Sunday, September 25, 2005

Yesterday we attended a memorial service hosted by the NICU staff in memory of the babies who have died in the last year. It was a really nice service--a mix of readings, reflections and music, all with a contemplative, comforting tone. They read the names of all the babies and presented a rose to each family who attended. One of Will's doctors shared some thoughts about caring for our children and the impact each one made on him and all the staff. He said he knew we all had holes in our hearts and that his words would not patch them, but he let us know that the staff too feels that emptiness and wishes there had been more they could do. It drives their research, he said, propelling them daily toward potential answers to the riddles of prematurity and neonatal disease. We knew all along from our interactions with the NICU staff that they were all just as committed to Will's life as we were. It was nice to hear that on some level his life still touches them. He is no mere statistic.

I also realized for the first time yesterday that the question, "How are you doing?" no longer brings me up short. I can answer "OK" and not feel phony. I'm sure I've been doing it for a while, but it took that context, hearing the question from Will's caregivers, to bring it to a conscious level. It's not that people don't ask about us anymore. Lots do every day. Sometimes the question is clearly about how we're actually coping. Other times it's more of an idle inquiry, not really seeking a detailed response. Sometimes I don't focus on the difference. But yesterday it was clearly a question of concern, from people who haven't seen us since the most devastating day and week of our lives. Just as we may remember people from high school looking and acting exactly as they did on graduation day, despite the passage of time and onset of maturity, until they saw us yesterday, many of the staff probably held a vision of us in their minds as helplessly grief-stricken, paralyzed at the thought of going forward without Will.

We are still grief-stricken. There's no question. Any number of memories and scenes replayed in my head can reduce me to full-body sobbing. Even writing this blog brings tears almost every time. But we're not helpless and we're not paralyzed. Like others who have walked this road before us, we move forward as we can or stand still when we need to. But we incorporate our experience into our new version of "normal" and we know that we will be OK.


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