For so long I tried to keep the plates spinning. Told myself that if I checked on my kids at night or looked back on them in the car one extra time to make sure they were properly buckled in they would be safe. Untouchable.
Today I was invited by my bosom buddy Dawn to go to a support group meeting at Alexandra's House, an old Victorian-style house that is a haven for parents whose world is shaken, or has been shaken, by the death of a baby.
I got to tour the house, to see all of the photographs of babies gone too soon. Mothers leaning over and giving last kisses, fathers stoic and broken.
Bedrooms with fresh sheets and pastel bassinnets, rose-colored walls poised to witness heartbreak.
I kept asking my friend if it was appropriate for me to go, since I haven't actually held my dead newborn or woken up in the morning to the horrible realization that my 11 week old baby, (my 4th child, this was supposed to be old hat), has died of SIDS in the night.
Somehow, though, it felt like I was sitting among old friends. And as I sat there, my history, my story, rolled right out of my mouth and onto the tile floor where it rested. It felt safe there, validated. I didn't have to pretend that the past didn't hurt or that the future wasn't downright scary.
A television crew was in the process of filming a documentary in the house, and an OB who is heavily involved in helping parents who come to the house to be with their children as they pass away stayed and chatted with us for about an hour. It was awesome to get free medical advice from an impartial observer, and I think part of what prompted it was that he had lost his own baby ten minutes after birth, 17 years ago.
That changes a person.
A few days ago I got an email from a dear loved one who was just diagnosed with lung cancer.
Cancer cells divide, fetal cells aren't programmed correctly, umbilical cords knot out the promise of a long and uncomplicated life. Prison cells are filled to capacity with people who think it's just fine to load up on vodka and drive through minivans filled with mothers and children on their way to the park.
And yet, today, everything that was important shone through.
Embryonic heart cells won't always form correctly and those prison cells will always be full, no matter what we do.
The only thing that we have to fight the rising tide of uncertainty, grief, chaos, is this:
We love, and we hold onto those we love, those we learn to love in mere minutes due to shared experience.
And in the sharing, in the stories rolling to the tiled floor, in the sunlight meandering itself through slatted blinds onto that same rose-colored wall, something happens.
We are free.