The Eleventh Month

Thursday, July 03, 2003

I was and still am completely overwhelmed by everything that happened over the past week. It meant so much to me that A. came down for the dedication. I am so touched that she did that. Every time I think about it I start to cry (again).  I am still on such a high from the whole thing. It went so much better than I had even hoped. I haven't felt so happy in a long time. And it felt so right to have her there to share in it.

J. and G. from work told me that they stayed a lot longer than they expected to and that they really enjoyed themselves. I found out that C. had come into my office last week to download a picture of Abigail from the website to print out on my printer for the cake. Then when I got in to work Monday, there were already pictures from the dedication on the screensavers that we use throughout the plant to broadcast information. J. had brought her pictures in and C. had hurried to get them on there so they would be there when I arrived. Once again, the emotion hit me when I realized how much effort and sneaking around they were doing to support me.

Today I called a mom who had signed Abigail’s guestbook, and realizing that she “knew” Abigail but not me, I introduced myself as "Mindy, Abigail's mom". Boy was that neat! That was the first time I had done that and it felt so good. I hope I get to do that again!

Sunday, July 6, 2003

I am totally amazed at how well I have been doing the past week. Wednesday didn’t phase me – even though it was the day we had gotten the diagnosis. Friday was the 4th, and we went to a friend’s for her open house with a couple from our old church, who stopped at our house for a few minutes first. I was fine, but it is so strange to just avoid talking about Abigail. I was really hoping to show them some of her pictures, but everyone is so afraid of death that they won’t mention it and I still feel awkward about bringing her up. It bothers me a little in theory, but not really emotionally. Then we went to a party to watch fireworks. It was the same party we had gone to last year, just 2 days after getting Abigail’s diagnosis. I remember being in such a daze and I feared having flashbacks this year. Hardly anyone was there until just before dark, and I had no flashbacks or anxiety; just kind of enjoyed it.

Yesterday I called A. It was nice to just talk, and to go ahead with our plans to meet. I am so glad she still wants to get together again soon. I was still feeling very good, but we talked about the weirdness of being between 2 worlds: sadness and enjoyment, on the holiday. We are too close to the sadness, and know too many going through it now, to really just have fun. So we have a melancholy feeling. It is true that the joy has some sorrow and the sorrow has some joy. I think we see emotions in full color now, not just in black and white. It is strange, but deeper than before.

Tonight Nathan did something unusual after church. We were alone out on Abigail's Playground and I was pushing Sarah on the swing when Nathan walked over to the baby swings and started pushing one of them. He asked if I knew who he was pushing, and I asked, "Who?" And he said, "Abigail." He pushed her for several minutes, then he picked her up out of the swing and carried her over to the glider. On the way, he said, "You're heavy, Abigail." Then he put her on one side of the glider and sat on the other and swung for a while. Then he stopped, got her off the glider and asked her if she wanted to go down the slide. So he climbed up and went down the straight slide on the back, with her in his lap. Then he carried her around the playground, walking back and forth, talking to her so I couldn't hear him. Then he told me he was taking her to the van. Steve said he came into the building carrying her and told him he was taking her to the van. He put her in the middle seat and buckled her in.

Of course, by the time they were on the glider I was in tears. It was really unusual; he had never done anything like this before and he wasn't being silly or putting on a show. He was acting so much the big brother, showing Abigail her playground and it seemed so real. I guess that's why I described it the way I did, as if it were real. It was very touching and very wonderful.

Monday, July 07, 2003

I have really been feeling a lot better. I really feel like I have turned the corner. Not that I’m not still sad. Not that it’s not still hard. Not that it doesn’t really hurt sometimes and still feel like it used to. But I am really getting better. I am content. I feel joy. I sometimes really have fun. I am starting to find a few other things somewhat interesting besides just Abigail. I really think that I am feeling Abigail with me instead of not with me. And the thing with Nathan last night I think was Abigail telling me that she IS with us and that she is having fun and that we should, too. Sarah is so precious. This morning she was still sleeping when I was leaving, so I gave her a kiss and she rolled over, still half-asleep, and said, “give me a hug” So I did, and another kiss, and told her to go back to sleep and she nodded. What a precious, sweet girl.

