30 years ago, I was ready to become a big sister. I was the age of my young daughters. I remember the crib, the smell of new carpet in the bedroom that would be the nursery, the primary colored balloons on a sleeper I helped my mom hang on a hanger in his bedroom closet. There might have even been balloon wallpaper border if my memory doesn’t fail me.
But I never met my much anticipated sibling. He was born, dead. A stillborn, I was told. I only remember my grandma and aunt telling me. It was my grandma’s 53rd birthday. I remember my hysterics, kicking and crying and them taking me to my grandparent’s farmhouse. I remember how much I wanted to see my mom. But she was very sick and I could not see her.
I cannot imagine the loss my parents went through 30 years ago or the time that followed.
I have had three children in all very different circumstances from induction to emergency c-section, natural birth to scheduled c-section. Every time I have thought of him, the brother I never knew. Every time I have thought of what my mom went through on December 19, 1982, in the loss of a child. It was a different time. There were no blogs. You didn’t talk about the loss as openly. There was mourning and grieving. It was less known, less talked about socially. I remember playing “flower shop” with the many flower arrangements sent to our house. I remember my mom being sad. Then I remember seeing the balloon sleeper hang in the storage room in the basement. It was no longer awaiting my brother in the nursery. It was put away, for another day, for another chapter or maybe to remember.
There has not been a year that goes by that I don’t think about him this time of year. Tonight it hit me walking into the gym when I saw my mom and she said she needed to get home to take Grandma out on her birthday tomorrow for a visit to see Great Aunt Iris, age 107. My mom has her mother, her great aunt but not the son born 30 years ago.
The life lesson in the loss is pivotal for me. I thought about it as my mom and dad sat behind my husband, daughters and me in the bleachers during our son’s basketball game. My youngest brother, Joe, age 23, sat next to my dad. My brother, Robbie, age 27, is the head coach of our son’s team and was on the bench tonight.
The life lesson: keep going. My parents kept going after heartache, loss and tragedy.
My grandma and grandpa still live the same farmhouse. On December 19, I celebrate Grandma Nola’s birthday, honor the memory of the brother I never met and cherish the example my parents set for me to keep going as best you can and “do the next thing” as my mom often says.
Burned into all of our minds right now, I, like you, do not understand the tremendous tragedy and murders of young children in the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting. There is great loss. There is great heartache. Emptiness. Horrific pain.
But we must do the next thing. We must keep going. The journey is long but the journey does bring us joy, even after loss.