After 10 weeks of maternity leave, I went back to work last week. At the end of my clinic day, I had all of my belongings already packed. My last patient ended early. I couldn’t even wait until the family left the receptionist area to make my move. I escaped through the side door and flew down six flights of stairs to hurry home.
As I exited the building and started walking towards the parking lot, I was mindful of this familiar feeling– this feeling of being needed, of having somewhere to be. This was a feeling that I had every single day when Maxwell was alive. This was a feeling I so desperately longed to have again after Maxwell died. This is a feeling I felt for the first time again last week. But this time it is for a different child.
Being a mother to a new child after losing a child has led to a whirlwind of emotions. When people ask, “how are you?” I am often at a loss for words. I am so many things, often at once: joyous, sad, grateful, heartbroken, lucky and confused. That day, I was able to feel the sadness of not going home to Max and the gratitude of being able to go home to a living child. This is the reality of being a mother to a living and to a spirit.
Later that night, I whisper to my 10 week old, softly, in tears, as I rock her to sleep, “I am so lucky to be with you here, in this space and time” and I meant it. In the dark, she looks and feels a lot like her brother.
“Grief at its peak has a terrible beauty to it, a blinding fission of every emotion. The world is charged with significance, with meaning, and the world around you, normally so solid and implacable, suddenly looks thin, translucent. I feel like I’ve discovered an opening.” — Jayson Greene on child loss after losing his 2yo daughter Greta
You would have been two today. This morning, we listened to “Over the Rainbow” and looked at pictures of you on your birthday from last year. What a difference a year makes. I think about you every day so today isn’t much different and yet, just as devastating. Your baby sister Luna is here with us as well. She reminds us of you as newborn so much, and we are treasuring each moment with her. We are different parents now because of you. I am well acquainted with grief, and I am noticing it evolving as well. I just wanted you to know that I love you with all my heart and will try to honor your memory.
Thank you for coming here today. It is evident that in Maxwell’s short life that he had a profound impact on those around him.
Maxwell was the happiest and most easy-going baby. He was generous with everyone around him. He would offer his cheesesticks to anyone nearby that wasn’t fortunate enough to have their own. He taught me more about life, joy, and how to be a good person.
Before Max was first born I was terrified of parenthood. But the first time I held him, I immediately felt complete love and knew our life together would be great. Each day was a new adventure, and I loved exploring the world with new found curiosity. The simplest things became newly interesting when seen through his eyes. I loved carrying you on my back, explore the world together, through your eyes.
I even imagined our future together, and going on adventures together. I was curious to see where his interests would lead. Would he want to play tennis with his father? Would he join boyscouts and want to go on bike rides together? Would he be playing Mage night with me? I even imagined the far off future where we would plan to go backpacking on the Appalachian Trail when he turned 18.
I will remember his joyous energy forever. He will forever live in our hearts and minds.
I love you forever. You will always be my best friend for life.
Our ways go wide and I know not whither,
But my song will search through the worlds for you,
Till the Seven Seas waste and the Seven Stars wither,
And the dream of the heart comes true.
I will find you there where our low life heightens,
Where the door of the Wonder again unbars,
Where the old love lures and the old fire whitens,
In the Stars behind the stars.
Wednesday was just an ordinary day. You cried a bit at night and daddy came to comfort you in our chocolate colored glider. He left a bit earlier than usual for work. I woke up earlier too and got to spend an extra half hour with you. I put away laundry as you sat on the floor, taking out a little towel that I had folded. I laughed and showed you how to put it back into our little basket. I fed you some yogurt and kisses you goodbye for the last time.
To quote roger ebert, “It all happens in this blink of a lifetime, surrounded by the realms of unimaginable time and space.”
It feels as if an eternity has passed since that day. We saw you on the hospital bed with tubes keeping you alive. We wept, slept next to you, and held you until it it was all over.
We returned home. Every inch and corner of our house and every particle of our breath reminds us of you. When I look at daddy, I think of you. When he looks at me, he thinks of you.
You are the most joyous and loving baby, and I experienced a love that I have never known was possible. The love a mother feels for her child is overwhelming, unconditional, transcendent and also quite ordinary.
From today on, you will always be a Little Rock in my back pocket. Some days the rock will feel heavy, sharp and painful. Some days the rock will fee smooth and comforting.
Goodnight max. Mommy and daddy love you very very much.
Early this morning I had a dream. I thought what if instead of you being dead, you were alive? Then, your dead body came alive. I was dancing with you on the couch, you were wearing a green onsie, and you were giggling again. I thought to myself, your body feels so real. Your body did really well even after all this. Your daddy walked out and was setting up a stroller for you. I told him that this was just a fantasy and it wasn’t true but it still felt so real. I tried to phone your grandparents, and the phone operator put me through but someone named Drew answered instead. I hung up and woke up.
We love you so much. You are a part of us forever. Your joy and love of life is inspiring. You gave so much love and made us so happy. We looked forward to playing with you and hearing your laughter. Max, thank you for all that is wonderful and good in life. You are our little angel.
Maxwell gave love, he gave joy, and now he will give life.
Your joy and love of life made everyone you touched a better person. You have taught your Nana and Pop Pop how to find the happiness in everything. We are blessed by knowing and loving you. We will honor your spirit in our lives and spread your joy so that it takes root and grows beyond our lives.