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Yesterday I got a letter from our health insurance saying that "our records indicate that Abigail G. Wilsford will be age 1 on 8/27/2003." It went on to say they needed a SS number for this dependent or they will be unable to process claims for this dependent beginning 8/27/2003. I thought it's probably time I update the records properly. Right after she was born, I called to enroll her in the insurance, but since she had already died by then, I told them to then remove her in a couple weeks after the claims got processed. I remember telling her "this is hard enough, I'm not calling back again." Well, of course, she's still on the records. I figured I was ready to update it now. I decided to do it online so I didn’t have to talk with anyone.

Before changing it, though, I went through all the screens and printed out every place that had her name on it. It's so neat to see a bill for Abigail Wilsford for room and board at the hospital. So after doing that, I proceeded into the update section. You have to select the dependent's name and then click on either "change" or "delete". What sensitive programmer picked "delete"? Couldn't they have said "remove" or something? I don't want to delete Abigail! But I proceeded. And when I selected the reason as "deceased", a pop up appeared saying something about Contact your employee care coordinator. So there's the sensitivity and concern! So when I finished, the screen notified me that the "Dependent was successfully deleted" and had her name and deceased kind of grayed out. What a wonderful thought! And then when I went back to the dependents screen, yep, they were right - she was successfully deleted! No sign of Abigail there! So I ended up having a good cry, but I recovered. It didn't ruin my whole day. I was right, I was ready to do it, but that doesn't mean it wasn't hard.

It is strange; often I am feeling more detached from things like this or stupid or insensitive things. I feel more like I am observing them with intellectual curiosity rather than something that generates emotion. And if they do generate emotion, it is much more brief, then back to the objectivity. I feel the need to let people know about their faux pas, but to educate them instead of in anger or frustration or hurt. Is it because I'm getting better?

I am so looking forward to getting together with A. again. It feels so good to be looking forward to things, and once again I am realizing just what a boost she gave me by coming to the dedication. I hadn't realized just how important the dedication would be to me. I don't know why. I just figured the playground itself was the main thing; for the dedication we would have a little picnic and that's about it. Then when it got closer and we did the invitations and all, I guess it started hitting me that the event itself was a lot more important to me than I realized. It was so wonderful to have so many people there because of Abigail. And it was even better because it was joyful and fun because of her. It's as if the joy from that night is another part of her that I now have with me FOREVER. No one can take it away. She's not here with me, but yet she IS. It's in a secret way, but very joyful. I wish everyone could understand the excitement I have about my daughter - kind of like when you're newly pregnant and no one else knows yet. Just your own little wonderful, incredible secret. That's how I feel about Abigail right now. It seems that the dedication was another big step in my healing. Huge. I figured the playground would be, but the dedication itself was huge.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Is the grief still just as strong but changing its form now? There seems to be this somber thread that runs through everything now. I'm not down all the time or anything, but that thread just keeps coming back. All week we were having VBS and the playground was crawling with kids afterwards - it made me feel so good. But last night the weather was just like it was for the dedication - the same shadows and "feel" - except that everyone had left and the playground was empty. I just had a really strong urge to burst into tears, but I resisted it. That's strange for me, because I don't usually fight it like that. Yes, seeing kids on the playground is very joyful, but the empty playground is maybe too symbolic.

I have noticed that lately I have had a few times where the sadness wells up in me and I just start sobbing. It's very brief, maybe just a minute, but very intense. It's like there are these pockets of pain deep inside that suddenly come to the surface. But it doesn't last very long at all. So I guess this is a new phase.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Today I wrote something that describes what this grief is like to post on the T18 board. It is an allegory about mountains and valleys called “The Journey”.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

I have been doing pretty well lately. Yesterday I had lunch with S. And while we were there, I saw a couple with two babies, about Abigail’s age, a boy and a girl. And we watched them for a while, smiling at them. And then suddenly I felt the grief well up in me again and I started to cry, really cry. I put my head down and cried and just about sobbed, getting my breath. S. asked if there was anything she could do, and I told her no, that I’ve been having these very intense, very brief attacks lately.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Steve and I went to Atwood Friday night to celebrate our anniversary. Due to stormy weather we ended up eating at the lodge first, then going out in the boat. It was a beautiful, cool night after the storms passed. We went out and then turned off the motor and then drifted as we watched the sun set. It was very peaceful and relaxing and beautiful. Of course I took some pictures, and of course at one point I started crying. We talked about how hard this past year has been and how we don’t both have the same approach to Abigail’s death. I can really tell how far I’ve come, though, because it was part of the night, but not all of it. And it didn’t really affect the rest of our time. Just like Abigail is becoming part of my life, but not all of it. She’s still a big part, but not all of it anymore.

