Friday, June 02, 2006

Ten year old grief

I didn't know David Wilcox's intensity, crazy mad laugh, and profound poetry set to gifted guitar strumming would set me on a rather dark path I'd not journeyed for ten years. After all, I've never listened to any of his tunes before this evening; I'd only read some thoughtful lyrics over at Thicket Dweller's blog some time ago. Of course and as far as I know, David nor I had any idea that Bluebird would also attend his concert, and that the combination of his piercing musical questions and her presence would turn my mind toward unvisited deep shadows.

Bluebird is an utterly lovely woman I with whom I used to share friendship. Nita, another dear friend from that time, Bluebird and I chased three wild toddler boys together in a closely knit community. I remember Bluebird cracking me up with her quick wit explaining, "You have my completely DIVIDED attention" once when we were trying to speak in a hallway as her son dashed precariously toward a set of stairs.

Bluebird adopted her first son and encouraged us in our own adoption process. We waited with great joy and anticipation for her second son, a long awaited birth son to come after ten long years of infertility. Nita, our toddler sons and I visited Bluebird and her pink, healthy, beautiful bouncing baby boy, Michael, at the hospital a day or so after he was born. Buck and I may have taken a meal to their home in the busy weeks that followed as they settled into a new life with a toddler and an infant.

A few weeks later, Nita called me to let me know Bluebird had taken a tiny sick Michael to Children's Hospital. RSV. Nita and I didn't want risk adding further germs by visiting the hospital, and like all mothers who feel helpless and desperate to "do something", Nita and I asked permission to clean Bluebird's house. We madly scrubbed kitchen floors and cleaned toilets deeply concerned for the new boy's life. My heart ached terribly when I ran across a storehouse of milk I knew he wasn't able to take in. The day we cleaned, things had turned very serious for the newborn. In fact, we did end up going to the hospital, but not to visit; Nita and I proceeded to quietly pray in the waiting room. While we were there, sorrow of all sorrow, almost unspeakable so I'll whisper it to you now- Michael died in his mother's arms.

Bluebird had been told Nita and I were in the waiting room, and she asked to see us one at a time. I've never openly talked about this before, but now I somehow feel it important to share my journey after ten years of silence. When I entered the room with Bluebird and Michael, I didn't speak as I had no words. I carefully held back tears so as not to have Bluebird focus on my needs. I don't remember all her words, but she asked me to hold Michael one last time. She explained, the nurses had put a heating pad in his swaddling blanket, so we wouldn't notice as he lost his body temperature. My heart breaks, no explodes again at this moment thinking of taking that lifeless precious treasure in my arms and stroking his perfect little sweet pea face. "He's so beautiful, Bluebird. He's just so beautiful" I remember thinking, perhaps even aloud.

A few days later, Nita and I clung to each other during his funeral services where both Bluebird and her husband spoke, yes eloquently about their faith and the One guiding them through the valley of the shadow of death while my eyes stared at the swaddling blanket inconspicuously draped over Bluebird's empty arms beside a tiny coffin.

Unthinkable. Remarkable. Sacred. Breathing Saints.

A month or so later, Buck and I received the wide chocolate eyed newborn boy, Tator, who would become our adopted son after a few years of foster care in our home.

As David Wilcox wove song tales this evening, I revisited the circumstances of these two births. Michael, welcomed into this world, arms flung wide open by family and friends; Tator born without notice to a drug using runaway fourteen year old girl in foster care, Hannah. Baby daddy was nowhere. Hannah's birthmother and man rejected biracial origins from the word "go". Hannah's foster care worker mentioned something along the lines of"I've never seen a more emotional disconnected mother in my life." ( I'd like to also mention here that this changed drastically to deep bonds and intertwined hearts with lots of unconditional love poured into this dear girl from Tator, Buck, and myself over the next two years.)

I questioned God ten years ago and again tonight.


Why take Michael? Why allow Tator to be born under such difficult circumstances? Why did I get the opportunity to raise a child of the same age while Bluebird mourns? I didn't want to be the one given new life, if Bluebird lost hers. It didn't seem fair for me to be handed such incredible blessing, while Bluebird's blessing faded from natural sight. God WHO are you, and what are You up to exactly?

