It has been six years since Lucy’s heart stopped. I have lived 2,191 days without my daughter. 2,191 times my eyelids flickered opened and I awoke to a world without Lucy in it. And I got up out of bed and I made it through the day. Over two thousand times. In all of those days I have missed small and intimate moments with her, mundane moments that we parents often take for granted, and important milestones. All the baby snuggles, reaching for her hand in a parking lot, painting tiny toenails and washing her hair in the bath. The first words and the Halloween costumes and teaching her how to read. Birthdays and Christmases and bedtime stories. I even miss potty training and disciplining her and taking her to the pediatrician for her vaccinations. The overwhelming weight of all the things we have missed while living our lives without Lucy seems like it’s too much to bear sometimes. At the moment my grief is so fresh and raw, it seems impossible that it has been six whole years since she died. The persistence of my grief is a testament to the depth of my love for her. Oh how I ache for my little girl. But the grief should not come as a surprise. Just as it is good and right to enjoy and celebrate the children we have with us, it is good and right to miss and mourn the children that wait for us in heaven. Liam just turned ten years old yesterday and we celebrated his life. We gave him presents and made his favorite breakfast and told him we loved him. We didn’t say, “Oh, that was ten years ago. I already celebrated him back then and I’ve moved on by now.” We acknowledge the joy of his life and the gift of having him here with us. Conversely, we grieve the absence of our precious daughter, Lucy, and we acknowledge the depth of our pain and how much we miss her.
In a sermon preached only days after the 9/11 attacks in New York City, Timothy Keller said that there are two mistakes people can make in the face of tragedy, suffering and death and they are warned against in 1 Thessalonians. The first mistake is to try to avoid grief and weeping. The second mistake is to grieve as those who have no hope. He says:
“The Bible indicates that the love and hope of God and the love and hope that comes from one another has to be rubbed into our grief, the way you have to rub salt into meat in warm climates where it will go bad. Your grief is either going to make you bleaker and weaker or it could make you far more wise and good and tender, depending on what you rub into it, what you put in. And that’s what we’re here to do. We’re here not just to weep but to rub into our weeping, hope and love.”
So today I acknowledge my profound grief for my daughter, Lucy Dair. Her name means light, and when her heart stopped, a light went out inside me that will not be lit again until I am in heaven. I feel her absence every minute of every day. We all love you so much Lucy.
But I do not grieve as one who has no hope. I know that, just as He promised, God will redeem every one of the 2,191 days we have missed with Lucy, and He will redeem all of the missed days to come. Today, as always, I will continue to rub hope and love deep into my wounds. Lucy left me with many gifts that I have slowly been unwrapping over these past six years since she left. The way I look forward to heaven now is a gift. My ability to appreciate life in a way I never have before is a gift. The way my heart has been softened towards others who are hurting is a gift. Even the suffering itself can be viewed as a gift because it teaches us things no one else can teach us.
Sheryl Sandberg wrote a book called Option B after her husband died unexpectedly and she was left to raise her two young children on her own. In one section of her book she writes about Joe Kasper, a man who lost his son but then found healing when he realized that his actions could be a part of his son’s legacy.
“While studying for his Master’s degree, Joe created a therapeutic process called ‘co-destiny,’ which encourages bereaved parents to view their child’s life in a larger framework so that death does not become the end of the story. Parents who seek purpose and meaning from their tragedies can go on to do good, which then becomes part of their child’s impact on the world. As Joe explained, ‘I realized that my destiny was to live my life in a way that would make my son proud. The awareness that I could add goodness to my son’s life by doing good in his name motivates me to this day.’ It’s not surprising that so many trauma survivors end up helping others overcome the adversity that they have faced themselves. ‘There is nothing more gratifying than helping someone else escape this quagmire of despair,’ Joe told us. ‘I know this passion of mine is an area of personal growth related to my trauma. Helping others grow from their trauma reflects back to my son’s life.’ After undergoing a hardship, people have new knowledge to offer those who go through similar experiences. It is a unique source of meaning because it does not just give our lives purpose- it gives our suffering purpose. People help where they’ve been hurt so that their wounds are not in vain.”
I can attest to the healing power of adding goodness to Lucy’s life by doing good in her name. This is part of the rubbing in of love and hope. Very few things in my life are as gratifying as helping other women who are dealing with a high risk pregnancy or the loss of a baby. My trauma has given me unique experiences and insights that I can share with others. I’ve been able to learn the ins and outs of this high risk pregnancy disorder and I now have the tools to help other women advocate for the right medical care during their pregnancies.
I have also been on the receiving end of this hope sharing. When Lucy was stillborn I was in the hospital for two days and two nights. While I was there I encountered many doctors and nurses who were kind but I only remember one woman who was able to comfort me with her words. A nurse told me she had suffered a miscarriage in the past and was devastated by it. She told me about her rainbow baby who had brought her so much healing. “You just have to try again, honey. You just have to get back up on that horse and try again.” Obviously, her words weren’t perfect because I couldn’t just “get back up on that horse and try again” like she had said since my next baby would also face anti-Kell antibodies like Lucy. But her act of sharing even just that tiny glimpse into her own pain, and her acknowledgement of my desperate desire for a living baby gave me hope. It encouraged me to hear about someone else losing a baby and then finding hope and trying again afterwards. Since then many, many people have reached out and shared their own stories of suffering with me and those are the people who have made a huge impact on my life. Our ISO Moms group on Facebook is full of women who have been through traumatic losses and high risk pregnancies and they use their suffering to lift other women up. We share what we have learned from our own pregnancies and we help others protect their babies. In fact, if I had not found the women in the ISO Moms group I don’t think my own children, Nora and Callum, would be alive today. I was not a part of the group when I was pregnant with Lucy so I had to figure out that pregnancy on my own. What a difference these women made in my life by sharing what they gained from their trauma.
My friend, Melanie DeSimone, lost her son, Dominic, several years ago and since then she has started a blog, The Life I Didn’t Choose, and a Facebook group for bereaved parents, Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child. She has used her suffering to encourage and support other families going through similar losses. The wisdom and empathy that Melanie shares with thousands of people daily is only available to her because of Dominic, and because Melanie has chosen to rub love and hope into her grief.
For those of you who have suffered a loss or gone through a traumatic event or faced discrimination, what do you know now that you didn’t know before your crisis? How has your perspective changed? These are your gifts to share with the world, to bring purpose to your suffering and to help others who are facing a similar tragedy. And I can tell you from personal experience that when you reach out and use these gifts to help others, it will end up benefiting you more than you can imagine.
Lucy’s life and legacy live on through the families who have been changed by her story. Here are some of the gorgeous babies from the past year or two who have been helped because of Lucy’s story. Their parents are some of the bravest people I know. I cannot describe how much joy and fulfillment these babies bring to my life and I feel honored to be a part of their stories. Happy birthday, Lucy. Some of these babies would not be here if it weren’t for you. I hope you can see what a difference your life has made in the world. I am so proud to be your Mommy.
And beautiful Liliana, who, like Lucy, would probably be alive today if she had received the right care.