Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lookin' Fine : (healing is so complicated)

Have I reached the point where it would be more honoring to not mention Gabe?

I'm mulling this over as I remember a conversation this week. . .

Super relaxing atmosphere

long awaited spa stuff

a stranger

Is this your first pregnancy?

no, it is our fourth

Sarah Machlachlan sings about the arms of the angels and I close my eyes thinking about mine. . .

chatter about dogs and gardens and the South where she's from and Charleston weddings and big front porches and this awful heat and

What are the ages of your kids?

i wondered if you'd ask

I was so so tempted to lie.  "6, 4 and 18 months." 

It's not quite a lie.

I'll never see her again, and I'm okay right now and to say "we lost our third child, our son, our Gabe" and then go on doesn't do justice to his life and the loss and the hole  and I think that healing is a gift but it's such a complicated one.

Gently I acknowledge my Jacob Daniel and my Cambria and my Gabe and then I say that he isn't here anymore and that I miss him so much. . .  and I cringe that my pregnancy and our happy kicking unborn  #4 can easily look like a replacement and how do I explain that we are going to love our little #4 for all of it's number fourness and not because this new little person is filling that Gabe-shaped hole?

The expected words.

I'm so sorry.

That would be awful.

But I don't look awful and my eyes aren't red rimmed and I am healthy and tanned and able to carry on a conversation and my sanity doesn't tell the whole story and there isn't time.

And it isn't the place.

And I wonder if that was betrayal and I wonder if my Gabe would have been more honored if I would have kept my mouth shut.

Should I hold up a sign that says I put makeup on but that doesn't mean my life is okay!

I'm pregnant but I'm not replacing my son!

Gabe died and I can say that without screaming but that doesn't mean it's okay!

I think of the odd experience of stumbling across our story being discussed in a forum on The Bump. . . 
then a link to our blog. . .

then all the comments:

so awful

couldn't imagine

i'm crying

our baby girl is exactly his age

my husband is a firefighter too, oh my


and then

i read her current posts, she is pregnant and they look like they are doing fine.

Everything looks fine.

Isn't that what everyone wants for us? For anyone who suffers?  For the answer to pain?

Oh please, just look fine.

Would your cancer please go into remission and could you please just wear a super cute wig so I can focus on how well you are coping?

Could you please at least pretend you have a job or some leads or a promising interview and can we all just pretend that you are able to make all of those house payments because it's so scary to think that you are unemployed. . .

Can we talk about how great of a guy you are going to find someday even though your dates to black tie weddings are girlfriends or brothers or guy friends who had mercy on you and your nights are lonely and your career  isn't as fulfilling as it looks on the outside?

Your son is in jail? Let me pause while I try and swallow all of my shock! Oh, well, I'm sure you're finding great attorneys and I'm sure your son will never do that again and besides he was always a great kid and I don't want to even think about how ashamed and humiliated and hurt you are so can we please talk about something happier?

Can you please look fine?

For a while you can't and the pain is just too raw and too deep and everyone knows it's not fine and you're not fine.

Your mail carrier is busy and you wear your darkest sunglasses and you see the hushed whispers and your soul needs the hard squeezing hugs.

But at some point. . . you begin to look fine.

So then what?

Sorry, I don't know.

I'm learning.

Begging God for grace.

Reluctant to spill out the story of my son's short little life if the treasure part can't be communicated.

Cringing at the many times in my life when I've been the one with the answers and the God is sovereign spiel and the trite responses and it might have been being the salt of the earth  and a light to the world but a clump of salt tastes pretty bad and no one wants a million candlepower flashlight shining in their eyes when all they can see is darkness.

Knowing I'm not the only one thinking this stuff.

A little afraid of lookin' fine over here.

May 19, 2011

{Jacob Daniel looking at photos of his little brother Gabe on our front porch}


  1. I understand. In a different way...but I do understand. :)

  2. I just got on and realized you had just posted. Sometimes you have a way of saying exactly how I am feeling. Today is one of those days. As women we are always asked (even in our 80s)how many children we have. I too feel as if I spare this person my story I will be denying my Tyler. And I too am pregnant again, and I am dreading the "is this your first?" question. Gabe is always your son. Tyler is always mine. I plan to always include him when talking about my children. Thank you so much for sharing your feelings. It helps me. Much love and prayers, Amanda

  3. The raw pain in your blog posts always leaves me feeling like I don't know what to say, how to comment, that won't sound trite...

    But thank you for giving an honest glimpse into your grief, giving us a better understanding of what you and other families go through...

    I can't begin to imagine the pain, but I can imagine that no matter how much time passes, no matter how much grieving and healing takes place, your heart will always have a place that will never be "fine" again. And that is fine!

    (In my recent re-read of Stepping Heavenward I was thinking of you--especially with one paragraph. I'll have to see if I can find it again and send it to you...)

