I’ve written before about my stinky onion layers.
The ones meant to cover and hide.
Right now, several ladies from SGM are taking SBD Doula training through stillbirthday. The class is an amazing, comprehensive wealth of information to help prepare both the skilled birthworker and the compassionate-hearted individual wanting to come alongside a bereaved parent. We are so excited about all the learning and tools we are gleaning from this training, and cannot wait to use what we’ve learned to support families through SGM’s perinatal hospice and bereavement support outreach.
But, something I didn’t expect….
is the level of emotion being uncovered in each unit….tucked safely beneath my stinky onion layers.
Buried so deep, I didn’t even know it was there.
Flashes of hearing the words incompatible with life.
Long and complicated labors.
No birth plans…no guidance…feeling our way blindly, clinging. Trusting in what we did not see.
Missed opportunities and regret.
Sitting behind the privacy screen, holding Thomas, in the midst of the busy NICU, machines whirring, lights blinking, wires beeping. Drinking in the precious minutes with our sweet boy.
We are supposed to contact funeral homes this week, to see what they offer to grieving families. Well, I know some of the services offered locally, because SGM helps provide bereavement items. So, I thought I would just use the information I already have to answer this week’s exam question.
I was just fine with that, nonchalant, even…thinking I visit the funeral home all the time.
Until I read Holly’s blog post, and spoke with Jenny.
I made myself remember. It’s painful, to willingly revisit the places hidden so deeply beneath the layers that we don’t even know they exist. I realized this afternoon, that I really don’t remember what it’s like to be a mother walking into the funeral home to choose a casket for her baby. I didn’t make those choices for Faith and Grace. I remember telling my mother from the hospital bed that I wanted pink.
“And, their dresses. Make sure you get them dresses with pink lace and ribbons.” Oh how I dreamed of pink lace and ribbons for their nursery. At least this one time, there will be pink lace and ribbons for my girls.
That was it. I didn’t pick their dresses out. I didn’t pick out their casket. I didn’t give the funeral home directions. I didn’t even go there until the visitation. I was a twenty-one year old baby girl….and I just wanted my momma to take care of this unspeakable thing, as I was left still trying to process a word so stark and ugly as ‘funeral’ being spoken in the birthing room of my baby girls. It was foreign. It didn’t belong. She was desperate to take care of me, so the partnership worked just fine.
Earlier this evening, I thought I didn’t plan Thomas’ funeral either. I chose the songs, his outfit, and the scriptures. But, I had no memory of choosing his casket, either. Tonight, I am not sure, to tell you the truth. It’s too blurry.
All I know, is I have no memory of making those choices.
And, the ache of my heart to even consider these memories, to graze them tentatively…tiptoeing into the places hidden deep. The emotion bubbling up is more than I want to bear. How…How after 16 and 14 years is it this painful, this raw, this real? How have I not considered before today the planning of their funerals? I just buried it all. As the dirt fell on the top of their caskets, the layers formed around these most tender places of my heart, shielding, protecting.
Every once in awhile, I cower for a moment, wondering why I’ve ventured so deep into these hidden layers. I know with my mind that the only way out is through…and you can’t go around it. I know that allowing the tears to fall is akin to allowing the healing balm to form around the wounds still gaping once uncovered….even sixteen years later.
I know the answer. It is a worthy journey, and not just for me…to feel it all. To remember, however sharp the sting. Because in feeling it, in remembering, compassion grows deeper, for those walking this path…the one still fresh, not well-worn and familiar as it has become for me. But foreign and frightening, uncertain as she walks it, if hope will ever find her again.
With fresh understanding I can see her, and reassure that she is not alone. Many have walked this painful path before her. And, we walk with her now.
I tell medical professionals all the time, that it takes courage to show the kind of compassion that doesn’t cower, doesn’t look away, but looks deeply into the places no one wants to see. Into the face of sorrow. Into the empty arms of a mother. Into the dark valley of doubt. Into the endless sea of grief.
It takes courage for me, too. To feel the depth of this sorrow that once held me captive in it’s grip. Sometimes, I am afraid to stand on the shores of that dark sea. I won’t lie. Afraid that it will encompass me, and never let go. But, only for a moment. Because, my Father steps in with His still small voice and the peace that knows no reason, whispering truth…
“Don’t you know, dear daughter, there is no pit so deep…no sea so dark…no storm so tempest tossed…no heart so broken…no grief so agonizing that My love cannot find you? You don’t have to muster the courage. Just walk. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”
So, tomorrow, I will go to the funeral home.