Children’s Hospital and HSC held a memorial service yesterday, to honor the children who’ve died between September of 2006 and August of 2007. We went, more out of obligation than anything else, arriving late to a room whose echoey acoustics were emphasized by a puny PA system. A man slouched into a couch in the back, snoring away while a lady plucked a harp up front. In between them, the chaplain was working her way through some well-worn words and standing beside grief-stricken family members sharing their reminiscences. Will’s doctor from HSC spoke a few words, and it was simultaneously soothing and painful to see her again. Most overwhelming was the fact that the names of the departed filled six columns: I flipped though the pages again and again, feeling the weight of my grief multiplied by so many others. A soloist struggled with the harpist to determine the key for ‘Amazing Grace’, we headed out into the courtyard to blow bubbles and release balloons, and then returned for a reception of soda and snacks while the staff members packed up everything for next year. As the small crowd began to disperse, we enacted a silent competition to fill our plates before the the staff fell on the cubes of cheese and crackers and pieces of fruit, dividing them up amongst themselves and perfuntorally thanking us for coming. (But that cheese platter and I are here because my son died, so I’m getting another plate, thankyouverymuch.)
One year later, I seem to have found peace with God, and some acceptance of the enigma of life and death. I’ve forgiven the real and imagined offenses of everyone involved– doctors, nurses, staff, friends, and family. But I keep interrogating myself, afraid that there is some huge, obvious Truth that everyone is protecting me from, or that I won’t allow myself to see. The worry starts at the end, and moves backward through time: what I did and didn’t do for him on that last night, the triumphant weight gain in the last month that might’ve been too quick, the push to take him home, the surgeries and interventions ad infinitum, all the way back to the days when we began to pursue infertility treatments. Interventions and options and medical advancements are wonderful, but bearing the responsiblity for the results of these choices might be more than a person should shoulder. I don’t want to stay here forever, and I’m beginning to see how that might be possible. My baby step? To read this book, which I’ve been avoiding for two months.