Thursday, September 29, 2016

Last Night

Last night Simon woke up crying just after midnight, moments after my own tired head melted into the softness of my pillow.  I'm not sure why he woke up.  Teething? Cold? Hungry? Wet?  My tired brain can never really figure it out.  Sometimes on really bad nights I change diapers, add a sleep sack, open windows, and dispense Ibuprofen in hopes that I've covered all my bases and we can all sleep peacefully for a few consecutive hours.    

After letting him cry for awhile and whispering prayers to heaven that he would just fall back asleep, I flopped my legs to the floor and wandered into his darkened bedroom.  When my eyes finally adjusted and focused I saw him sitting against the crib slats looking almost as disoriented as I felt.  I gently laid him back down and gave him his pacifier which he angrily grabbed and threw across the crib, as if he was offended by the suggestion that he could be soothed so easily.  He rolled over and around his blanket like a crocodile in a death roll and eventually bumped his head on the corner of the crib crying out even louder and longer than before.  

Afraid he would wake Clara I gathered up his fuzzy blanket and hoisted his pajama clad body over the crib rail.  We settled into the chair next to his crib and I laid his long body across mine.  At first he tossed and turned and wiggled, but then slowly let himself relax into me as I brushed his wispy hair with my fingers.  His body became heavier and softer and his breath slower.  I traced figure eights across his back until sleep returned. I shifted my weight to move him back into bed, and then stopped.  My inner voice whispered "stay awhile" and so I held him longer.  I brought his face to mine and felt the warmth of his velvet cheek.  I breathed in the sweet smell of his hair, a combination of sweat and lotion and grass and love.  I noticed the way he felt in my arms - simultaneously long and lanky and yet small enough to hold forever.  

I held him longer because I remembered this very night five years ago when I held his brother the same way. A sharp cry in the middle of the night.  A bottle made.  A diaper changed.  A sweet boy soothed and cherished.  I felt something hold me back that night too.  Something that said "stay here longer" "remember this." And I did. I held his brother, and smelled his sweet smell, and let his feathery hair brush across my lips.  I pushed away the exhaustion and stayed in that moment with him until we were both full of love and memory, not knowing then how much i would need to remember. The next morning would be our last together in this life. 

I thought about that moment 5 years ago as I held Simon and it scarred me.  The need to stay longer, to soak it all in, felt like a bad omen.  I've often thought that I was given that prompting to hold Jonah longer because God knew I would lose him the next day, and maybe that is the truth.  But as I held Simon and shook off the superstition of losing him I realized that voice is always with me as a mother.  It whispers to me everyday, "be here, be present."  Sometimes I'm too tired or distracted or frustrated to hear it.  Sometimes I hear it and ignore it and go about checking items off of my to-do list.  But in the middle of the night when the world is quiet and the room is dark, I listen.  Not because calamities are coming, but because life is fleeting.  

I am reminded that tomorrow everything will be different.  My babies will be one day older, and they will know new things, and say new words, and climb on top of the table.  Eventually they will sleep all night, and then sleep too much.  Someday they will not fit in my arms or even want my touch.  They will make choices and mistakes, and the only thing I can do about it is to listen to that voice, to be present, to be slow, to smell their hair and listen to them giggle, to let my muscles memorize their heaviness.  Beyond that I am powerless. No matter what I do, tomorrow will come and bring with it all of the possibilities of joy and sorrow.  

I believe that voice is always present, always reminding us to notice the life we've been given.  We may only notice it when tragedy visits us, but I have a feeling it is always there.  

Eventually I moved Simon back to his bed, gave him his pacifier and covered him with his blanket.  I slipped back into bed beside Jordan, and pulled the comforter up around my shoulders. As I drifted off to sleep I heard a gentle rustling and then Clara's distinctive sputtering cry.  I held my breath for a moment and waited. Then I left the warmth of my bed to hold my little girl.  