We went to the county fair Saturday. The church booth at the fair is right next to the Right to Life booth. They have all these model fetuses on display and pictures of developing babies. And they were having a cutest baby contest, too. So, as usual, I couldn’t help but look, but it was hard. As we were leaving, Nathan walked up to the display and started asking questions. So I took a deep breath and thought, “here goes” and went over to it. It was so strange. I agree with what they’re saying, but it is so hard to see the displays. And in a way, Abigail should be a poster child for right to life, and I wanted to tell them her story so badly. But I didn’t think it was appropriate. So I showed Nathan the models and let Sarah hold the weighted dolls and I tried not to think too much about it all so I wouldn’t start to cry. It was a battle; I teared up but didn’t cry.

Sunday had a rough spot or two as well. I ended up choosing the dress that I had worn to Abigail’s service. It was the first time I had worn it since then. I commented that it was a little more snug then and just felt that sad irony that I often feel when I observe things like that. It wasn’t really a big deal, but it is now symbolic as well. Again, another thing linked to Abigail. At church, a couple of people complimented me on the dress, and I thought about the last time I wore it, but didn’t mention it. They wouldn’t have understood why I even thought about it. But so many things are now symbolic and if they could understand that’s the way I think now, that might make them accept it better. This truly is another world we are in.

When we went to a restaurant for lunch we were sitting in the back where they have the big tables and right next to us came a family with a really tiny 3 month old girl. They sat her car seat directly across from me; I could either sit 6 inches from her facing away or across the table looking at her. It didn't bother me until she started crying and they were trying to give her a bottle and I just couldn't hold it together. I didn't totally lose it or anything, but I had to get up and walk around the corner and I was starting to cry. I ended up going outside because I didn't want to stand there like an idiot, crying. Once again, it was only a couple of minutes and it wasn't as bad as it used to be, but it was hard. And I went back in and I did ok. But I couldn't take my eyes off her - she was so tiny and so cute and she was their fourth child (not fair!!!). I just wanted to go tell her mom to savor every moment with her. But, this is my life now so I have to deal with it.

When we got home, we found that A. had called. And Steve started making fun of me by saying, “now your day’s complete because” and he waved his arms around and bounced up and down and said in a sing-song voice, “A. called. A. called.” And he kept, out of nowhere, saying, “5 days until A.” in the same manner. It was funny.

Yesterday the board had been down for over 24 hours and N. sent me a rather panicked email. Boy, do I remember those days! I had been thinking about emailing her, but I decided to call her. And it was good to have some time to talk with her. It is so hard to watch someone have to go through all of this for the first time: discovering that no one understands, that they won’t talk about your baby at all, that your husband is on a totally different track than you are, figuring out how to behave in public and with family. There is so much I want to tell her, to help her figure it out sooner than I did. But I can’t. I wouldn’t have heard it from someone else, and she won’t either. We each have to go through it and discover it on our own. And it’s nice to have someone beside us to reassure us that we’re doing ok by working through it as we are. I hope I can do that for her.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Monday I decided to make something for A. by finding a picture of mountains and putting in something about going on the journey together. But Tuesday night, I started thinking about writing a “poem” for Marie to post on her birthday. So when I got home I started jotting down some of the thoughts and phrases that I wanted to use. Then I started rearranging and changing it and before I knew it I had something. It wasn’t perfect, or even great, but it was from the heart. And it was for Marie. And I decided I couldn’t wait for her birthday, that I wanted to give it A. this weekend. As I worked on it, I thought about the pictures I took last week at Atwood of the sunset and decided to use one. And it started to come together. I was really happy with it when I went to bed. But by morning, I was re-reading it and getting more and more critical of it – should I change this word? Is this phrase right? And then I started thinking it wasn’t that good at all. But it’s from the heart. So I went and framed it yesterday.

I showed it to K. and C. to get their opinion. I am surprised by how much I am trying to talk myself out of this – that it really isn’t very good. It looks very nice and it is from the heart. Whether or not the words are very good is yet to be seen. But I am going to give it to her. I mentioned it in an email to her last night so I couldn’t chicken out.

