Writing in progress

From Truths


 When I start to come to, I see a nurse standing over me. At first I can’t even speak and the few words that I try to utter are indecipherable. After several tries and what feels like forever, I am finally able to get it out. “My son?” I ask. “Where is my son?”

 The nurse looks away and quietly says, “We have to get you stabilized and then a doctor will come in to talk to you.

 There is this silence that seems to stretch forever as I lie there trying to think about what those words might mean. “He must have Downs Syndrome,” I tell myself. “There must be some sort of issue like that.” One time, a few years back, one of our cats caught a blue jay and brought it to me. The bird was still alive and I tried to get the cat to let it go, but he held on to his quarry as though his teeth were stuck to it and no amount of pleading or yelling from me could make him let go. I think about that cat’s tenacity as I let my mind grasp that tiny possibility of hope that he has an extra chromosome, but it is not lost on me that this is a hell of a thing to be wishing for. My heavy eyes close and I see swirls of indigo as I drift in and out of consciousness.


A nurse with long dark hair walked into the room. She carried a shiny blue clipboard in her hand. “I’m sorry,” she said. “This is never an easy conversation to have, but I ask because I know that I would want to be asked if I were in your shoes right now. Have you thought about organ donation?”

He studied the swirl of the paint on the wall next to her head and didn’t answer. The room was soft blue. Maybe most of the world was blue and he hadn’t noticed it up until now.

 “I know that you might have some questions about organ donation and I can try to address any concerns or questions you might have,” she said.

 He flashed on a conversation he’d had with Lex a few years before. “If I ever die before you,” she’d begun and he tried to shush her, but she pressed on. “No, I want you to know this,” she had told him.

“I’m serious. I mean if something ever happens to me, I want you to, you know, give my heart and lungs and whatever else might keep someone else kicking a little longer, away. “ She smiled at him and sang, “Recycle, reduce, reuse, and close the loop.” He could hear the echo of Lexi’s laughter as he stood in the blue room with the woman holding the clipboard. At the time he had agreed with Lex. Now he just wasn’t sure. It was one thing to think about it in an obscure way and a whole other thing to face a nurse who could actually set the wheels in motion and Lexi meant herself, not the baby. What was he supposed to do?

 “But if he isn’t breathing,” he asked, “how is that possible?”

 “Your son’s heart valves and corneas could be used to help several other children,” she said.

Jake remembered sitting in the car listening to the radio and she shut it off right in the middle of an old Aerosmith song, just before Steven Tyler got a chance to finish ”Cryin”. She pushed her hair out of her eyes and sunlight caught her face, rendering him quiet. It was just a few minutes after she’d handed their last two dollars to a homeless woman on a streetcorner. He was giving her a hard time saying that the woman was just going to go buy some drugs or beer or something and that she wasted their money. Lexie was mad at him and kept insisting that it wasn’t up to her to worry about what the woman would do with the money, that she’d given it for the right reasons and that was all she had to think about.  “I would just always want to err on the side of helping someone else,” she’d said.

He shook his head, and whether he was trying to jiggle the memories out of his head or to force himself back into the conversation with the nurse, he wasn’t certain. He was standing outside of himself, watching as he had to make all these decisions and yet at the same time he was right smack in the middle of it, and words were tumbling out of him even in the middle of all of the confusion.

I just need some time to think,” he said. “And can I see him? Can I see my son?”

“Of course,” the nurse answered. “A nurse will take you to your wife’s room as soon as it’s ready. We’ll bring the baby to you there.”

He nodded. She touched his arm before moving away and he watched her leaving until she turned the corner.

By the time the second nurse arrived, he was pacing the room.

 “We can go now,” she said.

 He followed her down a long hallway as if they were in a maze. Finally they came to a nurse’s station and turned a corner. Six doors later, the young nurse stopped just outside the door and met his eyes.

“They’ve just brought her in,” she said. “She’s very tired.”

 “Does she know yet?” he asked.

 The nurse shook her head. “We thought it might be easier for her, if you were there too.”

 They entered the room and he saw that Lexi was lying in a hospital bed and had some tubes attached to her arm. Her eyes opened up a little and then closed again. He moved closer and when her eyes reopened he cleared his throat. “Lexi?” he began.

 It looked like she was trying to focus. He knew that it was up to him to tell her what happened. “He didn’t make it,” he said. She looks like she does not hear him, so he takes a deep breath and follows up those words with, “he died.”


When I wake up Jacob is standing in front of me. He looks peculiar. His eyes meet mine and there are these words coming from his mouth, but they seem to be originating from a distance a lot farther away, almost as if they come from the hallway outside of the room or something.

 “He didn’t make it,” he says.

 I spend some time trying to figure out what that means and he must see that the words are not reaching me, because he tries again. “He died.”

 Those words echo inside my head as though my body has become a cave. “He died, he died, died, died, died…died.”

 What?  It is as if I am a wall and the words are a ball volleying towards me. I won’t let them hit. I can’t, because that would mean that all of this is really happening and of course this can’t be happening. None of it can be true. I am overloaded by those words, so much so that I do not even have words inside me to use as a response. My eyes are still so very heavy and I am struggling to keep them open. I do not want to leave Jacob alone with this news, but in his own grief he turns away and I just can’t keep my eyes open anymore. As I climb back into the safety of sleep, I hear him say he is going to call family. Before the voices around me fade away, my last thoughts are that this is one small good thing.

 The woman with the blue clipboard is back. “Yeah,” he says. “We want to do this.”

 She tells him that the baby’s heart valves and eyes can be utilized and that he is making a selfless and loving decision that will help other families. He barely hears what she is saying over the din in his head as he signs the papers she has placed in front of him. He is numb.


