Sunday, February 13, 2005

It seems strange to have been away from this page for so long, but things have certainly changed in the past three weeks. Gone is the need for a daily update on Will's condition, replaced by the need to let people know how Mary and I are doing. To that end, we are doing OK, or, as I tell people who ask, as good as could be expected. No one should need to know how to deal with the loss of a child no matter the situation, and we really were not prepared for losing Will. That might seem strange to anyone looking in from the outside, because it is clear that a baby born at 24 weeks is going to face unbelievable hurdles even if everything goes well. But we always pushed those doubts and fears aside. They were there, but they were sublimated as we looked instead for the good things, hopeful signs that pointed toward Will getting better and coming home with us. No matter what obstacle was placed in front of him, we grew to feel that he would overcome it and move on. Somewhere inside of ourselves we knew the odds were against Will, but he continued to convince us otherwise.

It seems that was the case with his doctors as well. We never got the sense that they thought anything other than that he was going to make it, but talking with them at the memorial service put things into perspective. They talked about what a fighter he was, how strong he was and how he just kept recovering from every setback. It is clear now that they had their doubts about his chances at the outset -- premature boys just don't do as well as girls, and that coupled with his underdeveloped lungs and heart problems seemed to stack the deck against him -- but he seemed to convince them that he was strong enough to make it.

That he wasn't, that he finally encountered a set of circumstances that were too much for him to handle, was a shock. Even though he had gained so much fluid weight that he was all but unrecognizable in those final days, even though he just wasn't bouncing back like he had in the past, we felt he was going to come through. As Mary wrote, it wasn't until just hours before he died that we called our parents and told them they needed to come right away to say goodbye. We had that much faith in our little fighter.

That is what has made the past three weeks so difficult. In talking about the stages of grief, people mention denial as an initial step. But I continue to carry a mild form of that, improbable though that may seem. I know Will is gone, but I still find myself overcome at times with the feeling that if I just went over to the NICU I would find him there in his room, staring up at me with a look that says, "Where have you been?" I know he's not there, but something about his strength and his determination make that hard to accept.

Will wasn't supposed to arrive until Feb. 12, yesterday. We worried that we would be emotional wrecks on that day, wondering about what might have been. It was hard, but not so much for what the date represented than for all that happened before it. I was supposed to be sending out a note today letting friends and family know about the birth of our health baby boy. Instead, I'm writing this three weeks after he had already lived his entire life. Think about that: Will lived a life that touched so many people, died, and has been gone for three weeks and he was just now supposed to make his entrance. So, instead of looking forward to a lifetime of our being a family and doing father and son things, I'm left with memories and the assurance that he was here for a purpose.

Some day that might be enough. But for right now I am angry and frustrated and sad and would trade all of that impact, and all of the money raised for his memorial fund and all of the cards and letters and phone calls of support for just one more day with him; one more hour, even. But I can't have that. So I am left to hold close the memory of every wink of his eye, every grip of his hand and every time he responded to hearing a story. Those things, the support of family and friends, and the knowledge that Will's life made a difference in the lives of hundreds of people, will eventually overpower that anger, sadness and frustration. All will be there forever, but, much as we pushed out the doubts and simply believed in our Will, I'll be able to push away everything and focus on remembering my precious little boy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for letting us all know that you guys are doing okay. Not a day goes by that I don't think of the two of you and the struggle that your family has gone through. I think of Will everyday too and know that he is watching and guiding you through this time. There is a saying that I have often thought of in difficult times in my life and I hope that maybe it will help you: "The heart sees what the eyes cannot see and knows what the mind cannot understand." I pray that times will get better for the both of you, and remember that you are in many peoples hearts.

Jenni Knutson (a friend of Ann's)

1:59 PM  

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