Monday, January 25, 2016

Funeral anniversary

Every week, since your funeral two years ago, your daddy brings home flowers in your memory.  It is our ritual to choose a vase and place your flowers on the dining room table, which we may as well refer to as Zachary's table because we have not used it for its intended purpose in over two years.  I am not sure we will ever feel ready to not buy you flowers each week, to use the table for something other than a memorial to you.  

We miss you so much, love.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The day before

It was the last afternoon of his prior innocence. 

Two years ago today, C.T. proudly introduced his baby brother to two of his cousins.  At one point during their hospital visit, C.T. reached over to stroke his brother's paralyzed body and confidently used the words, ...when Zachy comes home... 

He had gotten comfortable with the idea that his brother was here to stay.       

The adults in the room knew that barring a miracle, despite Zachary's excellent prognosis and glorious first week of life, and despite the fact that he was well beyond the most critical period of sepsis, Zachary was never, not ever, coming home. 

B and I were still in shock and denial ourselves, and somehow we had to break the horrific news of Zachary's brain hemorrhage to C.T. that night.  We knew, in just a matter of hours, we'd destroy his world by explaining that his baby brother would die the very next day.  There was no guide book, no way to make sense of any of it, no way to soften the blow for him. 


By that Sunday, the 19th of January, we'd heard and explored all of the professional opinions.  We knew the resounding guidance was to remove Zachary's life support.  But, even as we were planning for the end of his life, I remember pleading with God to spare Zachary. 

I told God I couldn't bear the burden of another dead son, that I'd die, or go insane and be unable to care for C.T.  I told Him Zachary deserved to live, that he'd come through too much senseless suffering to be taken from us now.  I received emails and messages from people who were praying for a miracle for Zachary, some of them linking me to real life miracle stories, as if we were just one prayer away from having our own.  Believe.  Don't lose hope, they said.  The impulse for me was to beg.  In helpless, looping, desperate denial, I was secretly determined for God to hear me and save my son.  


I sat down with one of the neonatologists that day and, even after we'd agreed to the recommendation, I asked her to explain everything all over again.  What happened to my perfect baby?  How did it get this bad?  Can we look again at all three brain scans to confirm what we'd been told?  Are we sure we shouldn't try something else, something more, to save him? 

The doctor first reiterated that they had already begun dismantling critical (long-term) life-sustaining aspects of Zachary's care, in preparation for the next day, when we planned to remove his life support.  Then, after listening to her describe, in detail, the universally traumatic effect of his brain hemorrhage and his grave prognosis, she said the most excruciating words.      

If we keep him alive and he survives at all, for any length of time, Zachary will probably never know who you are.  He will never know you are his parents and that you love him. 

Those words will haunt me for the rest of my days.     

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Letter on your second birthday

My Dearest Zachary,

My reflexes tell me to hold, to kiss, to tell you how proud I am, to shower you with my love and all of your favorite things today, on your second birthday.  But, almost nothing that feels maternal and instinctual about celebrating your birthday today is actually possible, Zachary. 

We had the wondrous day of your birth, which burst with happiness and the promise of a full life for you.  It was the one and only happy birthday we will ever have with you, my love.   

C.T. has been anticipating your second birthday for days now, sleeping every night with all three of his giraffes.  When he was supposed to be getting ready for school this morning, I found him huddled in a 14 x14 inch space between his bedroom bookcase and the corner of the wall, hugging his softest giraffe.  This is what he prefers to do with his sorrow now.  He finds a stuffed animal and a hiding place, and grieves and misses you quietly, all by himself. 

When I gently coaxed him out, comforted him, he asked me which dinosaur I thought would have been your favorite.  He didn't give me but a few seconds to consider it, and instead answered for me,

Zachary was so tough.  Don't you think he'd love the Ankylosaurus? 

You are in C.T.'s heart through and through.   

None of us really know what to do with our overflowing love and our aching grief on a day like today.  It is still difficult to comprehend and accept.  So, we muddle through, we create another painfully numbing set of birthday memorial traditions - traditions none of us ever anticipated would replace the celebrations we expected to have with you, but which we hope will fractionally honor your life. 

We packed meals again, with some of your family, for children living in impoverished countries.  In total, today's food packing session yielded over 53,000 meals.   

We sang a sad happy birthday, had cake and lit the first of fourteen days of luminaries, in your memory, at the front of our house.

I also decided I would acknowledge all of the precious children I know (or know of through their bereaved parents) who have died.  I lit your candle and spoke their names aloud, 39 of them in all.  While their parents may often feel as if their child is forgotten, I wanted to use part of your day to remember each of them, individually. 


I know how delightfully alive two might have been, with you here, Zachary.  I know how proudly you'd have shown us "2" with your fingers, for the camera.  I know how special it would have been for C.T. to dote on you, to help you open and play with your gifts.  I can almost imagine the memories we should have made on this day, and in the last one year and 50 weeks, with your amazing spirit filling our home and our lives.  

It is overwhelming to think about just how much has been lost.   

Despite the anguish of your absence, I will never forget the spectacular day of your birth.  I will never forget seeing and then holding you for the first time at 4:22 p.m, two years ago. Your birth, your cry, your eyes, truly lit my world ablaze with pride and joy. 

I miss you so much, Zachary, and I love you as much as a mother can love.