Nothing Gold Can Stay
Behind this door lies a story.
About two weeks ago, I was quietly passing Charlotte and Lila’s closed bedroom doors when I was caught very suddenly off guard by a realization. It was the realization that I had walked passed their closed doors at night or during naptime hundreds of times and ALWAYS felt this strange heightened awareness as I went by them. I wasn’t even really conscious of it. The feeling would come and go and I would move on to whatever location I had been heading for. But this time, it was different. I became aware of my awareness, if you will. It stopped me in my tracks and I stood staring at their doors. The sound of their white noise machines filled the hallway and I tried to figure out what in the world was going on inside my heart.
And then it hit me.
Especially that door.
They were shut.
Just like back then.
As memories flooded back into my mind, I realized that the emotions I was having were a mixture of deep contentment and sorrow. How can they even exist in the same moment? And why?
Because four years ago, that door stood open. The walls were green. The plush rug was pink. A rocking chair rested serenely in the corner ready to be used at all hours of the night. Teeny-tiny pink outfits hung on hangers and filled drawers, perfuming the air with whiffs of baby detergent. A crib stood with little birdie sheets waiting to hold a new bundle of joy.
At the end of January 2012, that door closed. All of the baby items we had sprinkled throughout our home were shoved in there. It was the first place we went when we got home from the hospital. Surrounded by Callie’s things, we wept. Whenever we stepped out of our bedroom, this door loomed ahead of us- a cold slab of opaque wood staring at us cruelly, yet somehow still invisible because our bereaved x-ray vision saw through to the other side. We knew its contents and mourned them.
Slowly that year, the door opened. The room transformed, but retained reminders of her- an angel statue, a needlepoint of her name, artwork. Baby things moved to what would become Charlotte’s room. We grieved and hoped and prayed. In April 2013, joy filled every room of our home, the crib held our rainbow, a new rocking chair swayed back-and-forth, back-and-forth. Doors stayed open, unless of course, Charlotte was sleeping.
Fast-forward to 2015, it was almost time for Lila to make her arrival. She deserved her own space. Something dreamed up just for her. Pale pinks and gold polka-dots danced in my mind, but where would they go? We decided Callie would have wanted Lila to have her own space and John lovingly painted over the green with ‘angel blush’, a pale pink with just a hint of peach, but it wasn’t without dashes of pain. Each stroke was a mix of emotions, so complicated, I lack the words to describe it.
Tonight as the girls lie sleeping, the doors are closed. But, the rooms on the other side of those closed doors are full.
Full of light, full of laughter, full of LOVE.
When the doors are open, you can see that and feel it.
When they are closed…
…well, it’s not so easy to see or feel without seeing and feeling the past concurrently.
They say that when God closes a door, another one opens. I guess that’s true.
But I can’t help but wonder sometimes what our view would be like if it had never shut to begin with? What would that little green room have been like? What would that story have been?
I’d never trade the view I have now of Lila’s little toothy grin shining up at me or of Charlotte crying out, “Mommy! I have to go potty!”…
…but boy does it hurt sometimes knowing what lies behind closed doors.
January 27th is Callie’s 4th birthday in heaven, the 28th is her angel day. Like every year, we will be wearing yellow and trying to find small ways to make a difference doing Kindness for Callie projects. We’d love it if you would too.
I woke up this morning with one crystal clear thought.
Today was Callie’s due date.
Right before that thought had been a dream. But really it was a memory…
I sat in my first grade classroom, concentrating so hard on whatever it was that seemed so important at the time that I didn’t realize I was pressing my stomach into my desk. Inside my belly, Callie pushed back against the desk so hard that I was scooted back a few inches in my wheeled office chair. I thought that was pretty funny at the time and told her I was sorry for squishing her. I can remember seeing that yellow striped sweater like it was yesterday.
She seemed so strong, so healthy, so… alive. Just right there beneath the surface. Ready to be born. Ready to live.
Later, after she was born and fighting for life, the doctors, trying desperately to understand how such a large issue could have gone undetected, asked me millions of questions: “Did you receive prenatal care?” “Did you take any drugs?” “Did you feel any decrease in movement?”. I could answer all of the questions confidently, although slightly offended, except for the one about movement. I was so busy and stressed right before Callie was born that I wasn’t paying attention that much. I knew I didn’t NOT feel her move, I had countless videos of her squirming and kicking in my belly, and she certainly had a lot of hiccups (which apparently didn’t count, who knew?)- but it caused me so much agony that I didn’t know for sure if there had been a ‘decrease’ in movement.
However, I did remember that push. I remembered her pushing me back from the desk with strength and vigor and, perhaps, a touch of annoyance. At least I had that.
After I woke up, the memories from that day three years ago kept flooding in, taking my breath away with their clarity. I read an article about car seat safety recently written by the parent of a child who passed away in an accident. She said that the people who tell you that time heals have never lost a child. I couldn’t agree more. It doesn’t heal- it still hurts just as much. But I guess it is different after three years in some ways. Time has allowed this loss to become a part of our new lives, our new normal, our new reality. We have had time to learn who we are now and how to navigate the world. But it doesn’t really make it any easier- just different.