    Hugs and prayers...

  4. I don't think you are "fine." I know your life will never be the same... just as it hasn't been the same since J.D. was born, since Cambria, and it will change again when #4 comes. But just because it isn't the _same_ doesn't mean you aren't healing. I see God working His miracles of grace in your family, and I praise Him. Still praying for you, dear friend.

  5. this post made me weep.
    its really true... everyone wants the ones in pain to look -fine-. and if they 'look' fine the world assumes we are indeed 'fine'... and they move on... not realizing we are indeed NOT fine. at all.


  6. Still praying for you. I, too, see God's Mercy and Grace ALL over your lives Hayley. And thank you for writing so honestly. I know we have VERY different story's... but for some odd reason, I've been having trouble for the last six months answering the same 'how many kids do you have' question small ways I understand. thank you for sharing your journey. Love you!

  7. Hayley, I love it that through your pain, you see everybody's pain... not just the people who've lost babies, but the people who've never had babies, never had husbands, or lost them; the people who's kids lived, but their lives became a living hell; the people who dread waking up, but no one even knows how much *this* (whatever it is) hurts and *isn't* fine and okay, even though they know God is sovereign and they bow to His will....
    Thank you! The salt and the light shines out of you because you feel other people's pain when you feel your own....

    The Man of Sorrows lived through His own sorrows, mostly being seen touching the sorrows of others, rather than being seen weeping over His own griefs. But don't you think that at night in the desert, He wept a lot? And then he went out again, to be with other people in their sorrow.

    <3 <3

  8. Seriously Hayley? How DO you say how many children you have??? Someone looks at us and they say, "So you have 3 girls!" And I try to smile and say "ya we have 3" cuz really don't wanna get into that discussion right now... But in reality we have 4... and sometimes I brave it and step out and say "ya well we had 4 up until 6 weeks ago...." And then there's the change in the conversation and you almost wish you would have said, "yep."

  9. Hayley, you have such powerful writing! It is so true that your family may never be completely *fine*. No one should assume that. Your Gabe is in heaven. He's always going to be your son. He will always be your third child. Your fourth will never be a replacement (that word stings, just typing it out!). I hope you can find the right balance of words to say when people ask how many you have. That must be so tough. I mean how long can they sit and talk? You could go on for days and weeks, about Gabe. But is it ok to just say he's in heaven and that be it? That's a toughy. Praying for you always!!

  10. Hayley,i've been touched by your words, writings and your ability to say how you are feeling...i've ached with you....i've seemed like a good day to tell you that i've been looking in on you for some time already...and so true about the "lookin fine"...the standard greeting of "hi,how are you" is so out of date. (most)People don't want to know how i "really" am,that would be like venturing out of the comfort zone... keep writing,it's healing...have you read the book,"Heaven is for Real", think it could be a comfort to you...take care...

  11.'ve knocked the breath out of me and made me weep all over again for our family's own loss: my daughter's best friend at the age of 7. It's almost 4 years since then and the pain never leaves. My daughter is "different" and marked in school because of it. Birthdays are smaller affairs; more family (including her best friend's family whom we have grown incredibly close to) few friends, if any. The closest friend since then is a boy.

    Tears still come regularly, with questions about know why terrorists live and innocent children are taken. The circumstances are completely different and I'm making no comparisons or attempting to lessen your pain in any way. It's real and doesn't ever need to be denied. But, in reference to the question of honoring your son more to not mention him, if you ever have a good answer, let me know. People alienate us after hearing my daughter mention her best friend. We've taught our daughter that keeping her friend alive in our hearts is a good thing. Outsiders just want to look at my daughter, think she's normal, and hear the cookie-cutter good times about her childhood. So, do we avoid the squirming, the shifting eyes, the awkward silence and eventual abandonment? Or do we honor her as we always have, with words and great memories? We've yet to change our ways.

  12. I have not read your blog in a while, but I have it saved on my computer. We have never met, probably never will; I have not been through the same pain and loss and you, I hope I never will...but I find such love, comfort, hope and faith in your words. I continue to read you blog not because I can relate to you, but because I find you to be an amazing mother to 4 children. You will never replace Gabe, he is always with you and part of your family!

  13. I think about this post all the time. In my heart I have 3 children. I think about my baby in heaven every single day. I still cry for that baby that I never met. I know we have different stories-but really, it's hard when people don't know how to react when you say "Yes, I have these two-and one in heaven" (or however you word it). Many times in conversation, I rush to put people at ease and thank them for their condolences then stumble into another topic. And yes, I feel as though I haven't given my second baby any credit at all. It's tough.
    So...I have no answers for you. Just to say that I appreciated you writing this. You are able to put into words what many would struggle to coherently think. Thank you for that.
    Still praying for you all-so excited for number 4, and the fact that he gets to know who Gabriel is.
    May God continue to give you grace in every moment~