How would you cope?

Friday, April 30, 2010 - Family, Me, Thoughts
Warning: This post contains sensitive and possibly controversial issues.  If you are easily offended or purposefully take offense at things that have nothing to do with you, then get lost.  If you choose to read on, keep an open mind and thank you.

I would love to say that this is hypothetical, but it isn’t.  It also isn’t my story to share, but because it’s crucial to the post, I will give some of the basics so that it makes sense.

My cousin Jacob and his wife Kayla were pregnant with twins.  One of the twins had a physical issue that would make survival difficult even if she carried them to term.  She went into labor about two months early.  One twin (Noah) is in NICU and the outlook seems pretty positive for him.  The other twin (Zane) didn’t survive.

As soon as I found out that my cousin was in the hospital because she went into labor early, I knew I would be spending a good portion of the evening at the hospital.  Jaime, of course, was with me.

When Jaime and I got to the hospital, we made our way to her room.  The first thing I noticed was how awful my cousin looked.  I know, no one wants to say that about a woman who has just given birth (or had a C-section, in her case), but it’s true.  The lack of sleep, the stress, and the grief were obvious on her face.

The second thing I noticed was that she was holding a baby.  This confused me because I thought that Noah was in NICU and wouldn’t be allowed in a regular room.  Then when Kayla told me that she was holding Zane, I was still confused and assumed that I had mixed up the names of their babies.

It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I got a good look at the baby’s face and realized that he wasn’t moving or making any noise that I realized my mistake.  I hadn’t mixed up the names and Noah was in NICU.

Some hospitals now allow mothers and families to keep their deceased babies with them in the room for a period of time to allow for closure and give everyone a chance to say a proper goodbye.

This practice is met with mixed feelings by many people.  Some, like me, see the sense in allowing the family (especially the mother, who has had months to bond with the child her body was nurturing) to say goodbye.  Some feel that it’s disgusting and unsanitary.  Still others seem to think that it’s just stupid regardless of sanitary or emotional issues.

I can see the reasons for the different reactions, but in the end, it’s up to the mother.  Does she need her baby’s body physically with her to understand that he/she is truly gone in order to say goodbye?  Does she need to kiss his/her forehead before allowing the hospital staff to take him/her away permanently?

Many mothers do, and there is nothing wrong with that.  It’s no different from a wake for a deceased adult, with the exception of body size.

When Honey, my grandfather, passed away, I was living in Texas.  I was home for the weekend because it was Mother’s Day.  May 13, 2006, in the very early morning hours, my mom came into the room I was sleeping in and told me to wake up.  It usually takes me a while to fully wake up, but there was something in her voice that had me jumping up immediately.  She woke my sister up the same way and told us that Honey had passed and that if we wanted to see him before he was picked up we had to go now.  Naturally, we went.

Honey was laying in his bed with his eyes closed when we got there.  It almost looked like he was asleep and I remembered spending many nights with him and Momo right in the middle of the two of them when I was younger.

I cried a little, but not for him.  I was crying for myself.  Honey was finally free of everything:  Alzheimer’s, pain, annoyances, frustration, everything.

I’m an Atheist, so I don’t believe in God, Heaven, or Hell, but I know that his last thought had to have been one of thanks for finally being set free of the prison his body and mind had become.

I kissed Honey on the forehead that night and told him I was going to miss him.  I remember how cold he was and how I knew that I wouldn’t touch him again.

I haven’t cried again because of his death; not at the wake nor at the funeral.  He wouldn’t have wanted that.  Sometimes, though, I’ll look at pictures or just play things back from my memory and I’ll tear up a little, but I don’t cry.

So, if it’s necessary for the vast majority of the human population to find closure and say goodbye at a wake or funeral for adults, then why is it any less necessary for a mother to hold tight to her infant who never got to experience the joys and sorrows of the world for himself and say goodbye with a kiss?

I didn’t hold Zane.  A very big part of me wanted to hold him, but the smart part of me knew that I would break down completely if I did.  I love babies.  Anyone who knows me even just the littlest bit knows that I love babies.  I couldn’t have handled holding Zane’s tiny little body knowing that he was never going to grow up in our wonderful family.  I chose not to hold him because I simply could not force Kayla to deal with me getting hysterical over the baby that she carried, nurtured, and protected.  In my mind, it would have been torture.

However, before I left, I kissed my fingertips and gently touched them to his forehead.  I managed to not tear up while I was in the room and I surprised myself by being able to completely hold in my tears even after we left the room.  (Probably because I cried a bit when I first found out several hours before we went to the hospital.)

The majority of my family believes in God, Heaven, and Hell, and it is very comforting to think of Zane being cuddled by Honey up in Heaven.  Who knows, there may be something out there.  Some form of afterlife or alternate reality where the essence of our very being (typically thought of as a soul) goes once our mortal bodies die.  If that is true, then I know that Honey will be looking out for little Zane and reminding him that our entire family loves him.

I have no real conclusion for this topic.  It was something that stuck in my head while I was at the hospital and then all night.  Posting about this is probably not politically correct, but I’ve never cared for that.

To my family, however, none of this was meant to offend anyone and I hope that it didn’t.  This is simply my way of coping.

Jacob, Kayla, Ethan, Noah:  I love you!  If you need anything, just let me and Jaime know!

Zane:  I love you, too, and if you’re with Honey, let him know that I miss him.  And let him know that I’m happy.  (I would write a message just for him, but we all know how he feels about computers and the Internet!)

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