Monday, August 25, 2008

on Joseph

"Poor Stephanie," my mom says from the other room.

I am sitting in the recliner, holding a pacifier to my dozing baby's mouth. I have spent the past two hours trying, unsuccessfully, to put him to bed. He would fall sound asleep in my arms, then wake up as soon as he was put down. The rest of the family is sitting around half-eaten pie, listening to my dad's stories. My dinner sits cold on the counter. I'm missing all the fun.

I have been half-listening to the dining room conversation, half-thinking about the past week. Joseph died a few days ago; I just found out today. Joseph is a little boy who has been sick since November. He is the child of a friend of a friend, and I've kept up with their story online since his diagnosis. He had been seriously ill, but his health deteriorated quickly, and he died unexpectedly. He passed away the day after his fourth birthday. Tonight, I think about his mother.

From the day I found out I was pregnant, some part of my mind has always been with my children. Whether I'm in another room, or out of town, or at work, or with a friend, some part of me is always conscious of where they are, and what they are doing in that moment. When I became their mother, they became my point of reference. I think now about Joseph's mother, how her point of reference is gone, and the enormity of her loss overwhelms me. I guess part of her will always be with him, in death as in life. It's the burden and blessing of being a mother, to always need to know where your child is.

My mom walks out of the brightly-lit dining room and into the semi-dark, where my baby is finally resting on my chest. "Poor Stephanie," she says again, softly. Some part of her, too, needs to know where I am. I listen to his even breath, feel the weight of his tiny growing body against my chest. I think about what a gift it is to hold my healthy sleeping baby tonight. "Don't say that," I say. "I'm exactly where I want to be."

* * * *

Epilogue: I wrote several posts over the weekend and have them scheduled to post throughout the week. Since Saturday night, when I wrote this, I have been the Catcher of Unexpected Poop, the Cleaner of Gross Noses, and drenched in such violent projectile vomiting that I thought Somebody Should Do Something, until I realized I was the Somebody. Also, I've slept about seven hours total in the past two nights. And we're out of coffee. But none of that compares to the moment this morning when Silas couldn't catch his breath, and I was trying to assess just how much infant CPR I remembered (he's okay. After he threw up he could breathe again). It was among the top five scariest moments of my life. In short, it's been quite a weekend.

But I still mean it. Even this weekend - especially this weekend - I am so aware of what a gift my children are. There's no where else I want to be. Except maybe when they're throwing up.


Jamie said...

A lovely, tender post.
I am sorry you all are under the weather. PLEASE let me know if I can do ANYTHING. I'm just around the corner and could even bring you coffee :) Even in the middle of a tornado...

Anonymous said...

The pain of losing a child is unimaginable, yet we imagine it all the time. My condolences to your friend.

LMilky said...

Yesterday I was the "speaker" at the Footprints 1 year surprise birthday (which is why i didn't mention it before) and after my talk I was chatting with another NICU mom and we both agreed their should be an entirely different ministry for mom's lose their babies... I'm sure there is somewhere. Like you, every time I start to grumble at three in the morning over two fussy babies I stop and say OUTLOUD Thank you God that my child is fussy so I know to go to her and hold her and love her... there are many more years to sleep but none as precious as these moments.