Posted in Loss

Connected through Immeasurable Loss

Letters for LucasOne of my dear friends, Tonya, lost her parents in a tragic accident several years ago.

They were young, vibrant, generous, and kind.

We spoke last year about what it means to have lost a parent, in my case, and two, in hers.

We spoke of death, faith, and pain and how we will explain our losses to our young children.

She asked me to share with her my thoughts all that time ago and I kept procrastinating, as the answers hadn’t crystalized in my mind as I thought they might.

My father’s death has been so central to who I am and how I approach my life.

Today, I am finally ready to talk and I’m sharing my thoughts over on Tonya’s blog, Letters for Lucas.

Please come visit me there and spend some time getting to know Tonya. Her soul is truly lovely.

I will be ever grateful if you share your thoughts and wisdom with us in the comments.

 

I’m learning

This week, I am honored to have Amy, from Transplanted Thoughts, as my guest poster for Small Moments Mondays.

Amy has lived through more unspeakable sadness than many of us can even begin to imagine.

Her story is unfathomable and overwhelming.

Her story inspires and brings hope.

Her story exemplifies survival and optimism.

To say that she is strong diminishes her. To say that she is brave doesn’t begin to cover it.

Amy is a survivor…she is truly remarkable.

To learn more about Amy and her lovely family, please read That MorningLucky Scars, and Peppermint Ice Cream Love, just a few more pieces of her beautiful writing.

Thank you for sharing this small moment with us, Amy. Thank you for continually showing us what it means for life to continue…thank you for showing us how to find joy in the small moments. I am so incredibly grateful to you.

I’m Learning — by Amy

I used to be good at juggling.

Juggling my time and that of my 6 children, that is. The two oldest kids live out of state and 3 of the 4 little ones at home were dealing with health issues. 6 kids demanded that I be an organized, get it done kind of mom. In addition to family life, there was time spent running my sewing business.

I thrived on being busy and like most moms ‘my’ time was had after the kids were in bed. This was time spent sewing, chatting online or cleaning up the house.

When I had all four boys at home, I dreamed of the time when they would all be in school and I would have some free time on my hands. I had even figured it out. David would have started preschool the year Jacob entered fifth grade. Zachary would be in Kindergarten, Jonathan in 3rd. I admit I now feel guilty for looking forward to that day. In my mind it’s turned into a warped – “Be careful what you wish for kind of thing.”

Now that I only have 3 of my sons left at home, it breaks my heart that I have all this time on my hands.

And no desire to push myself doing menial tasks just to fill that time.

Sometimes I catch myself staring off into space. I abruptly come to and wonder where the last hour or so wandered away to. Especially in the afternoons after I’ve gotten Zachary down for his nap and the big boys have yet to arrive home from school. This quiet time around the house paralyzes me, draws me into it’s catatonic embrace and doesn’t let me go.

Night-time is the absolute worst for me. I am a night owl by nature and the time spent after the boys fall asleep has always been my most productive. While I still find myself awake at 1 or 2 in the morning, nothing on my “To Do” list has been crossed off.

Once, I had the drive to pack as much as possible into each and every day.

Now, most days are celebrated by simply making it through.

I’m learning to say that’s okay.

I’m learning to embrace the slowness that only grief can impose. The slowness that makes me more attentive to my boys. Once toys and videos were a means to keep the kids busy while I accomplished another task. Now spending that time with the boys has become the priority.

I’m learning to say that it’s okay that the house isn’t spotless because I chose to hang out with the boys instead.

I’m learning to say that it’s okay if I spend the day in my pj’s just because I need to.

I’m learning to say that there is life after the death of a child.

It’s just not the same life.

And that’s okay.

Learning.


Now, please go follow Amy on Twitter and like her on Facebook.

Obituary

On my nightstand is a laminated clipping of my father’s obituary from the local newspaper, printed just days after his death.

I have held onto this piece of plastic that encases this clipping since I was two years old.  The paper has yellowed over the past four decades, despite the plastic protection.  The words on the opposite side of the page have bled through, but the words that matter are still perfectly clear.

I have held it in my hands so many times that I know exactly how sharp the edges are, how smooth the plastic face is, and now, in my adult hands, it is four fingers across in width.

