The other day I took my two girls for a swim at the local pool we belong to. It was scorching hot outside and despite the fact that I was chasing my one-year-old, Layla in the baby pool, we were both still somehow sweating. My older daughter, Lillian was in the big pool with her friends, doing dives into the deep end and having a blast.
I recognized a few Mom’s chasing their toddlers around the pool and we began to chat like we always do. It’s a lot of work bringing a toddler to swim as there is definitely no down time! A short while later, Lillian came into the baby pool to “check” on her baby sister. I guess I am not a good enough babysitter for Layla!
I smiled at my girls. The protective nature of Lillian for Layla is so wonderful to see. The love between them is fierce and as Lillian bent down to hand Layla some pool toys, I saw Layla light up with big smiles of love and appreciation for her older sister.
Lillian stood up and saw another young girl playing close behind her and she decided to play with her too. For all who know my Lillian personally, know she is one to strike up a conversation with anyone near her. I am proud of her outgoing personality and ease as she talks to people. Her funny personality makes talking to her that much more fun.
However, on this particular day, I couldn’t have been more honored to call her my daughter because what she did next touched me deeply and put another layer of healing on my heart.
“So Lillian, I see that Layla is your baby sister. Do you have any other siblings?” I heard the Mom of the other little girl ask.
I froze. I felt my heart beat a little faster. I slowed my thoughts down and took a nice big breath. After all, this is not the first time this has been asked. I pictured my children in my mind…all THREE of them, including my Joseph who we lost three years ago.
Lillian’s answers have varied over the years. Once while in the bank, when we put her allowance in her account she told the bank tell that her sister Layla will do the same one day. The teller said “Yes she will! Do you like being a big sister? Is she the only sibling you have?”
“Yes…” she had replied, with her head down.
Afterwards, in the car, I asked her if this hurt when people ask her this. She nodded and looked out the window as we pulled away.
Another time before I gave birth to Layla, she told the cashier at the grocery store out of the blue that her brother died, studying the person’s face to see how they would react. But like in the bank, it ended with feeling awkward about it.
But this time it all changed. While standing in the pool, keeping my eyes focused on Layla as she waddled through the water, I waited for the answer, trying to keep my breathing steady.
“Yes! Yes I do have another sibling. A brother and his name is Joey. He is in Heaven though but I know he is watching us swim right now and that makes me feel good.”
If this was a movie, I swear the entire pool with all of the kids yelling and splashing and having a great time went silent. Just for a moment. I turned and found myself locked eyes with this mother. She looked so ashamed for asking and quickly apologized.
“I am so sorry. I just didn’t know. Oh my gosh, how horrible for you.”
I smiled at her and put her at ease.
Lillian came by my side and held my hand and smiled at her too. She said, “Don’t be sorry. I like to talk about him. I don’t need to be silent anymore. He is my brother and whether here or in Heaven, that never changes and I am proud to be his sister.”
The woman came over and hugged Lillian and whispered, “Thank you. Thank you for your courage. I lost a baby too and you are absolutely right. There’s no need to keep silent.”
Responding with a smile has taken a long time for me to be able to do. Does the pain of knowing he is not here enjoying the pool with his sisters still sting? Yes it does, very much. However, hearing my daughter speak proudly of her brother and not be afraid to answer the question speaks volumes above the pain.
Pregnancy loss is something most people do not talk about. Mothers who struggle with infertility face this as well. It is a known fact that most people just don’t know what to say. It’s an intimate topic and silence is the response.
Does talking about it keep grieving parents in a constant state of pain? No. For most, talking about it helps us cope with what could have been. It helps us to keep the memory of our beloved baby ALIVE.
It helps ease the unsurmountable pain that is in our hearts.
It helps us to look at “what could have been” with a sense of peace.
What could have been. This floats in my head as the years go by. As I watch my girls grow, I think of my son and how old he would have been had he been born alive. I have grown in ways I never thought possible since I lost him and I am closer to God than ever before.
His mission and courage to help me heal my past trauma is a gift he gave me. Do I wish he was here anyway? Absolutely. These unavoidable conversations remind me of that and Lillian’s matter of fact response is the truth. Though he is back in heaven, he is still a very real part of our family.
She does have two siblings, not one. He is not in the past, he is here in my present and in my future. Grieving parents: Please do not hide it! All of your children are here and now, alive in your heart and a part of you.
My son is still here, working through me, helping me to write these words of healing to brokenhearted parents. His body did not make it but his spirit has never been more present.
When we got in the car, tears fell down my face. I am so proud of my daughter. Then Lillian unbuckled her seatbelt and put her hand on my shoulder.
“I love you Mommy. Don’t be sad. Joseph is still right here. He isn’t missing a thing!”
I realized that my tears were not because I missed my son or that moment was hard to get through. My tears were for the fact that my daughter was not afraid to break the silence.
Thank you God for sending me such a strong little girl to show me the way when I feel lost.
Every time I smile, or laugh, or enjoy a moment with my girls, or receive a loving embrace from my husband…I know my son feels it too.
Love is keeping him alive and it always will. It keeps all of us alive.
“I know sweet Lilly,” I look back at her. “Thank you.”