From the moment of hearing that our precious James Isaac no longer had a heartbeat, I have had two fears:
1. that he would be forgotten
2. that he would be remembered
Let me explain the second fear first since I'm sure that seems strange to you. After the loss of a loved one, especially a child, hearing the loved one's name brings a feeling that is super difficult to explain. Those who have experienced it will know what I'm talking about. It's kind of like having butterflies in your stomach when you're nervous before a test or recital or the like, but yet it's MORE.
My heart flutters, my stomach drops down into my toes, the butterflies fly en masse, my heart stops beating, my face goes red, my face blanches, I feel faint, I feel like running [away]. The feeling is even worse when someone I don't know or who never knew my James Isaac (or Panya Ruth or Anna Rose) says his name. Or when someone I'm not too terribly fond of says his (their) name.
It is difficult to hear the name of my beloved son and those of his sisters spoken out loud. In my grieving, I have found it super difficult to say their names myself. I went a long time not being able to write their names even. I still hesitate and have to remind myself to breathe when I say their names.
Why? You may ask and it is a valid question--especially if you haven't experienced such loss. Because their names bring the memories to the forefront--again--flooding back to the surface like a tsunami, ready to drown me in sorrow once again. The pain of my losses is ALWAYS just below the surface as it is; it's always ready to explode at the slightest provocation, especially when someone speaks their name. Most of the time, I can smile and laugh and LIVE and function in as normal a manner as possible--living in the full JOY of the Lord. But it only takes one tiny thing, saying his name, to open the floodgates.
But I NEED to hear his name--their names. I NEED to know that they are remembered. I mean, come on. I carried James Isaac to term. I was at 38 weeks when we discovered his heart was no longer beating. And while Panya Ruth and Anna Rose were both gone by my 11th week, my heart had already fallen in love with them the same way it had for the one I carried full term. My babies LIVED. Just because the state of North Carolina never gave me a birth certificate doesn't mean that they didn't live. My heart, my body, and my very soul know that each one was just as alive and whole as the one son I have here with me, Samuel. (Samuel is my rainbow baby is just recently turned 16!)
So when I received the following note just a few weeks ago, the emotions that ran through me are next to impossible to describe:
Ben's mom, Leslie, and I worked together at the same school and we were both pregnant at the same time. I was about two months further along than she was, but we were close enough that we developed and quick, easy, and strong relationship in our shared joy of pregnancy. We are close in age and have many similar interests and personality traits. It was a JOY to be pregnant together. (This picture is of us at Miami Beach when we took our Seniors on their Senior trip. That's Ben in her very pregnant belly.)
We often talked about the play dates our boys would have and how they would grow up together as the closest of friends, just like their moms. It is a treasured time in my life.
But then James Isaac was stillborn.
Leslie was there to hold my hand, to comfort, to pray with me, and to just BE with me. She was a true FRIEND in my hour of need and I will NEVER forget that she felt as if she had lost her child, too. It meant so much to me that she loved my Precious so very much. I was able to visit and hold and love on Ben soon after he was born and Leslie came to see us two years later when my Samuel was born.
But over the years, we both moved on to other jobs and we simply have not been able to hang out and do things together. We have managed to stay connected via Facebook, which has been wonderful!! We haven't actually seen each other in 16 years.
And then Ben's note arrived in the mail. Distance doesn't matter in the slightest when a friend is real and true. Time doesn't matter in the slightest when a friend is real and true. Leslie is both. And to learn that she remembered my James Isaac to such a degree that she told her son Ben all about him and about our dreams for our boys made my heart do all kinds of crazy wonderful things. My heart was truly full to bursting. It messaged Leslie and told her that I would be at Ben's graduation--as would my husband James and my Samuel.
There are not words for the JOYFUL SORROW I have experienced over the past several weeks and especially as we watched Ben cross the stage last night at his high school graduation. All I can do is tell my precious friend, Leslie, and her wonderful son, Ben--THANK YOU. Thank you. Thank you.
I love you dearly and I always will.
And I can't help including a picture of Leslie and me with our students at their Senior Formal.