There were nights when I was particularly lonely and swept up in my loss, when I slept with it in my hands.  I would wake and feel it there and be reminded of the sadness and heartache I felt as I was falling to sleep.

The obituary says so much, yet it omits so much more.

My father’s obituary reads:

Funeral services will be held Saturday for Arnal D. Bray, 26, who died in a Waterville shooting incident Tuesday night.

It does not tell you he was shot twice by his best friend.

A native of Waterville, Bray was born March 19, 1947, the son of R. and L. Bray.

It does not tell you his parents were scarred, with wounds so deep they wore them on the outside for their entire lives.  These people who believed in the good of others, who were always the first to offer help to someone in need, were shown just how cruel the world could be.

He was graduated from Lawrence High School, Fairfield, in 1967.  He was a member of Fairfield Lodge, 100F, and of the Shawmut Chapel.

It does not point out that he was twenty when he graduated, proof of his rebellious nature.

A veteran of military service in Vietnam, Bray was employed at Scott Paper Co.

It does not tell you of all he saw in the war.  It does not tell you that he saw babies die.  Women.  Men.  Old. Young.  All dead.  All covered in flies. It does not tell you that he struggled to process all that he witnessed.

Survivors include his widow, Mrs. A. Bray of Fairfield; his parents, of Shawmut; one daughter, Nichole Bray, of Fairfield; two brothers, one sister … several aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

It does not tell you that the hole he left behind was so vast. That each of the people, even those who were lumped as nieces, aunts, cousins, felt his loss deeply.  They felt the reach of the frightening world. They realized that harrowing things didn’t happen only to strangers.  They didn’t happen just in the cities, they happened in their small town, to someone they knew, to someone they loved, to someone they laughed with.  The world became a far more serious and somber place.

Funeral services will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. at L Bros. Funeral Home, where friends may call today from 7 to 9 p.m. and Friday from 3 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m.

It does not tell you the way my grandmother cried, the way her heart was more than broken…it was truly decimated.

It does not tell you how hard my grandfather tried to be strong for the family, his wife, his surviving children.

It does not tell you how my aunts and uncles did their best to support their parents, while they were falling apart inside at the sight of their parents’ devastation and heartbreak.

It does not tell you how another piece of my mother died.  It does not tell you I wasn’t there.  That my presence was never even up for discussion.

Bray.  Arnal D. — In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Shawmut Chapel.

This obituary does not tell you my father was magnetic, charming, funny, handsome, dynamic.  It does not tell you he would never be forgotten, never minimized, never truly gone.

I’ve often thought about the person who typed up my father’s obituary.  I’ve thought about him sitting at his typewriter, putting into words the most basic information.  The facts.  That’s what an obituary is.  Truly, just the most basic of facts.  There is no color, no emotion, no compassion.  Just dates, lists of family members, just facts.

The rest, well, the rest lies with those who have lost.


That One Gift

I’ve finished the bulk of my Christmas shopping.  Everything that needed to be shipped is on its way.

I have a handful of gifts for Craig and the kids that I have yet to purchase, but other than that, I am done.

But this year, what I bought isn’t what I’m thinking of.

What stands out most in my mind is the one gift that I didn’t buy.

The gift that I would have bought for Craig’s mother.

This is the first year that we will celebrate the holidays without her.

One of my favorite memories of her was on Christmas two years ago, right after we lost our baby. I felt broken.  She and I sat at our dining room table for hours.  She soothed and comforted me where necessary, distracted me when she could see that was what I needed most.  She told me stories that made me laugh and stories that allowed me to cry.

That conversation was the best gift that she could have given me.  Somehow, she knew what I needed most.

There’s a part of me that wants to buy a small gift for her and place it under our tree.  Perhaps that could be one of our family traditions…to always place a gift under our tree in remembrance of her.

This post is linked with Stream of Consciousness Sunday at All Things Fadra…

But still . . . Christmas

We removed Katie from her carseat, securely buckled her into the stroller, and lovingly tucked her blankie around her little legs.

It was a short distance to the medical building, where we rode the elevator in anticipation of our 8-week prenatal appointment. We spoke with Katie of Santa and how he couldn’t wait to meet her later that afternoon.

We were truly elated that the day of our appointment had finally arrived. It had taken us five months of temping and charting to conceive.