Why did I get to drag around a car seat and proudly display a gorgeous baby? Why did I get to watch his second first steps (Buck beat me to viewing his first steps at a birthday party across the street)? Why was I allowed to push a perfectly healthy boy in a swing? Why did I get to unlock the secrets of reading with a curious boy? What was so special about me that I get to watch him fall more in love with his guitar everyday? What on earth am I doing raising a fine ten year old boy whose sixth tooth fell out tonight?

Where is Michael now? Is he ten there? Does he carry a slingshot? Does he conceal a live turtle hidden in the folds of his summer shorts? Could he also somehow be with us tonight? Who watches over him where You are? Or are You really enough?

When Tator met Bluebird for the first time in his memory tonight, he had no way of knowing these thoughts and questions swirled like a tornado in my head. Bluebird had graciously bowed out of our friendship when Tator was a baby, because it was simply and obviously too painful for her. I wondered how she felt this evening looking over at my bright handsome guy , Tator, seated beside Buck and I. Did Michael find his way into most every David Wilcox song for her the same as he had for me? Did Bluebird silently let tears slip unnoticed down her cheeks as I did grieving for her boy again? Surely she did when David crooned something like "I feel you here with me though I don't see you. You are right here with me. You have always been with me. I hear you calling." In my mind's eye, I pictured a towheaded boy, arms sticking straight out from his sides making airplane wings, joyously and noiselessly weaving behind Bluebird on sea shore while she strolled toward the blazing sun unaware. At the concert, Bluebird sat at the table right next to mine, but I dared not look for pain in her eyes. She's faced an awful lot of that already, and I couldn't bear to see more.

Buck, Tator and I got back in the van to make our way home, after a painful yet lovely evening. I finally let it all go.

I cried. Out loud.

Tator and Buck sweetly comforted me after inquiries.

I don't know if I'll ever understand God's ways, and I certainly cannot explain why, but I still deeply know God is good.


Lisa said...

As a former foster child and current child advocate...

I would agree with you that it's hard to answer the question of "why."

Now, we look through a glass darkly and we only know in part. We can't trace the path. We don't know what's to come.

That's where faith comes in.

And sometimes, I can definitely see it. As a former foster child, I spent last weekend in Seattle, Washington for a summit of FCAA. (Foster Care Alumni of America)

I listened to other people's stories about their lives. How far they'd come to make it where they are today.

And I thought about the circle of my life so far... from rejection by my stepmother to foster care to agiing out, going to college and grad school, falling in love and eventually becoming a stepmom myself.

And, in that moment, it all made sense. Just a glimpse of certainty. The reassurance that God had encircled all of our paths and hadn't forgotten about any of us. Beauty from ashes. Trials into gold.

Thank you for the love and security that you have provided for Tator.

truevyne said...

Dear Lisa,
I have respect the size of NY for you. Foster care is so difficult to navigate. I remind myself all the time- everyone just gets ONE mother, no matter what kind of mother that is...

~m2~ said...

i am speechless. i was with two young teen-aged mothers-to-be today at work and walked through triage into labor and delivery for a young 19 year-old mama who had the adoptive mother as her labor coach and partner through the entire process. while she smiled so sweetly and was quite serious through the entire ordeal, when the baby was being cared for by our nursery nurse with adoptive mom looking on in glee, birth mom was gazing out the window while the doctor suture her incision.

she was here, but worlds away.

i told her after i took her to the room and adoptive mom went to see her baby how brave and courageous she was to have made such an incredible, life-affirming decision...she had been through a lot and i was uncertain if anyone acknowledged her through this process (i am sure adoptive mom did, she was wonderful too) -- this was long-winded from a speechless woman a mere two minutes ago, but i can identify with this thread of yours so deeply even though i have never experienced what you have.

peace, girl.

truevyne said...

"She was here but worlds away"
I so understand. Peace right back at you m2.

unquenchableworshipper said...

there are moments.. I'd like to be worlds away... but he's just so darn cute.