Sunday, March 1, 2015

Storing away and erasing

Today, after a week of back and forth with the seller, I finally purchased a trunk to house Zachary's things.  Another chunk of money spent at an etsy shop, on a memorial something for this particular deceased member of my family.  The trunk will be engraved with Zachary's full name and birth and death dates.  Per his father's wishes, it will have a flat top for yet another memorial spot for photos of Zachary.  I hope it doesn't have a funky smell that transfers onto all of Zachary's stuff.  They claim the trunk will be heirloom quality.  We'll see. 

37.5" x 13" x 13" are the interior dimensions.  His NICU wear and gear will fit.  His birth certificate and other important paperwork, his hats, clothes and blankets (those that actually touched his skin) and what's left of his opened but unused diapers will fit.  There is not enough space for all of the items gifted to Zachary that he was never able to use.  There is not enough space for all of the blankets intended for him that draped my shoulders, enveloped him and me, in the couple of days I simply could not stay warm because of the knowledge of his destroyed brain and his impending death.  Does it really matter that not everything will fit in the trunk?  I am tired of looking, tired of putting it off because I haven't found something precisely perfect.  He is dead.  Zachary certainly doesn't care what happens to his stuff anymore.  And, why would we want his stuff wrapped up so completely and perfectly anyway?  His worth, what he means to his family, cannot be contained in a wooden box. 

Dust has been collecting on all of his things, still laid out in various places where they landed in the first weeks after he died.  Every time I notice a fresh layer of dust accumulated on the things he should have long outgrown, I'm furious..., more furious than usual.  So, while I believe it will be extremely painful to see Zachary's belongings "put away", and while I've been reluctant to move his things at all, I suppose it will be better for them to have a more dust-free home.   
It took me a long time to acknowledge the passing of time after Zachary died.  It was mid-February 2014 and our calendar, previously known as our family calendar, was still stuck on January.  The last time it had been updated was on December 31, and it was only partially updated because that happened to be the same day my water broke and life was thrown into utter chaos.  Between December 31 and January 20, when we were in the hospital with Zachary, and the hours of our days were planned on scrap pieces of paper and texted or otherwise relayed to C.T.'s makeshift caretakers, the home calendar was updated only with necessary information:  Zachary's wrist band ID number and the NICU direct line so that we could call to check on him at night.  A pitiful birthday cake, hand drawn by Zachary's proud daddy on the 7th, acknowledging the day he was born.  A celebratory smiley face on the 14th, one week after Zachary's birth when he had officially regained his birth weight.  

Then, celebration turned into crisis and then into total devastation.  Zachary's illness, and then death, completely stamped out anything we had planned for our January.  We didn't see the calendar again until the day after Zachary died, after we returned home.  Never again was it updated for that month.  The day before we were have C.T.'s sixth birthday party, which of course was cancelled, was the day of Zachary's funeral.   And three days after the funeral, on C.T.'s birthday, I was to have a regular OB appointment (of course, that was before everything happened).  I took a picture of our January 2014 calendar before I was finally forced to update it at the end of February 2014.   I couldn't let the reality of our January, that whole other lifetime we lived with Zachary in that month, disappear without tangible evidence that he was indeed part of our family calendar. 

I used to enjoy jotting down our commitments and adventures on the calendar.  I took pride in making sure we were all aligned to get where we needed to go and had a couple of open chunks of time for spontaneous fun, together or apart.  I used to look forward to things, to seeing people and to outings or trips we had planned.  Now I hate updating the calendar.  I hate being the family for whom it all unfolded as it did in January 2014.  To erase that month last year, to update the "family" calendar minus Zachary, just as he had made his glorious entrance onto our calendar, knowing that all our future plans would never again include Zachary, was sickening.  To acknowledge that the months, our lives, were going to keep on pushing ahead without him...  I could hardly bear to wipe that month off of the dry erase board. 

We still have commitments and important appointments now, even if they are mostly insignificant in our hearts.  I updated our calendar for March 2015 today and it is truly no easier, no less depressing than it was at this time last year.  Even though we have some things planned in the "fun" category, for C.T., B and I can't seem to drum up any real enthusiasm for them.  People say things like "you must be looking forward to that..." or "that will be so fun for you all".  Neither of us know how to respond, as we are aware that no one really wants to hear about the fact that we still struggle to accept that Zachary isn't a part of these activities.  Or that most of the time, our activities are filled a great deal of pain and anxiety.  Or about our feelings of apathy about our plans, and about the future in general.  Or about the fact that we wouldn't be surprised at all if our plans were completely foiled again by another death in our little cursed family. 

We've kept the words "We love you Zachary" written at the top of the calendar each month since I began updating it again after his death.  As if to remind whoever sees it that as we are forced to trudge ahead, as our hours and days are filled with stuff, he is remembered and missed and still somehow part of our calendar.       


  1. Dear Gretchen,
    I wish I could give you a hug ( or even better your boys ). Please know that I read every post and appreciate your words. Thanks for sharing your pain. And oh these people who are trying to force optimism and enthusiasm for future things on you, I know them too and hate them with all my being. Are they really stupid or do they really think what they say is encouraging? How many deaths does it take until they realize that we live every day with horrible pain? I honestly believe we could lose ten children in a row they would still say those things after the last one is buried.
    I think of you and Zachary often!

  2. The passing of time is so cruel. The time filled with Zachary's absence is ever-growing...
    There is not much to say but please know i think of him and the hole his death has left in the world.