If there is one thing I have learned over the years it is that if you think you are going to fool kids, you aren’t. They have this sixth sense of knowing when their parents are not quite happy, and they tend to follow suit. When kids are little they tend to get cranky. They fight with their siblings. They whine and they become more clingy. The evening last night, as we traveled down the 85 interstate from Charlotte, NC to Stone Mountain, GA was undoubtedly laden with silent grief for my husband and I. But Taylor, who rode with us, was acting whiney – even at almost 7 years old – she could whine like the best 3 year old out there.
This, of course, didn’t help matters. We all got a little fried by the 6 hour journey. By the time we reached our destination it was well after 10pm. We were ALL tired. After doing a crude set up of the camper and saying hello to Grandma and Grandpa, it was off to bed.
We had decided, a few weeks back, that we didn’t want to be home today. Today is October 9th. This is a big day. A sad day. One that will ever mark the most tragic of all days for our family. One year ago today, around 2:30 am, Morgan went into cardiac arrest. And at 3:35 am the medical team pronounced her death. I don’t like this day and what it means for our family. I wish like hell I can turn back the clock, find a reason, be more prepared, advocate for her more, do SOMETHING.
But I can’t. We can’t. And that hurts.
So we left. But we brought her with us – and she knows it. I’m not just talking about how we brought her urn with us camping. For parents who have never lost their child this may sound strange, foreign, or even a little morbid. I know I would have judged someone about this. But as a bereaved parent, taking your child’s ashes with you on a family trip is because you don’t want to leave them behind. You don’t want to miss them. And their ashes are the only physical thing left of their body.
I held her the entire way – all 6 hours. I had a mark on my arm for about an hour after finding her place in the travel trailer that proved to me that, maybe, I was holding on a little too tight. But I had to.
It’s been one year. One year of flashbacks. Flashbacks of placing her on her blanket on the floor… the sounds she made as she went into cardiac arrest….carrying her lifeless body up the stairs in a full blown panic… racing by the kids’ bedrooms trying not to wake them… calling 911… Jeff jumping out of bed….
Doing chest compressions on my baby girl and wondering if I’m doing it right.
Stopping when we think she is trying to take breaths – where we later find out those are agonal breaths, just reflexes of the body as someone is dying.
The bright white, sterile emergency room
Her lifeless body being pumped on by strangers desperately trying to save her when they likely knew she was already gone…. but couldn’t give up for the horror on the parents’ face sitting in the room watching their daughter who slipped away.
The soft announcement from the doctor “I’m sorry, but she has died”.
The sheer out-of-body feeling of complete and earth shattering, soul crushing heartbreak as a parent’s worst nightmare just unfolded in front of our very eyes… except it is our baby. Our sweet, precious baby who already had to fight SO hard for her life.
These flashbacks are real. They come often; sporadic; and sometimes without any warning. I may see an ambulance or drive near the hospital she died in. The smell of hospital or a doctor’s office kills me. But that ambulance is probably the worst. That is my biggest trigger. And I wonder if maybe that is when her soul left her body – was in the ambulance. And that makes me so sad. I want, so bad, to know that I was with her and holding her when she died. It is so important to me! But I won’t ever know this… not in this life.
I think about the past year. I’ve steered myself toward groups of people who have been through this horribly traumatic experience themselves and I find a large group of women I am now communicating with regularly online are, in fact, “heart angel” moms. There is a community of comfort in numbers. And the general consensus, I believe, with all of us is we are just shattered at the thought and proof that we have so many moms and dads who have lost their babies, but we are also so grateful to have found each other so we know we aren’t alone in this journey of grief.
You would be shocked knowing just how many children die every year of CHD – and that is only one cause. The sheer number of families are just mind numbing. I continue to pray for peace and comfort for these families…. as there is nothing else that I can possibly do except say “this sucks… how do we get off this ride and get our babies back?”
I struggle with the “can’t”. Like how I can’t save my baby. This hurt so bad. I can’t get off this ride because the only ticket off is to have my baby back in my arms. But that is impossible.
I look back on this year at the incredible families I have met who also ‘can’t’ and am feeling so thankful and blessed to have met these wonderful people. I would not say it is a silver lining or a “reason” for Morgan’s death or even a “good side”… there is no good side to her death. There is no silver lining. But there are people – who are also living circumstances that mimic the sick and twisted reality I live – and there is great comfort in that.
This year has been not just about Morgan and loss – although that was a big part of it. I have also enjoyed my 3 other children. We have grown and loved and held eachother closer (some days… we are still crazy normal and get on eachother’s nerves). But I am different. They are all different. My husband is different. I don’t prioritize work or a clean house as much as before. I realize those things will always be there and are replaceable in one way or another. But my family… they are not. Nothing is replaceable – not even my sweet angel Morgan.
Thank you God for today – for giving us the signs you gave to show us Morgan is with us. Thank you for leading us to the place on Stoney Mountain where her name was engraved in a beautiful, scenic spot. Taylor was so thrilled to have found it. It meant a lot to all of us. Thank you for all these signs. They were much needed today. We love her so much and miss her beyond words.