When We Grieved...


Thea was home sick with a fever when I first learned about Sammy’s death.  I was making pumpkin pancakes hoping that extra carbs might give Thea a boost as her body fought the latest sickness going around.  I picked up my phone when it beeped and saw a text from my sister-in-law that said “OMG Sammy!  What happened?”  I ran to check our Facebook group with a growing sense of dread.  I scanned the posts until I found the announcement that Sammy had passed away in the night.  I was in shock.  Sammy was the first tango2 child that we found in the world.  He brought so much joy and hope to our family.  How could he be gone?  In a flash, I feel small and alone.  Our children are sick and there is nothing I can do about it.  I can’t stop it from happening.  


Sammy

Another tango2 mom and I message back and forth throughout the morning.  Her thoughts and texts bring me some comfort.  I know she is overwhelmed with the same feelings that I am experiencing right now.  We both see our children in Sammy’s sweet eyes.  She has already lost one of her children to tango2 disease.  Her two remaining children both have the disease. 
In between tears, I do all of the pancake dishes, answer emails, and start a load of laundry.  There is a crew outside of our home repairing the back porch and I manage to answer their questions without a tremor in my voice or a tear in my eye. 
I come back inside and immediately start crying again.  This time, Thea has noticed my tears.  She says, “Mommy, why are you crying?”  I can’t think of anything to say so I just tell her that Sammy passed away in the night.   She stares at me blankly and pats me.  “Don’t be sad,” she says.  She follows me around as I organize some toys, straighten some pillows, and wipe the table down.  When I go upstairs to shower, she is still following me.  She asks to shower with me and I say ok.  She wants me to pick her up and hold her under the hot water, but I am brushing my teeth and lost in my thoughts.  Finally, she demands to be held and her sharp cry wakes me up out of my revere.  I remind her not to yell as I finally gather her into my arms.  Suddenly, my hands can’t be busy anymore and I am still.  I feel my daughter’s warm chest snuggled next to mine.  She begins to hum softly and plays with my hair.  A wave of grief passes over me, almost unbearable in its strength, and then I feel the peace that comes after the wave.  I hang on to this as another tidal wave of fear, shock, and horror washes over me while Thea hums happily in my ear. 
After we get out of the shower, we lay down in her bed to read some stories.  She keeps telling me to sit still.  I want to get up and make the bed, start another load of laundry, and grade some papers but she blocks me with her little body, so I give up and sit still while she takes a turn reading one of her stories to me.  Another wave of pain rocks through my heart and I ride it out.  I manage to text a few of my closest girlfriends and they let me know that they are there for me.  I call my husband at work and we talk it through. 
I think of the mothers that have been through their children’s deaths and I cry.  I wonder how they survive this kind of blow.  How do you live with a full open heart after going through something so heart breaking?  Yet these mothers that I know, who have been through this type of hell, have been so willing to sit with me through my own journey.  Shortly after Thea’s diagnosis, I had breakfast with a co-worker that lost her child to a rare disease.  We cried and talked through the entire morning and I remember that she was she was not afraid to make space for my grief and fear.  She was willing to go bravely through the tough conversations of what happened with her son.  She was able to sit through my tears which must’ve brought all of her grief back to the front of her mind.  I remember back when her son was in and out of the hospital and then when he finally passed away.  The night of his passing, Tyson and I stood over Thea’s crib as she slept and cried for that family.  I thought of her so often, but I never knew what to say.  I wasn’t yet strong enough to sit with her through this pain.  I didn’t know how handle that kind of grief. 
Another memory passes through my mind of house sitting as a college student.  The house belonged to a couple who had left town suddenly because their teenage daughter had recently passed away in a car accident.  A drunk driver had slammed into her car going the wrong way on a freeway exit.  There was no one in the house, but the photos and notes that scattered the living room overwhelmed me.  The air in the house felt so thick with grief and pain that I found it almost impossible to stay there and I called my roommates to come stay with me. 
Louisa’s mom posts a message on Facebook to Sammy’s mother.  Her daughter also passed away from tango2 disease only two months before.  She said, “I’d like to take you in my arms and just scream out loud.  Sammy and Louisa are now quite wonderful angels who are proud of you, what you did as a lion mama.”  These words of love bring comfort to my aching heart.  I can feel all of the tango2 families reaching out, bearing witness, strong enough to sit with the Lopez family and feel it all with them.  Each family posts a picture of themselves wearing red, Sammy’s football team color.  As each post comes up, and I can see each family’s faces, my heart lifts a little.    


Wearing red for Sammy!

When we almost lost Thea two years ago, and we finally returned home after a long hospital stay, I remember for just a moment suddenly feeling very, very certain that everything was okay- not just because she survived but because all of the things that I worried about in day to day life were just not true or important.  In an instant, I knew for sure that our family and our lives were absolutely perfect just the way they were and that we were safe and surrounded by love.  This feeling was fleeting but I have faith that it was a glimpse of truth.  I think that if I were to go back in time with what I know now, I could have talked to my co-worker before her son passed away.  I would know that there are no words that can take away her pain, but I would be strong enough to hold space for it.  As the tango2 families post condolences to Sammy’s family, I can feel the strength of our combined shock, grief, and love.  Our togetherness brings me some comfort, and I hope that Sammy’s family will feel our love too.     
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