Death is not fair. I will probably overshare here, more than once before I have completed processed through this. My sister lost her full term baby on Saturday. His name was James Daniel. My wife and I were on a date when we found out that his heart stopped beating, and that he was going to be stillborn. We stood on a street corner in a sparse crowd while we cried and held each other, oblivious to our surroundings. I guess it was poetic, or something. The drive home from Portland was miserable and long. I couldn’t really catch my breath – deep heaving sighs every minute or so. My wife just drove and cried softly. We didn’t talk. When we finally made it home to our own 2 1/2 year old and her uncle, I just couldn’t hold it in. I have cried more in the last year than I have in my entire life, and this was intense, uncontrollable sobbing. Juba, our Rhodesian Ridgeback heard and started yelping in his crate – he knew. I released him from his crate and we held a long embrace. Since then (the last 72 hours) he has been deeply in tune with our emotions and overwhelmingly sensitive. I can just feel it. And just last week i was calling him the most stubborn, out of touch animal. Funny how grief changes things.
I cried some more with my daughter, dog, and brother-in-law; my wife eventually came in. We all shared a moment in our small living quarters in this large country house. About 15 minutes later (time only enough to pour a glass of water and barely make “normal” conversation) in came my wife’s parents (in whose house we live) from a Valentine’s date. They were happy and beaming with joy. I had to meet them at the door with my news. I cried again. We just stood huddled together crying in the door frame with the big front door standing wide open, letting the cold in and warmth out. We eventually unlocked our shoulders from one another and stepped into the house, where everyone was a ball of emotion. I started wiping counters and doing dishes. My father in law talked of anything and everything he could think of. I don’t know what everyone else did. I went upstairs and helped my daughter to sleep and tried to answer any last questions to ease her mind. She was out quickly. Kids have a way of knowing emotion deeply, yet maintaining their innocence. Oh, I love that girl.
I came back downstairs and my wife was playing Anna Weatherup. She came into our life a few weeks ago. It was one of those YouTube tabs on our shared computer that just sat there for several days. At one point, I’m not sure when, my wife said “you should listen to this, it’s really good” – of course she did. We do this every day. So many days passed. I may have listened to the song once, or half of it, or something. I’m sure it was good, but so many songs are.
But I came downstairs and finally *heard* Anna Weatherup. It was “Nearer my God to Thee”
and it spoke to my soul. Her voice sliced through the fog of my stewing brain and brought life and light. Bright life. Clear light. I eventually slept after perusing a couple Psalms and just generally trying to get my mind off of things. Woke up the next morning and Amy had downloaded the whole Nearer album, and gifted it to my sister. Music can heal if we let it.
Went to church at the Episcopal parish we’ve grown to love in 2013. Of course it was the first Sunday of Lent. Of course the sermon was about death. And of course it was beautiful and perfect. Everything at that church has been. Visited some friends and prayed together throughout the afternoon. Came home around dinner time and decided to buy tickets for Arkansas. There will be a simple graveside service. We will spend the weekend mourning and supporting as we can.
Then life will go on, somehow. It will, but we won’t. We will be dragged along in life’s gentle undertow. We will go through motions. We will attempt to find joy again. Whatever happens, I am glad that we have Anna Weatherup to help the joy-finding process, and to help honor the unlived life of our sweet James Daniel.