Hey Jude – Coping with Loss

Dear readers…this piece was difficult for me to decide to share. Please understand that I am not making a political statement nor am I making light of anyone’s feelings. I am expressing a genuine concern for the generation that walks behind me. Following the presidential election, which was easily the most polarizing election of my lifetime, I heard and witnessed (via Internet) instances where young people were unable to cope. I heard a video where a girl (20-something, maybe?) wept that someone needed to “fix this” (election results) or she was going to kill herself. I heard that young people were given coloring books and puppies by major universities to “cope” with their disappointment and loss.

 

While I respectfully understand the soothing and meditative merits of coloring (and other artistic pursuits), I am also very concerned with the frailty of this generation, and so, as is the nature of my second year of writing my Letters to Jude, I must say this, and I implore you to listen with an open mind and an open soul because I want you, person who feels damaged and destroyed right now (regardless as to why), to feel my strength and resilience and to take what I have and to make it your own and to let it give you the confidence that I have, which is that there is nothing that I cannot accomplish and that there is nothing that will destroy or defeat me.

 

Suicide…

 

The world was distorted as I drove down Cottage Hill Road. A poppy ‘80s tune pulsed on the radio as I rolled to a stop at a looming red light. The air was stiff and stifled as if I was a one-woman dirge. Who are these other people, going about their normal day, as if the universe hadn’t just shifted? How can this song be on? This isn’t appropriate. This song should not be on. This shouldn’t be happening. He would’ve heard this song as a kid. He would’ve known this song. Possibly danced around to it. I replayed the events over and over in my mind. He left his home at some point in the day with his gun. He was off on his ATV. They found him at around 2 a.m. The police found him. The aftermath was and is irreversible. The last time I saw him was a year ago. Should I have helped? Yes. Would anything be different. No idea…I’ll never know if even the slightest effort could’ve helped a kind-hearted family member avoid the irreversible. I wish I’d tried. And thus, disappointment doesn’t cover this…the devastation, the trauma.

 

There were no puppies or coloring books to make it all better.

 

9/11…

 

In 2001, the Top ’40 station, WABB, was filled with static and talking and news as I drove the negligible distance from my cultural anthropology class to my art history II class..  I changed the station. More news. I listened for a minute and tried to understand what in the world was going on.

 

World Trade Center.

Pentagon.

Hit by an airplane?

 

I got out of my car disgusted with myself. I was 115 lbs that morning. Did you get that? One hundred. And fifteen. Fat. Disgusting. Pounds. My pants, size zero, mind you, weren’t even loose anymore. I couldn’t grab at the sagging fabric at the back of my thighs. My XS Banana Republic tie-dye tank…practically clingy at the bodice. Pathetic. I took a seat in my freshman art history class and quickly journaled about what I heard on the radio (though, I had no sense of what it meant); then class started, and I was swept a the world of Byzantine art..

 

Dr. Seuss canceled psychology that day, which really wasn’t that uncommon. He canceled class roughly 50% of the time, so, woo hoo! I went to Mom’s school up the road to see her. The kids would be at recess. Mrs. Christopher was in tears. Ten year olds, who would now be 26 year-olds (dear Lord), were playing on the playground so innocently oblivious to what would ultimately be the new world order. Mom explained that what I thought was a tragic accident was no accident. Someone or many some ones had intentionally flown 747s into the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon and killed people. A lot of people.

 

My fifth class of the day started at 3:15 p.m. Mr. Monotone made our test optional, but I took it anyway. I was so far removed from reality. I was this twerpy narcissistic kid who literally mostly remembered my weight from 9/11. I was 115 lbs. Oh, and 9/11 happened, and I was 18 years old.
That night, I started to hear new words. Terrorism. Al-Qaeda. Osama Bin Laden.