Nichole? We’re ready for you. Wow … Katie is getting so big!

It was at that same 8-week appointment, nearly two years before, that we had heard the the first sounds of life from our beautiful Katherine. After a year of trying to get pregnant, finally hearing her heartbeat made her so real, so completely ours. And as we sat, in that very same room, we were thrilled to have her with us as we prepared to hear her sibling’s heartbeat for the first time.

Okay, this gel will be a bit cold … so sorry.

The moment when the nurse placed Katie onto my chest for the first time, when I felt her warm and wonderfully sticky body, will forever be a pivotal moment in my life.  After a difficult pregnancy and eight weeks of complete bedrest to stave off preterm labor, she was safe and warm and she was ours.

Okay, let’s take a listen to this little one’s heartbeat.

Once Katie got the hang of nursing, I came to treasure those moments that were ours alone.  That connection, holding her in my arms, smoothing her downy soft hair, holding her tiny baby girl hands while she looked at me, was a gift beyond measure.  I was so eager to experience those early days again, to snuggle our tiny baby while we established our nursing relationship.

Hmmm…sometimes the heartbeat is too quiet to pick up with this fetal Doppler.

When Katie was learning to crawl, we enticed her from her rocking position with her favorite pink bunny, placing it just beyond her reach, encouraging her to push herself to get it. That moment, when the lurching turned to crawling, was bittersweet.  My beautiful baby somehow, in just an instant, seemed less of a baby.

Let me just run and grab the sonogram machine.

Katie walked at ten months. Her first, tentative steps were taken in our bedroom, with the lure of her grandmother’s necklace, held just beyond her reach.  Once she began walking, there was no stopping her, our baby, still a baby, but somehow older than her months.

I’ll be back in a just a minute.

We’ve always treasured bedtime. When Katie was small, Craig began the ritual of reading three books to her each evening.  When they finished their books, I would enter her room, Craig would wish her a good night sleep, and then I would quietly nurse her before carefully placing her in her crib for the night, wishing her the sweetest of dreams.  I would close the door with one hand and blow kisses with the other, just as Craig and I do to this day.

Okay, let’s have a look … Hmmm.

We always knew that we wanted to have at least one more baby, to give Katie a sibling, to have another baby to love.  It finally felt as though the time was right and we were so eager to see how she would respond to a baby brother or sister.

Silence.

This family that we’ve built has filled an emptiness in my heart.  This life that we’ve given Katie, this life that she has given us, has brought me joy and a sense of fulfillment beyond compare. Being a part of a traditional family for the first time in my life has been completely amazing.

I’m afraid there’s no heartbeat.

Craig’s grip on my hand tightened and when I looked over at him, seeking his soft eyes, through my welling tears, he and Katie blurred into one.  One beautiful family within my reach.

I am so terribly sorry.

We gathered our things, too pained to know what to say to one another, too numb to know what to say to ourselves, and we went to see Santa, just as we promised we would.

In that moment, Katie couldn’t and wouldn’t know just how tremendous a loss we had just suffered, loss that would remain with us for always.

What she did know, what she could feel, was the wonder of the season, the magic that we’d been speaking of for weeks.  The love that we had for one another.

When you have a toddler, life continues. You can’t simply put it on hold while you grieve.

So, we celebrated Christmas as best we could, finding tremendous comfort in our beautiful daughter.

A Christmas of considerable loss and unprecedented sadness.

But still . . . Christmas.

Our second Christmas.

Above all, we were a family.

And we had each other.

I want to thank my dear friend, Kris, for holding my hand while I relived this painful experience.  I love you, Kris.  Beyond words.

This post is linked up with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop.  The prompt was to write a post in response to one of five words. The word that I chose was excruciating.

Mama's Losin' It

About me

Nichole Beaudry @NicholeBeaudry Location: Northern California
Each and every day, I strive to appreciate the wonder, beauty, and whimsy in the small moments, the moments that, when strung together, form a lifetime.
More about Nichole
  • @NicholeBeaudryon Twitter
  • Nichole on Pinterest
  • Nichole on Instagram
  • Nichole on Facebook
  • Nichole on LinkedIn
  • Subscribe to this site's RSS
  • Contact this author

I also write at

all Parenting
She Knows Parenting

Instagram photos