 I can hear muffled bits and pieces of voices and some sound close and some sound very far away and then I think someone is calling my name. I am almost certain I hear someone say, “She has to wake up and hold the baby.” I keep trying to open my eyes.

And suddenly I feel a weight on my chest and as my eyes focus I can clearly see that it’s a baby.

This is the sound that comes out of me when I hold my son for the first time, “Oh!” His still warm body is wrapped in a white cotton blanket and he is wearing a little white onesie with colorful baby-sized hand prints across it. At first glance his face looks reddish and I can see that it is turning blue, but I am not seeing what he is right now. My eyes are soaking up what he should have been. I can see the slight curve of his nose and the shock of dark hair on his head. His eyes are closed, but I know the sky blue they would otherwise be. He feels light in my arms as I am holding him close against my own skin and as I study him I am quiet for a while. He’s brand new and so familiar at the same time.

Perhaps there are still other people in the room, or maybe not.

Everything and everyone else recedes and all I see is the top of his head and all I hear are words that come pouring out of some deep recess. “I love you so very much,” I tell him softly. “All the way to the moon and back and around the world three hundred and sixty seven times,” I add.

Some words I say out loud and some words I say with my heart. I know that he hears them. It is an ancient wisdom. I tell him about his family and about his sister. I tell him about his room and our cats. I tell him that we all love him and that he was so very much wanted. All this time I am just holding my son for the only time we will get together on this big blue planet and maybe there are other people in the room, but not for us. For these moments it is just he and I and I am aware that this is a holy time. I know that this is something I will never get back. I know I have to remember this fiercely. It will all be over way too soon.

 Jacob is there and I know that he holds our son when I drift asleep. When I wake up again he carries Aiden over to me and places him back on top of me.

 I am drugged, and slow and surrounded by shadows, but I am trying so hard to stay awake. He’s still in my arms, lying up against my chest and oh mama, the tears, they fall all over his head. I’ve talked to him. I’ve studied him and now fueled by some primal instinct; I want to know how he smells. I breathe him in, but all I get is an antiseptic scent that smells like alcohol and fear and later I will rail that I lost that raw connection too.

 A nurse enters the room and looks at me. “I’m going to have to take him soon,” she says. “Is it okay if I do that now?”

 “No,” I answer, my heart racing as a feeling of panic sets over me. “I need more time.”

 “I’ll come back soon,” she says gently as she quietly leaves the room.

 Now I know that I really am going to have to say goodbye before I get a chance to say hello, but I can’t feel that right now. Not yet. For now I am just hanging on, holding him while I still can.

Later I will begin to understand that this was just his body, that he was already gone, but I am nowhere close to that realization yet.

I keep looking at him though my tears. We are both soaked.

 The nurse comes back and asks again. “It’s time. Can I take him now?” she asks. This time I nod and she gently takes him from me. She takes him and I watch the back of her scrubs as she walks out of the room. Then I close my eyes and let myself go numb.

My last thoughts before I fall asleep are, “I am not strong enough for this, I am not strong enough to let him go.”


I’m lying in that white hospital bed and a nurse walks in. Her face is surrounded by light brown curls, and she is holding a clipboard. She is not someone I have seen before.

 There is a surprised look on her face and as she scans the room she asks, “Oh, are they giving him a bath or something?”

 “Wha-what?” I stutter.

 “Your baby,” she says brightly, as if those words will solve everything.

 “He’s not here,” I manage. My hands begin to shake.

 “Well, I can see that. Are they bathing him?” she asks.

 I am not sure what to say as her sentence bomb hits me. These words are so new to me, so raw that they get stuck somewhere between my head and my lips.

 “Nn-no. He’s… he’s dead.”

 “Oh, I didn’t know. I’m so sorry,” she says as she backs away and hastily leaves the room. She leaves me and I am stabbed with this pain that fills me with a senseless darkness. My whole being hurts. Every. Single. Cell.

 Scientists say that there are about 100 trillion cells in the human body, as hard as that is to imagine. If you were to take each cell and line them up next to one another, one-by-one, you could go around the earth about four and a half times. They also know that a single cell in the front part of our brains can store a single memory, at least for a short time. Scientists don’t believe that we store feelings within our cells, but find me any grieving mother and she and I will both tell you that the loss of a child is felt on a cellular level, scientific proof notwithstanding.

What does it feel like to lose a child, to have to let go of part of your own future and to bury part of your own body? It was as if I had woke up from a dream and found myself alone at the edge of the beach, sand between my toes, with my back to the ocean and there was a biting wind blowing there as I was caught unaware by the biggest sneaker wave on record. It’s the kind of pain that doesn’t just take your breath away, but becomes your every breath thereafter; it becomes an indelible part of your identity.  It’s a craggily steel toed trap that you can’t escape from, all grey, dark and biting. It’s waking up each morning and feeling just fine for about five seconds until you remember that he’s gone and then you’re all by yourself again, even if you’re physically surrounded by other people, you’re alone, just sitting with that cold, lonely loss.

The loss of a child is the color of a thousand tears.


On our last good day we drove around the city with all of the windows rolled down since the air conditioner didn’t work and we had a Paul Simon CD playing so we didn’t say much to one another.  I’m sorry for that now.  The August heat was brutal and the back of my legs stuck to the vinyl seat.

“We’re homeless, homeless. The moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake,” we sang to each other in our too-loud and off-key voices.  I looked at Jacob out of the corner of my eye and saw that he was smiling broadly.  When I close my eyes, I see his beautiful, calm face still.

I can’t remember much about that day, all these years later, but once in awhile maybe when the moon is just right or when it’s far enough away from hard days like his birthday my mind centers on how I felt. back then and I am filled with deep peace.