On Wednesday, October 16th my life changed forever when my wife called with the news that our unborn son had passed away a mere ten days before his due date. The day was surreal (for a far superior treatment of this event read my sweet wife’s account).
Throughout the afternoon thoughts and conversations caused emotions to boil and then simmer in an exhausting and relentless cycle. Unlike with my two daughters, I did not want to see my son as he was born, I just sat on the couch and let the doctor and nurse take care of things. To be honest I was afraid to see him, afraid of what he might look like, how deteriorated would he be?
Once he was out I saw that he was a perfect little boy, he looked much like his older sisters, only leaner, and longer. After my wife finished holding him I took him into my arms for the first time and sat on the couch to gently bounce him. I looked down at his perfectly formed body and waited for him to take a breath, waited for him to open his eyes, waited for him to wake up. He was still warm, but he was gone. I knew there would be no miracle of life when he was born, that hope had been dashed by the ultrasound eight hours earlier, yet I could not bring myself to stop bouncing him, to stop treating him like a living child. Tears flowed, my heart ached, but there would be no happy ending here.
I spent much of that night calling funeral homes, required to announce to the world that yes, I was calling about burying my son. The next morning I ate the meager hospital breakfast and left my heartbroken wife to go teach anatomy and physiology classes at the university. I had spent the previous 18 hours being torn between thoughts of heaven and feelings of hell and now I had to lecture classes on the respiratory system, a system that took on a whole new meaning when only the night before I sat holding my little son, realizing that no air would ever fill his lungs. Between classes I graded papers, called my wife to see how she was getting along, and coordinated funeral arrangements.
When my work day finally ended I was physically and emotionally exhausted. On a day when I wanted nothing else but to curl up and hide from the world I was forced to be normal, deprived of moments of reflection and introspection. The evening was spent with family and tending to the seemingly never-ending task of coordinating funeral arrangements.
Friday morning my wife and I chose the resting place for our son. About this time a few close friends and mentors, without asking us, arrived to our aid financially and completely paid for the burial. Thinking of this godsend still touches me and is symbolic of the kindness shown to us by family and friends throughout this experience. Friday afternoon I was back at school teaching more classes. That evening I remember feeling quite frustrated because in the midst of work obligations and funeral planning I never had the chance to collect my thoughts and write them down.
Saturday was the funeral and I was tasked with offering the prayer to dedicate my son’s grave. To say I was nervous or anxious doesn’t even begin to describe the palette of emotions that mixed inside my heart. I hadn’t had time to collect my own thoughts, much less know what to say on such an occasion. Thankfully, in the moment appropriate words were provided to my mind and I was able to speak with power. We grieved with family and friends and eventually only a few remained. The time had come to leave our precious boy and so I reluctantly closed his little casket and took my dear wife’s hand and walked back to the car.
It has now been over a month since our little boy passed away. The pain has lessened, though the consequences of such a loss are now more fully realized. We did not just lose a baby, I lost the son who could have become my sports companion, my tent-mate, my little buddy.
I’ll always miss my son Goodwin, but I take inspiration from Tolkien’s Return of the King wherein Aragorn speaks of Merry:
His grief he will not forget; but it will not darken his heart, it will teach him wisdom.