I don’t watch the calendar every month, I don’t look to dwell on every monthiversary. Yet, school has started. The dates are in my face again and I’m out of the fog enough to pay attention.
Nine months ago, at this very moment, Bub was in the middle of neurostorming. His right pupil had already blown. His body temperature was erratic and varied across the zones. His reflexes were in overdrive and this night would be the last time I’d ever feel him squeeze my hand. I started out snuggling with him until his core temperature rose and he broke out in a heat rash. I became consumed with keeping his body healthy so he could be a donor. I developed tunnel vision with regard to finding something positive to hold onto. I watched the body that I grew, nourished, cared for, prayed for, loved, and housed the boy we know as Bubba become a mortal shell representing all that could have been and all that was lost. My mind raced with thoughts of all the nurses who cared for him in the NICU when he was born. All of those ladies who had my back, kept me in the loop, advocated for him with me, and happily watched him go home to continue to grow and thrive. He did just that.
I watched the movie of his life play in my mind and then the end credits rolled when the movie had barely started. This night was the night that we knew, without a doubt, that our reality had become that of parents who have survived a child. Our obituaries will one day read “preceded in death by a son, Caleb Richard Shamrell”.
I now have ladies who loved him without knowing him outside of our stories. Ladies who cried with us, held us, prayed with and for us. We had a whole medical team that were there for us always. I question to this day if his attending physician left the hospital once the entire time he was there. She has the experience to know what was likely going to happen with his case, but we knew she wanted to be wrong. They all did. His neurologist still came by, even after there was nothing left for him to check on. He still rubbed Bub’s head, arm, and leg as he talked to us, as if that was the only way he new to comfort a mama’s boy who, although now made whole, was likely aching at the site of his parents’ pain.
The damage was done on the 12th.
He was declared dead on the 17th.
His third birthday was the 18th.
But the night of the 16th-17th…that’s when we knew the outcome and we watched horrors unfold in front of us all over again. That is when the waiting ended.
Every grieving parent has these days. Days that mark an accident, diagnosis, last time ____, death. We also have should be, would be days. You may hear about them, know about them, be one of the few we feel comfortable enough around to see the internal damage of these days being manifest outwardly. We do not need you to remind us of them. To point them out to us. A note that says you’re thinking of us is nice. Don’t know what to say or do? How about, “I can’t imagine your pain. I’m bringing cookies by. Eat the whole bag, if you want. I’ll stay and sit with you, if you want. I just want you to know I’m here.” And don’t wait for the calendar’s permission. Don’t call, point out the date, say something about how long it’s been, and ask how we’re doing. We are aware of the whole in our hearts. We don’t need others to cut open our chests, pull out our hearts, show the hole to us, and ask us how we feel about it.
Every parent who’s obituary will one day include a child in the “preceded in death by” paragraph is a grieving parent. It is not a grief that ends. It is not a grief that heals or goes away. It is a grief we adapt to, learn to live with, and forever change because of. It may be scary for some who are looking in. I’m sorry. I’m sorry this isn’t a horror movie with an eject button. The lessons and comfort to be found in this experience are tremendous and available to all who stay present. If only more people would be present, you too would find the same.