Posted on the T18 board:
The length of someone's life has nothing to do with its value. In many ways we could argue that these babies' lives have more value than others; at least, they affect more people. My daughter Abigail has changed my life more profoundly than either of my other children, and I am better for it. A woman in my church recently told me that even though Methuselah lived 969 years, nothing significant was noted about his life, just that it was long. But, she said, Abigail only lived 5 days and look at all the people she has touched.

I just want people to understand that our babies are not statistics or diseases or syndromes. They are beautiful, loved children who change our lives and our hearts forever. They are such precious gifts - so special that no one else can really understand it. I feel sorry for others who will never understand what a gift they are - they are missing out. It hurts so much to let them go but it is worth it for what they give us.

What an incredible legacy these babies leave!

Friday, July 25, 2003

Finally, it was time to go see A. As I left, Steve said, “3 hours to A.!” I truly enjoyed the drive – the sky was blue with big fluffy clouds and coming over hills, the sky above the green trees was breathtaking. Another day I associate with Abigail – the same weather as the dedication, her birth, the day she came home, and her burial.

It was so wonderful to get together. We just talked and talked until we decided to go eat dinner at an Italian place nearby. Before dinner I gave her the poem and picture that I had framed for her. And she kept telling me she really liked it and she kept looking at it and reading sections of it and mulling them over. It was really neat. I think she really did like it. After dinner we went back and hooked up the VCR and watched a video of Abigail, then of Marie. It was so neat to see each other’s stories and to hear how we each interpreted the other’s situation. We talked and talked until we finally decided to turn off the light and get some sleep about 1 am. In the morning, after we exchanged “good mornings” she said, “I wanted to ask you about the Right-To-Life Booth.” It was funny; we just picked up right where we left off. Then we took a walk, talking the whole time, of course. And we decided we wanted to watch the video of Marie’s funeral, which we had to do before noon since that was checkout.

I cried a great deal during the video: just watching them go through it, the songs, and the message the minister presented. As we were packing to check out, I was overcome with emotion again and nearly started sobbing, bending down with my head in my hands. What a powerful thing, to see the service. I also got very emotional looking at her scrapbook that afternoon, especially seeing M. at the funeral carrying the casket to the front and trying so hard just to hold it together. So I really did quite a bit of crying, but it was good.

Instead of being sad when I came back home, I feel good. I am more at peace, more settled, as if we were able to tie up a lot of loose ends. We got to really see each other’s videos and really look at the scrapbooks until we have “seen it all”. So it’s not like we won’t want to ever see them again, but there are no more “secrets” out there. And it feels good to have shared that much and to know that much about Marie. At dinner Saturday, we were talking mostly about other things: family, home, religion. We had moved to that point. So it was the right time to come home. Not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed staying longer, but I didn’t feel like things were unfinished. Now we can move on. We have now told the whole story and it feels complete. It met that need to talk and talk and talk. Now we are also talking about other things; moving on to other things. It feels so good. We are getting interested in life again; we are healing.

This was another key step in my healing. It wouldn’t have been this effective before, but this was just the right time and the right thing. Both the dedication and this visit were very intense and definitely focused on Abigail and Marie, but they had such a thread of joy running through them. Getting the sadness and emotion out was very healing and I feel very good. I told A. that although I know I’ll feel better later, I can’t imagine feeling better than I do now because I appreciate it so much and it is so much better than how I felt before. It just feels so good!

Monday, July 28, 2003

I feel so much more peaceful now, more settled. I even now have new resolve about work. I really think I am going to be able to turn it around and focus on work like I need to. I'm not sure why, but my time with A. made me realize I need to do it and that I CAN do it.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

It is just hitting me that Abigail’s birthday and homegoing day are less than a month away! I am closing in on the 1 year mark and it is weird. I feel like I should do something to recognize both days, but they are so close together that it is awkward. To top it off, Nathan's first day of school is on Abigail's birthday, then we have church in the evening. So I guess it will have to be something very simple. But that's ok; we already did the dedication. Anyway, I am working on writing something for her days.  I am thinking that on her birthday I want to focus on celebrating her life itself and that on her homegoing day I want to reflect on the past year's journey - kind of like people do on New Year's. Not that I really need to make the distinction, but as I have been writing I am realizing that there are those two different themes. And I really think I need to recognize both days or the whole thing may just run together for the whole 5 days. We are planning to go to Idlewild Park with people from church the Saturday in between; so I hope this approach will help me be able to enjoy that time with our family in between those two days.

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