When I woke, bleary eyed, in the morning I wondered what this day would bring. Today is a day of sorrow for us and for remembering.  It is the day we said goodbye to our first born and learned what it meant to be broken and bruised. 
I hoped for a day of happiness and peace and a nap.  As I remembered the loss I experienced five years ago I tried to listen for the voice.  I heard it when Simon and Clara spread tuna fish all over their faces at lunch and when we visited their brother's grave.  I heard it when we sat in the late afternoon sun watching the babies throw birdseed toward a roving flock of chickens.  I heard it when our family gathered for dinner, and when Simon splashed in the bath until the water ran out. "This is important" it whispered, "be here." 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

One Year

There has been something so familiar about this past year.  Even though having twins is very different than having a single baby, the flow and seasons of this year have matched those of Jonah's year with us.  Jonah was born on the 14th of July and our twins were born on the 22nd, five years and one week apart.  As a result, every milestone and every "first" has followed a similar chronology.

Jonah's first smiles came in the fall and this year as the leaves fell Simon and Clara started to smile.  In the winter Jonah began to roll and scoot and Simon and Clara followed his example.  This spring Simon and Clara ventured outside and explored the grass and leaves and tried to eat them, and as I watched them I thought about Jonah tasting rocks and dirt and crawling through the grass.  And summer...summer is by far the sweetest: playing in the water, swinging, exploring the neighborhood, climbing, walking, and celebrating first birthdays.  It's all the same.  When I hold Simon next to me and feel his weight and the way he turns to direct me through the world I think of Jonah.  When Clara squeals in delight as she gets in the bath and splashes water all over her face but doesn't seem to care, I think of him.  I see him in every moment I share with his brother and sister.  In a way it is so comforting and beautiful, and it also scares me.

I am constantly reminded that we only had one year with Jonah; We had one Halloween, one Christmas, one birthday.

We celebrated the twins' birthday last week and even that echoed the experience of their brother.  We played in the yard with grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and cousins.  It was a hot afternoon, even in the shade of our giant walnut tree.  The air smelled the same - a combination of heat, and wind, horses, and grass.  We played in the water to cool down, ate fried chicken, opened presents, and watched excitedly as Simon and Clara approached their first cupcake with caution followed by full bodied appreciation.

When I think about Jonah's birthday I think about what I didn't know.  When Jonah turned one we didn't know that we would only have two more months with him. We didn't know that a small fruit snack could take the life of our precious boy. We didn't know that he would leave our family and in his absence a crushing sorrow would emerge.

Sometimes I wonder what I don't know now.

As we celebrated together I thought about time passing or rather marching, marching toward September. There is something in the familiarity and passage of time that makes me feel like I'm headed towards the same experience.  I realize that August and September were the last months I had with Jonah, and I wonder what the future holds.  It is a hard feeling to shake.

The weather at Simon and Clara's party was bizarre.  One moment it was blazing hot, followed by a swift thunderstorm, then giant raindrops, and back to scorching heat.  Those who attended moved quickly between the shade of trees, the shelter of our garage, the warmth of the sun, and the protection of patio umbrellas.  It rained on our chicken and cupcakes and presents.  My mom mentioned that she was looking for a rainbow, but none appeared. The sky only held black rain clouds or blinding sunshine.

At the end of the party the showers drifted towards the mountains and the sun was lower against the western sky.  As we cleaned up and said our goodbyes I looked towards the east, past the large pine tree in our yard.  I looked towards the same patch of sky on the day of Jonah's funeral, when the weather was identical: hot, then stormy, then peaceful.  That day two rainbows appeared like a message from heaven and temporarily calmed my troubled heart.

In this moment, just above the mountain a faint rainbow appeared, peeking through, as if not wanting to steal away our attention.  I stood on my patio and watched Simon and Clara playing with their cousins under the shelter of the pine, unaware of the beautiful rainbow above them.  I thought of Jonah and my heart hurt and soared at the same time.  The women I love gathered around me on the hot cement and looked toward the sky.  It seemed clear that they knew what I knew.  We simply said "Jonah." "He came."  And we believed it was true.

Rainbows are symbols.  They are symbols of promises and peace and freedom and love.  They are symbols of a protecting hand.  The two rainbows I saw on the day we said goodbye to Jonah felt like a promise that God knew my pain and that someday things would feel right again.  And even though that seemed impossible at the time, it was true.  Our lives feel good and whole again.

This rainbow felt like a different promise, a promise that Jonah was still a part of our family, and that there would be many happy days ahead.  I felt overwhelming gratitude for such a simple but profound moment, looked up to the heavens, and believed it was true.

Be of good cheer.  The future is as bright as your faith. - Thomas S. Monson