 

Guess what? No one gave me a therapy puppy or a coloring book to make it all better for me. Come to think of it, no one gave me that crap for my eating disorder either. I never thought I needed nor deserved them; though, I will say, there were times, when I truly thought I would die from my eating disorder that I prayed. Hard. I prayed that I would wake up the next day. I prayed that I wouldn’t die…that I wouldn’t be found dead on the bathroom floor in the wake of my shame. I faced my fear, and I fought it…and eight years later, I won.

 

My Jude…

 

And then, on December 26, 2014…I grew up. Like really, grew up. I lost my son. He was fine all day on Christmas Eve. I noticed he wasn’t moving as much late Christmas Day. On December 26, we checked in to the doctor’s office. The baby had a heartbeat. We were put on the monitor at the hospital and within hours, he was gone.

 

“There’s no heartbeat.”

 

He’d just moved…literally just moved…and so we rushed into an emergency C-section. When I came out, I asked my husband, “How’s my baby?” and I knew from the look on his face.

 

“I named him Jude. Jude David. Is that okay?” he said brokenly.

 

“Yeah. Hey Jude…” I started to sing in a still medically-induced state, and Sean took up the chorus.

 

We were rolled back toward my room, and like a manifestation from God, our Priest was standing there. Father David accompanied us to our room, and prayed with us. As he started to leave, I, still in a pitiable state between life and anesthesia, began to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” and Father David turned around and returned to my bedside, and Sean joined him in sacred prayer. Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven….. My speech was slurred, and I stumbled over words. I’ve never felt so empty or broken than in the days where my healing and my life truly began.

 

No one brought me a puppy or a coloring book, and in those frail, fragile moments that severed my ties between adolescence and reality, I didn’t care. Those things wouldn’t have made it all better. You know what did make it better? God.

 

At some point during Jude’s funeral, I found peace. I didn’t mean to. I wasn’t seeking it. I was open to a grief journey. I was open to having a bottomless hole of pain and loss and suffering in my life, but God fill the void with something intangible yet so real I could almost touch it.

 

It was faith. Faith. I can’t describe how much my son and the agony of losing him transformed me.

 

To those who think that their latest devastation is the end of the world…it’s not unless you choose to let it be. I could’ve gone off of a ledge and died inside and out at many points in my life. I could’ve never said to my eating disorder, “I will not let you kill me,” and then called on God for help. I could’ve never done the thing I said I couldn’t do, which is lose a child and live, if not for God.

 

What I’m saying is life is challenging, hard, sometimes unfair, and sometimes unbearable. You will bleed. You will break. You will be decimated at times. And then…you can either curl up in a ball and die, or you can get stronger and smarter and better and wiser and assert yourself.

 

For those who don’t believe in God, let me tell you, God is real. My faith is real. If all you have are coloring books and puppies and free passes, I feel sorry for you. You can literally destroy my body, but you won’t kill me. I mean that. I’m not afraid of losing or disappointment or tragedy or devastation. I don’t welcome it, but it cannot and will not break me because of my God. I encourage you to have what I’m having.

 

Afterthought: Dear readers…I am not trying to force my faith on you, but I am trying to implore you to recognize that life will never get easier. It’s the trials and how we handle them that define us. It’s okay to break. It’s okay to cry, but we must all always reassemble ourselves and find strength through tragedy and adversity. There are many worse things to happen than losing a political election (or other things). Losing hope and losing faith are two of those things.

 

You cannot rely on superficial crutches to get you through the things that will challenge your hope and faith. If you do, then you will surely lose them. Instead, find something within yourself that is there and that has always been there that is truly worth fighting for and that imbues you with an unbreakable fortitude (for believers, that is God, and truly, it is the valuable quality one could possess).

 

I pray for you, gentle reader, whoever you are and whatever you’re fighting with and for. I pray you rely on the right things.

 

 

ASIDE

 

For Dear America:

 

I pray for this country. I pray for our leader to seek wisdom and guidance from God and that regardless of our leadership, that God intercede through that leader to guide us all to greater glory. Remember that there is always light in darkness if we look to it, gentle reader. The light is always there, and it is in times in which we seek light during periods of darkness that we are most brave and most faithful.

