January 16, 2015
Tonight was the first dinner that your family and our family shared since the night of January 24, 2014, which was the eve of your funeral. That night, we finalized a 4 minute and 39 second video that encapsulated your 14-day life, which was set to a song entitled "Amazing" - as that is exactly how your parents described you. Tonight, we helped your mommy, daddy, and big brother light memorial luminaries, one for each day of your life, and position them along the front path, leading to the front door of the house that you should be calling home. We have to believe that you can see the flickering candle flames from your look-out post up above, but it is difficult for that belief to provide us with enough comfort, considering the circumstances...
...Just as your family began to settle into their new NICU routine, you somehow managed to acquire an infection in the hospital. The day before your infection was confirmed, your mommy knew that something was amiss - you were inconsolable and she felt so helpless when the medical team ignored your symptoms and her motherly instincts. For 48 hours, your parents kept a vigil over you and there were several times, during your critical state, where they feared that they were going to lose another son. When it seemed like your amazing resiliency had pulled you though the near-deadly infection, your worn-down parents regained much-needed hope. Hours later, their weary hearts were ripped from their chests when it was discovered that you had acquired, as a result of the infection, a massive grade 4 brain bleed with a midline shift.
The news caught me completely off guard. I refused to believe what I was hearing. Your incredibly wonderful family did not deserve to lose another son. How would they make it through another tragedy, especially when they fully believed that they would have the chance to bring you home?
That day was the first that I laid eyes on precious little you. I will never forget being taken aback by your perfect features. You had the most adorable hands and feet, fingers and toes, nose, and wild wisps of dark hair. To see you lying in your isolette, in a state of medical paralysis, was gut-wrenching. You were so pure and so innocent and it maddened me to think about how much pain and suffering you had endured and how much your parents helplessly watched unfold in your hospital room. The life that you so deserved to live was about to be stripped from you. Your parents were shells of their former selves, moving about like the walking dead. It was true that their lives had been stripped from them as well. Their eyes were hollowed and it seemed their souls were equally so. Their physical brokenness could be felt on the receiving end of each embrace. The following evening, they were faced with yet another unbearable task - telling C.T. that you (the new baby brother he was so proud to call his own - the living sibling who had finally entered his life) were going to die.
Hours before you passed away, I walked into your hospital room with so much rage churning inside. I remember being caught off guard at the peaceful scene unfolding in that very room. A mother and father doting over their beautiful baby boy. A big brother smothering his little brother with kisses. A family trying to make the most of their son's remaining time on earth. A peaceful send off for a boy who had lived through much more in his 14 days of life than most people will experience in a lifetime. In retrospect, I guess that scene shouldn't have been as surprising to me as it was. The family that I so hoped would one day expand - the one that had so much love to give - was doing just that.
Over this past year, I have been amazed by your mommy's, daddy's, and brother's ability to continue on, two urns now decorating their bedroom dresser. The journey has been far from easy, as they push a double stroller of grief up a proverbial Mount Everest, at times gasping for air along the way. Their comfort zone, which they worked so hard to expand over the years since B.W.'s passing, has now shrunk down to what can be contained within the walls of their own home, understandably so. They feel alone in their house of grief, unable to relate to others. Your mommy is a wreck over the permanent absence of her son. Your daddy muddles his way through the work day, before returning to his house of grief. Your big brother, who was proud to share the news of your arrival with his classmates, understands that not many of his buddies are willing to discuss you now that you are dead.
Zachary, your family has worked hard over the past several weeks to honor your memory in so many beautiful ways, but, as your mommy said tonight, "It will never be enough." The only thing that would be fulfilling to them would be to have you back in their arms. To smell your beautiful baby scent. To feel your beautifully soft skin. To run their fingers over your silky hair. To feel your warm breath on their necks, as they comfort you just so. To beam with pride, as you take your first steps. To send you off to kindergarten, garden-picked flowers in hand. To see you walk across the stage on your graduation day. To watch you find your way in the world, as your story continues to unfold. To feel the unconditional love, that they shower you with daily, reciprocated back.
Zachary, on this day and every day, you are so very missed. I am so very sorry that your life was cut tragically short. I believe that you were destined for much more.