The following is the address I gave last night at the MISS Foundation's candle lighting service for National Children's Memorial Day. It was a beautiful evening, remembering our kiddos, talking about our kiddos, sharing it all next to dear family and friends. Thanks to Sari and our dedicated leaders for putting this together and inviting me to share.
Her and You, Then and Now
December 11th was a Saturday last year and already, our house was dressed in Christmas. Ornaments and colored lights adorned our tree. Festive trinkets were neatly placed around the house. An ironic glass snowman in the bathroom. A vintage santa clause on the bookshelf. And my relentless christmas playlist blared on repeat, pounding us with Mariah Carey and at least eleven of the sappiest versions of Silent Night that I could find.
On this day last year, my first child Stella and I played in the yard with our housemates. That evening, we prepared for our first christmas movie night by making popcorn and turning her room into a fort, outfitting our creation with a plethora of blankets and pillows. We watched a Charley Brown Christmas and snoopy's hysterical antics were the hit. And my wife Kari was twenty-four weeks pregnant with our second child, Margot June, and the holidays were a welcomed distraction from the hibernation that we normally go into during pregnancy.
Looking back on this day, I can almost smell the innocence on my breath. I can practically taste the richness of life, and feel the simplicity of my emotions.
Fourteen weeks later and twelve days before her due date, my blue eyed baby girl was dead.
The pain was, as you can attest to, more fiercely felt than I knew was possible, as if all of the heightened emotions I had ever experienced in my life were suddenly reduced to utter dullness in comparison. For the heart to swell with the deepest of love, and to break into a multitude of pieces, one right after the other, almost simultaneously, is something that only this unfortunate group can know.
I could have never imagined on that December evening, watching snoopy slide across the icy pond, that a mere fourteen weeks later I’d be facing the darkest of nights, smothered in anguish and sorrow.
But, such is life, I have learned.
It is full of accidents and full of fortune, full of complicated twists and full of predictable outcomes, full of beauty and full of gloom, full of exhaustion and full of youth, full of hope and full of despair, full of suffering and full of wellness. I have come to see these attributes of life as not either-or, but both-and-together. A freak accident took my daughter, a fortunate clotting of blood saved my wife. And on and on we could go, showcasing the audacity of life’s complicated nature.
I feel this new life around every corner, both the splendor and heartache of what it means to be alive, what it means to be fully human. I think of this more acutely, I feel of this more deeply, especially on a night like tonight.
Thirty-eight weeks after Margot died, the exact amount of weeks she was alive, I stand here with you. My fellow survivors. YOU who comprehend, YOU who whisper the names of our children, YOU who abide with us, YOU who we can be our whole selves with, YOU who usher us out of the loneliness, YOU who say, “I understand.”
I could have never imagined, on that dreaded day when my daughter was here and then wasn’t, that thirty-eight weeks later I’d be sitting here with you, facing our losses in abiding unison.
In you, in this society of the suffering, I see the beauty of life. And on this cool December evening, as we light our candles and remember our lost children, I see the hope, however soft and delicate it may be.