This is a stupid thing to be angry about, but this morning after collecting myself, I found myself supremely jealous of people who can use the TimeHop app on Facebook with carefree abandon. Stupid, right? It’s a neat concept- being able to see exactly what you posted on this date for the past couple of years- but the thought of seeing posts from three years ago and beyond fills me with sadness. I’ve never been able to bring myself to do it. It would be like reading about a stranger. Who is that girl? The girl who thought having babies was cute and fun. The girl whose biggest worry was how perfectly perfect her lesson plans were or having things checked off of a checklist. Who is that???
Nope, not for me. I’m ok right here in the present. I’m not that girl anymore…I have been changed forever. Consider this post my TimeHop for the day.
Today is all I have and all I can count on…even when my ‘today’ is hard.
If you are thinking about Callie too, please wear yellow on the 27th and 28th to remember her. You have no idea how much it means to us when people say her name and honor her life. It truly means the world. Please do an act of kindness. Give a hug. Spread some love.
It’s nice to know that, because of her, the world is a little bit better and a little bit more sunshiny.
There was a time, about two weeks before Callie’s birthday, when I considered driving straight to my therapist’s office and camping out in the waiting room until she could work me in. I haven’t been back since my last visit, and I know if I needed to it would be ok. When I stopped to think about what was behind that feeling, I realized that what I was really craving was the time to grieve. At therapy, I always had time to grieve.
It’s not that I couldn’t grieve at home. I could, and I did. But life, as it should, has marched forward. Most of the time, this is fine. More than fine…it’s wonderful! But with Callie’s birthday looming on the horizon, I found myself needing the time to remember, to cry, and to feel. I was so busy with life that I couldn’t find much time to deal with it. And so, the flashbacks snuck in. Not quite as vivid as before, but still sharp and scary.
Thank goodness for a snowy January.
I was given lots of little gifts of time this month. So, I took advantage of them. If I felt like looking through Callie’s scrapbook while Charlotte napped, I let myself. If I wanted to smell the hat that she wore, I did. If I wanted to reread our own story on the pages of this blog, I gave myself permission.
Most importantly, on her special days, John and I took time off to spend them together. We reread every single sympathy card. We napped on the couch and watched the clouds go by. I let out a few big ugly cries.
We coped. We got by. We did it.
John and I were so touched by all the messages, cards, gifts, and phone calls that we received to tell us that you were thinking about us. We especially loved seeing all the yellow that you wore. It made us smile to think of how many people were wearing our sunshiny color in the middle of such a blustery winter.
And wouldn’t you know it? It was a beautiful, sunny day, ending with an amazing sunset on Callie’s birthday when we tied balloons to the cross. And when we let them go, the sun peeped out and shot sunbeams all around us. She was with us then, just as she always is.
It’s the last day of January. Thank you for doing so many acts of kindness! Many of you used the K4C theme of “Yellow”:
Yellow foods for the food bank, a yellow basket of sunshine for sorority sisters during recruitment, a yellow car freshener and free car wash to the next car in line. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! And so many others wrote to me to tell me about sponsoring meals for those in need, paying for the next meal in line, picking up the tab for a friend, and the list goes on and on. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart! Knowing that so much kindness can come out of something so sad, really has a way of changing the way you look at things.
Thanks for the smiles. We needed every one of them.
Stay tuned for February’s K4C theme: Hearts!
Have you ever stopped and listened to the lyrics of You Are My Sunshine?
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, You make me happy when skies are gray, You’ll never know dear, how much I love you, Please don’t take my sunshine away…
To my ears, it ends with a desperate plea: Please don’t take my sunshine away.
Why did she have to go?
The second verse:
The other night dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms, But when I awoke, dear, I was mistaken, So I hung my head and cried…
My very last thought every night for the past two years is of holding you in my arms, Callie. As I settle into dreams, I often pretend I can see you.
Can you see me?
2:37 a.m. this morning marked two years since your birth on January 27, 2012. This is our song. It is a happy song, but one with a sad ending. I wish I could change the lyrics, but then it wouldn’t be our song anymore, would it?
Happy birthday in heaven sweet girl. You are loved. You are missed. You mattered. You were here.
Now, you are there.
…But remain forever in our hearts.
Please wear yellow in Callie’s memory tomorrow and Tuesday. It would mean a lot. And please go do something nice for someone else.
Thank you so much for the thoughts, prayers, cards, and gifts. We are lucky to be surrounded by so many wonderful people.
I will always carry you, Callie. All my life.
In the low light of evening, I paused and looked back at the office building behind me. My eyes searched for the light of the room I have come to visit regularly for a year and half. Finding it, I took a deep breath, wiped a tear, and turned back to my car.
That first step forward felt important. Like I had just walked into a new existence. I felt a sense of peace wash over me and I knew it was right, leaving there.
I had said goodbye to my therapist.
When I started going after Callie died, she told me that I would know when it was time to stop. And I did.
It was time. I had realized that mostly our last few sessions had just been about life. Normal life stuff. And that the few times that it was grief stuff, I could handle it without much help anymore.
She had done that for me. Taught me how to handle it. She listened as I cried, questioned, worried, and reminded me that it’s ok. It’s all ok. I let it all out there. She heard my darkest thoughts and helped me let go of my guilt for them. I learned so much about myself, beyond the grief. Even though it was terrible circumstances that made our paths cross, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
We had a great goodbye, with a few tears. She told me that yellow will always make her think of me and of Callie. Butterflies will always make me think of her, but I don’t know if she knows that.
I never hugged her after our sessions even though I always wanted to.
Except the last time.
A big hug. And a farewell to the most wonderful person that I hope to never see again.
I’ve got this now.