decisions that adults make.

That Santorum, and by extension his wife Karen, is under fire for a medical decision — a choice — that he and his wife were facing when Karen was pregnant with their son Gabriel, distresses me mostly because of what is being overlooked. And that is the lost baby, and the bereaved parents.

I don’t need to go on and on about how awful, how absolutely devastating it is to lose a child. I’ve covered that pretty well here.

I am sorry the Santorums lost a baby. I am sorry that they faced a difficult medical decision (to induce labor so Karen could deliver her 20-week-old baby). Due to a number of circumstances (medical problems the baby had, fetal surgery, and a uterine infection), Karen was literally dying when these medical decisions had to be made. She went into pre-term labor, and Gabriel was delivered. He died two hours after his birth.

It’s a sad story that has been dragged out because of Santorum’s politics. That makes me sadder. Because those in the media who would use this to disparage Santorum’s politics, in my opinion, just look ugly. It’s a dead baby; it’s a woman who suffered more than I can imagine (and, hello!); it’s a husband and father who were facing not just the loss of his son, but the loss of his wife — his partner, his love, and mother to his other children.

No one should have to face that, or make the choice that Karen and Rick (almost) had to make. But it does happen, couples do have to face that — not often, but often enough — and, yes, Santorum should have no say in what other women and other couples decide.

Regardless, my heart goes out to the Santorums for the loss of their son. I do know how that feels. It’s the worst feeling in the world. And it can’t help that they have to revisit it now in the glare of the spotlight. I’m sad for them.

And, that is all.

[updated to add:]

So I went ahead and forgot about the part where certain people were also denigrating the Santorums for taking Gabriel home to show him to their children.

This was how Karen and Rick decided to help their children grieve the death of their brother.

It’s also not very much of anyone’s business.

Janet, at Love Is Blonde, wrote a very powerful post about her reaction to some of the media reaction, and their characterization of the Santorums’ actions as gross or creepy.

It made me remember holding my Gabriel. I should’ve held him longer too.

I remember my brother — who was still at the hospital at 2 a.m., when Gabriel was finally delivered, who was already a father two times over, most recently of a boy born a month before Gabriel — who came into the room, and took my son into his arms, and *rocked* him. Even though my son was dead, my brother held and rocked him just as he would’ve had Gabriel been alive.

The next morning, before we left the hospital, I asked to see Gabriel again. I undressed him, and cried some more over his small, still, perfect body. Maybe that strikes you as gross or morbid or creepy.

My son was a real baby. And I needed to see and touch him, so that I would never forget it. If I had had other children at the time, I think I would’ve wanted them to see Gabriel too. As it is, we visit his grave. Flora and Kate know he existed (Michael, obviously, is unaware as of yet).

I don’t think the Santorums did anything wrong.

There, I guess *that’s* all.