Saturday, November 29, 2008

The One Where Rachel Rambles On About Death

We returned yesterday from spending a couple of days with Paul's family in Wisconsin for Thanksgiving. It was great to see Paul's family. They are a lot of fun (and I would say that even if none of them read my blog :) Despite it all, I frequently thought of Felicity's absence and how different the festivities would have been if she'd been with us. Everyone would've doted on her and we would've been so happy!

In speaking with my mom-in-law and my sisters-in-law while we were there, I found out more about my mom-in-law. She's in her seventies now and hasn't had an easy life. She lost four babies of her own and had two miscarriages, I think. All of her babies were born around the eighth month and many of them had kidney problems. She had a daughter in 1958 named Mary Elizabeth who lived 11 days, then a son, Joseph in 1959, another son, Gerard in 1960, and a daughter, Geralyn in 1963, all who died soon after birth. I can't even begin to imagine my mother-in-law's grief during those years and beyond. To lose three babies in three years is a horrific thought. Back then she was pretty much alone in her grief. They had a service for Mary Elizabeth, but not the other babies. People didn't talk about death and believed that if you didn't talk about it, you'd get over it sooner! Can you believe that line of thinking? My mom even remembers around that time being told that her grandfather had "gone to sleep" when he died. Not that 50 years later we've gotten much better talking about death, but at least there's been some improvement.

I look at myself and my response to death. I haven't had a whole lot of people die in my family and those who have died, despite illness, were old and had lived out their lives. So to have a child die is a whole different experience. I found that it took me a couple of weeks to say Felicity "died," rather I'd refer to "after Felicity" or something similar. Now that I'm comfortable with saying "Felicity died," I'm actually finding healing in talking about her death. I cry when I talk about it but I also gain strength from talking about what happened. My poor mother-in-law probably suffered in silence, thus she never really healed from losing her babies. While we were there in Paul's hometown, we went to the cemetery and I saw the place where my mother-in-law will be buried. Her living children bought her a headstone with the names of her dead babies and the years they were born on it. I cried for her because I know she is still grieving those babies.

I've had thoughts of wanting to scream from the highest hilltop that I had a daughter and she died. I play out how I might add the topic of Felicity to conversations I have, even conversations with strangers. I want people to know about her. I want to wear a sign that says, "I have a daughter, but she died." Maybe that's one reason why blogging is so helpful right now. I can write about Felicity and people who don't even know me will read about her if they come across my blog. I feel that if more people know about her, her existence will have more meaning. I want so badly for her life to have some lasting impact on others!

Pray for us during the next five weeks or so. I keep hearing how hard the holidays are after the death of a child and I'm sure they will be. We're missing her already and I know we will miss her even more as we try to celebrate Christ's birth and carry on with traditions for the boys. I'm looking forward to the busyness I guess, though I don't want to get too carried away with things to do that I forget to grieve for Felicity. Even though I can't imagine forgetting, sometimes I'm afraid I might. Even though it's only been almost 8 weeks since her death, as each day passes I feel like she moves farther and farther away from me. And since I can't hold her close, I have to hold my memories as close as I can.


Sharleen said...

Scream it from the hilltop Rachel! I hear you!

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