Monday, December 22, 2008
April and December
I flew to Portland on Thursday night to be with Angela and say good-bye to Hadley. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to make it to the funeral but I knew I could board a plane so I took that step first.
The flight was delayed due to a storm that was coming in and when I finally arrived it was to a snowy and cold dark night. My cousin Ron picked me up in rented car and drove me to my hotel. I unpacked, found my bathing suit and went for a ten o'clock swim in a very warm indoor pool. It was the only thing to do that felt right. Water calms me.
I thought about what it must have been like for all the people finding their way to Dublin to be at Stevie's funeral. What were they thinking? Did they feel like I did? Did they swim and wonder how this all made any sense, why children died, how they were going to sit in a church and try not to hate God, what they were going to say to a mother who has just had her heart ripped out?
It sucked. I am terrible with words. When I am emotional words tumble out of me that are not mine. It is almost like a string has been pulled and random sentences and statements escape...remember those dolls? "I want to be your friend...tell me a story...let's play" That is exactly what happens to me. When I hurt the real me hides. My auto pilot is a stranger that takes over and bumbles.
The morning of the funeral I was on auto pilot. I felt it happen, a kind of numbness, a retreating behind a soft wall where the rest of me won't crumble. The church parking lot was white with snow and beautiful flakes were falling, falling, falling. I kept thinking, "Stevie made it rain, Hadley made it snow" My cousin pulled the car up close so we wouldn't have to trek through the cold and there is was a big hearse parked in front of the church. My protective wall was suddenly useless and I was sucked back to a day in April.
I was moving back and forth between the parking lot and the church, carrying flowers and pictures. It was surreal, it felt like a party and I was just making it happen. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a shiny black hearse coming down the road and my mind said, "Oh how sad, those poor people" and I began to say a prayer I always say when I see a hearse, it is a blessing to the person who is going to heaven and a prayer of comfort for the family who is missing that person. Right in the middle of it I realized that it was pulling up to the church and the person that was in it was my daughter.
I collapsed, Matt came and held me up while I fell apart. Everything was suddenly bright and painfully real. There are moments that can not be handled, it is too much to believe, to have to believe, and a part of me died in then, I couldn't live there with that pain, without my daughter standing next me, instead of in a box cold and not breathing.
Matt held me until that part of me was gone and I was numb the rest of the day.
Now it is December and Spring is Replaced with Winter. The sun is not shining, I am not carrying tulips. Instead I am carrying a tiny crown I made for Hadley on a cold white day. This is the hearse that brought her to the church but it was also every hearse that has ever brought a child to a church. It was a symbol of death...A child gone and a mothers heart split in half.
I began to cry while a built a new protective wall, and my anger at God was fresh again.
It was a Christian service and I didn't bow my head to pray or sing any hymns. I shrunk a little inside myself when they began to sing "Jesus Loves me" It felt too ironic to be singing a Child's Sunday School song while and eight year old child lay in a casket, her little brothers sitting close by...
The people who spoke did it beautifully. Everyone who spoke did so with a heart full of love. You could feel the love in the church, the energy vibrated. Angela was beautiful, she was present for her boys, embraced each and every person and gave comfort. She sent her daughter to heaven with a most beautiful service. I was proud of her and in awe of how she had created this moment for her children, her family, her friends and her daughters memory.
There is something about Angela that is hard to explain. She is human and I have seen her mad, hurt, sad, and afraid but she has an inner strength and purpose that is bigger than what most people have. She is tall but she would have to be 100 feet taller to contain just a little of all the beauty and love she was sent here with.
Angela will never have an ordinary life. There is so much she is meant for, so much she will do. She has already been an incredible mother. You can tell a great mom by kind and loving children. What is next I do not know but I do know that it will not be ordinary or small. Angela is made out of great stuff, do big things stuff.
My auto pilot said all the wrong things to her but I was guessing she was in a little bit of auto pilot herself so maybe I will be forgiven.
I viewed Hadley's body after telling myself I would not. I hid out in the ladies lounge most of the time and when I thought the coast was clear I came out. The large crowd had eaten cookies and small sandwiches, spilled coffee and tears and they were out driving home in the snow wanting nothing more than to get home and hug the children they yelled at yesterday.
The church was empty and there she was...something pulled me in and the whole time I was telling it to let me go. The next thing I knew I was standing over a beautiful child in a brown velvet dress, her long lashes resting on her cheeks, her hair shiny, and her face calm.
I wanted her to wake up. If Jesus loves you than he can wake you up and we can finish the rest of those cookies and take you home. We can call it a Christmas miracle and throw these damn stinky carnations in the garbage.
I knew Jesus wasn't going to give me my daughter back but damn it he could do this, look at her she is too beautiful to be dead, I waited for the miracle, waited to take Hadley's hand and help her out of that bed no child should have to lay in.
It didn't happen, and I didn't cry because I knew that she didn't need that body anymore, she left it for better things. I knew that she was here for as long as she needed to be and she did exactly what she was suppose to do. When I said, "Sweet Dreams Hadley" I felt my anger at God lift just a little.
Now I am home and I have hugged and kissed Noah so many times that he thinks there is something wrong and I won't tell him. I said to him, "I love you Noah, and I am just glad you are here with me on this leg of my journey, I don't know how I would have been able to survive without your sweet face and all your love" He said "I love you too mom, what did you get me for Christmas" I told him, "Oh know I was suppose to get you a Christmas present?"
I dreamed about Stevie last night. She was sleeping in the top bunk in a room that she and Aly shared when they were little. I could hear her breathing and I panicked, she wasn't wearing her Bipap, when did she stop wearing it? When I went into the room again to check on her she was laying there with her bipap on. Instead of relief I felt sick. I knew it was a dream, and I heard her tell me something I can't remember but I do remember telling my dream self, "Let this go, this isn't her anymore, don't keep her like this" I wasn't sad to let it go, it was just a dream, and it wasn't her, just a memory of a sad time when she couldn't breath on her own. A time when machines, tubes, wires and medications were keeping her alive.
We are going to Yosemite for Christmas. We leave Christmas eve. We will drive in the snow to a small Cabin where we will try to run away from Christmas past. The memories of Stevie's last Christmas still hurt too much. We need to make a new memory and it can't be anything like any other.
I didn't want to go because I kept thinking what if Christmas is one of those times that the veil opens and our loved ones on the other side get to be with us. Stevie will come home and we will be gone, she will be alone.
I know it sounds silly but I am leaving her a big note on the kitchen counter that will tell her where we will be and how to find us.
Now I have to get dressed and start this day.