I sat outside surrounded in the wheeze of late summer bugs and watched the clouds roll in over my head. The sinking sun held hands with the coming clouds and shook them gold. The whole sky glowed. My skin began to hum. I sunk back in my patio chair and let the sky take my full attention. My arms splayed open to receive.
It had been a long few days. My husband was out of town on business and the school year had begun. My oldest was now a kindergartner, my middle born was attending a daycare for the first time, and my youngest, he had gone unspoken as I moved through my hours. I was back to work after almost two years working at home. It was painfully unnatural to not speak his name. The loss of his life was like the sky; it covered everything. Even in the constant motions of relaunching my career, I thought of him often. His name was always on the tip of my tongue, but I would bite it back. Holding his name in causes a wear mark, which turns sore and becomes infected. Left unchecked and untended, the grief festers and makes the whole body sick. I could feel the build up in my bones as I sat there under the sky. And then, on the fifth day of work, the build up burst.
During lunch, a tablemate asked if this was my first year in this line of work. It was a bit complicated to explain why I suddenly found myself back at work when we had moved away from Omaha because I was no longer going back to work. I shared Reece’s story as briefly as I could and made it known that some days are still hard. I walked back with a different coworker who had listened in and there, in the hallway, she told me her older brother died of leukemia when he was two. Her mother, now in her eighties, still tears up when she talks about him. Losing a child is the most unnatural type of loss.
An hour later. “You used to live in Omaha? Why did you move to Lincoln?” One student asked me and to avoid the complicated answer, I simply told her it was my husband’s work. Not the whole truth, but she is an 18 year old girl I don’t know.
Another student caught wind of my “moved from Omaha” story and wanted to know why I moved to Lincoln. I replied simply that it was a long story. He teased me with some sarcastic teenage remark and I simply said, “Well, our third son died, so it’s complicated.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” He said, this 18 year old boy.
“He died at birth,” I added, thinking maybe that would be enough detail so we could move on.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. That’s so sad.” I nodded quickly, ready for a change in topic. It wasn’t coming.
“That happened to my mom.” My heart leapt. What?
He began to detail the events of his mother’s stillbirth and how this baby would have been his older brother. He knew it all and spoke of it so openly.
I sat and listened, letting what was happening to me sink in. I nodded. He returned to his worksheet. I sat in stunned silence. An eighteen year old boy had just soothed my throbbing wound. I could feel the tears of gratitude welling behind my eyes.
On the ride from work, I cried the whole way to daycare pick up. I had held Reece’s story in all week and when I bravely shared it, I was met with not just sympathy but with stories of children gone too soon. I can’t help but to feel that these people were placed around me strategically, hand chosen by God to lift me from my knees in a very vulnerable situation. What could have been horribly awkward and painful was soothed by people of all ages willing to share. I was brave for one minute and what I learned will continue to resonate with me. I don’t feel the pressing need to shout Reece’s name through the hallways anymore. I have been seen. I was brave for one minute and I was heard.
The human condition is so complicated, but people understand loss more than we give them credit.
Be brave. Share the story. Love out loud.