[march 25, 2011]
It was 2am and everything was a blur. My face was soaked with tears, my eyes were red and blotchy, my heart felt relieved and broken all at once. Kari lived, Margot died.
A nurse waited outside our door with a baby cart from labor and delivery. Her eyes were kind and her smile dripped with empathy, the raised corners of her thin lips said everything that needed to be said. I’m so sorry.
We took some pictures with Margot. We said things to her. We kissed her cheeks. And then it was time. I picked up her swaddled body, pressed her against my chest and walked out to the nurse. She stood off to the side as I gingerly placed my daughter in the cart.
As Margot rolled away, I turned back towards our room, towards my wife who was pushing her morphine button with one hand and waiting for my hand with the other. And that was that. She was gone.
There was little sleep that night. I could physically feel the brokenness of my heart, rapid beats interspersed with slow, monotonous pumping. It felt like it was fragmented into three parts and spread throughout the city. One piece was at home with Stella, who was sleeping peacefully, innocence still intact. One piece with my Kari, the first to get my heart a decade earlier. And one piece went rolling away with Margot, slowly cracking as it followed her down the halls toward the morgue.
As a father to Stella, I have been there, with her, almost every step of the way from the very first ultrasound to last night, when we sang row your boat in our funny voices before bedtime. We took baths together when she was a baby and we went to the doctor together for shots. I was there for her first words and first steps and first friendships. She is simply always in our care, or in the hands of our family or housemates or friends. She has never been alone in her life, she has never felt a moment of being lost.
But there Margot went, off without us, alone for the first time after only nine hours in the world. Her father was missing and she was alone and this still pains me to no end.
I wish I could have rolled away with her that night, my hands on her cheek and chest. I wish I could have sat by her in the morgue. I wish I could have held her as she rode to the clinic for surgery. I wish I could have watched over her as they opened her heart and removed her valves. I wish I could have told the coroner her tragic story as he tried to make sense of her death. I wish I could have been on the freeways with her, roaming around Los Angeles, from clinic to hospital to funeral home to cremation center. I wish I could have been there when she was cremated and I wish her sacred ashes were never in the hands of impassive strangers.
The irony in all these wishes is that she has always been here with me. For somewhere that night, perhaps after I finally fell asleep, her presence filled that cracked piece of my heart that followed her down the hall and made it’s way back to me.