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1.26.2015 — “Further Proof of God”

 

Today has been one calendar month since we lost Jude. Almost to the minute that I am writing this at 10:29 p.m., he was stillborn; I was unconscious under general anesthesia, and my husband was sitting alone…waiting in what I feel was the most horrific position of all of us (my heart hurts for the loneliness and fear he must have felt during that hour). I fully intended to devote my thoughts today to writing the story of “what happened” –how we ended up at the hospital and of Jude’s last moments; however, in the perpetual analysis of the events that took place a month ago, I have realized there’s something more pressing for me to talk about today.

 

As Sean and I muddle through our new status quo, which is wrought with grief, shock, confusion, pain, guilt (guilt at being able to have a “normal” day), sadness, and peace (among other things, I’m sure), we often hear that we are “brave” or “so strong.” Rest assured we are both and we are neither.

 

We are brave and strong by virtue of our characters; in the face of losing our son, we are broken and frightened little children, and it is solely by the grace of God that we are able to look at the world and see happiness and hope. We have a beautiful toddler who we love and love being present for. We have faith that we will have more babies when the time is right. We are happy for others who have the joy of babies and children in their lives. I was in church on Sunday behind a family with infant twins (I have always wanted twins and still do (I’m possibly insane)); sure, seeing babies strikes a chord, but it doesn’t make me upset for those aren’t my babies; that’s not my Jude. If I see your baby or if you’re expecting, I’ll only pray that you have nothing but joy in your childbearing and rearing.

 

Losing Jude has not made me bitter nor has it my husband. Jude has filled us with love if nothing else. I don’t know that these feelings would be possible without God.

 

Despite my faith, I have been looking for answers to the unsolvable puzzle. To put it in nerd terms, I have a Hermione Granger complex in which I constantly seek answers to questions. I have researched every aspect of my otherwise normal pregnancy and disconcertingly abnormal loss.

 

There is no rhyme or reason as to why one calendar month ago, at this moment, Father David was standing in a Providence Hospital room on floor seven to provide comfort to my aggrieved husband and to a still somewhat-drugged me. But then, there we were. I will probably write more about this in a later reflection, but I must admit, I don’t recall much from Father’s visit. I remember being filled with gratitude when I was rolled into the room and saw him standing there. A man of God was there to pray over us.

 

I’m not sure why, but it feels important to note that I’m not Catholic; I was raised Protestant, and I am very much a Christian. I don’t believe that any one denomination is the right or wrong pathway to Heaven; rather, I believe that our personal relationship with God and our faith and acts of faith are more important. Whether you achieve salvation via Mass or some other means is immaterial (at least to me) compared to the quality of the relationship. I’m sure theologians would consider me woefully ignorant (and in many ways, I am), but that is a very basic explanation of my beliefs.

 

So, Father David was there, and I was truly, truly comforted. As I said, too, I was still recovering from anesthesia, and I don’t remember much. I do remember one thing. As Father was leaving, I started praying the Our Father. My husband held my hand and prayed with me, and Father was at his shoulder and prayed with us.

 

What preceded and what immediately followed is subject matter for another reflection. I soon began a silent quest –something conducted at the wee hours of any given morning when sleep was elusive and my iPhone was fully charged—to find answers. What happened? Why? Why me? Was it preventable?

 

The last question was the worst. Was it a virus? Was it that time I sneezed and had a cramp? Was it too much grapefruit juice? Was it …. The questions went on and on. Some questions were more metaphysical. Why me? Why us? Are we such horrible people that God had to get our attention in such a fashion? Why our baby? Why 32 weeks? Why not sooner or never? Couldn’t a near car crash have “gotten our attention”? Was that even it? Was it my horrible humanity that killed our baby?

 

I know that the answer is probably not. I have no idea what the reality or truth is. I know that God is not cruel; while He allows things to happen to us –sometimes things that are “random” and sometimes things that are the product of our own deliberately stubborn humanity—He always loves us, and He is always there for us. I realize that He wants us to come to him –I also realize how “cultish” that might sound to nonbelievers; I promise, this is anything but that. It’s truly the greatest comfort that nothing on this Earth can provide.

 

The axiom is that “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.” In this case, my faith has become stronger. As a Christian, my faith was never challenged before (though, I now really do understand the verse that states, “I can do all things through Christ that strengthen me,” as all of my strength in this is granted through Christ); I grew up as a Christian and never was motivated to question my faith (despite being a rational, critical thinking, analytical person). Here’s why.

 

When I was very little –perhaps not much older than my daughter who is 19 months is now—I pondered the origins of the universe. I recall being between two and three, which is consistent with when I formed my first memories; because of the cognition involved in this memory, it’s highly likely I was between three and four. Anyway, I was told that God created the universe and the heavens and then the Earth. My small mind understood this, but I was utterly plagued by the conceptual crisis of what preceded that? What came before God? Something had to come before God. God had to come to be somehow; before there was nothing, there had to be something, correct, for there cannot be nothing without something to make it nothing, if that makes sense. It’s conceptually abstract. It bothered me greatly.

 

I can only assume that God recognized this conundrum as something that could easily shake one’s faith in Him. I don’t recall when, but shortly after this pondering began, I had a dream in which God answered my question. I woke up feeling renewed, light, and fresh with remnants of the dream still fresh on my mind; in the first few seconds, I believe I could’ve recalled the dream’s content; however, very quickly, the dream faded, and I remembered nothing other than the very important fact that my question was answered. God explained things to me, and I understood them. I understood, too, that I was not meant to understand the universe’s origins. This was the day faith was born to me. I never questioned God again, and having faith was never something that I found to be shakable.

 

That was the first intangible proof I received of God’s existence and hand in my life.

 

The second proof came more recently. I don’t remember the date –perhaps somewhere between December 17 and December 19….I was at work talking to a colleague. The Christmas holidays were forthcoming. Almost absentmindedly, I told her that it was odd, but I “had a feeling that I wouldn’t be pregnant after the New Year.” But, what an absurd thought. I wasn’t due until February 11. I attributed the thought to the concept that the New Year symbolizes starting over and rebirth; however, the feeling I had when I made the statement was something I felt in my core.

 

If you’ve ever had a premonition or déjà vu, then you understand. Speaking of déjà vu, I recall I had it during the initial stress test; though, I don’t know why (I can’t remember what previous memory prompted that, but I do recall that when I had the déjà vu, I had a strong feeling things wouldn’t end well. I did quickly banish the thought when I had it during the stress test).

 

Anyway, I digress. As I was saying, anyone who has ever had a premonition knows the feeling. It’s a certainty that lacks logical support; you just know though you have no idea why. Such was the case in this instance; however, obviously, I had no reason to remember that odd statement or moment until God called Jude home.

 

This part of my story is where some may disagree. Some might say that it was a premonition brought on by a woman’s instinct and a woman’s bond with her child; that may also be true; however, I attribute the premonition (for lack of a better word) to suffice as proof that God had a plan for Jude and that He was preparing me, somehow, for the imminent suffering that I would experience as a result of losing Jude.

 

Oddly enough, this faith provides comfort. Allow me to explain. In believing that it was God’s intention to take Jude when he did (as evidenced by the premonition), then there was nothing I could have done to prevent my son’s death. I couldn’t have gone to a better hospital. I couldn’t have arrived earlier. I couldn’t have exercised more or drank less grapefruit juice. I couldn’t have been less stressed. It simply wasn’t part of God’s plan, and God knows just like the mysteries of His origins, I don’t understand, but He also knows that I have the faith to accept that.