Remembering Doria

One Father's Journey after the Death of his Daughter

Eleven Months, Eleven Lessons

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It’s been eleven months now since Doria died. I’ve been wondering lately what in the world I actually learned, so a week of reflection led to the formulation of this idea. What follows here are 11 lessons that I’ve learned over the last 11 months of this massive surprise. They aren’t in a particular order other than the one that I scribbled down onto a page, just in case anyone is looking for rankings or significance there. Simply 11 months and 11 lessons:

1. It is hard to believe this all happened, from conception to death. We weren’t supposed to be able to have children. I still remember when we wondered why Becky was sick, because it looked so much like pregnancy, but that wasn’t possible, so it didn’t make much sense. The wonder and excitement of the news still amazes me, and watching God provide every time we started to wonder about the next part, and see mother and daughter growing perfectly month by month was just perfect. Often, it’s hard to believe that part actually happened, and it’s hard to believe that our perfect little miracle died. The odds were so much in Doria’s favor, except that it wasn’t going to be that way. The reality of all that is still pretty unreal.

2. The rainbow is awesome, and it is difficult to get going when we’re there. I am so glad for little Zoe, and so grateful that she’s growing and cruising right along here at the end of week 32. I see things coming together, and we’re each doing our part, but more slowly than last time. It’s a strange combination of being ‘all in’ at times and very cautious at others. Stuff gets ready, but not at the breakneck pace of last summer. So much of the big stuff is done, and we know so well what could happen that things get done, but not with the same sense of urgency. I’m finding it a very interesting way to live.
 
3. Impossible things happen, good and bad. Doria’s whole story was impossible. None of that was in our plans, even as happy as we were for her first surprise. The grief story is impossible, too, both in the good parts and the bad. I’ve seen people step forward in ways that I thought were impossible, from the surprise grave marker provision to simple personal things. On many days, just getting up and living seemed impossible, but it kept happening. That’s a great gift. 
At the same time, our little gift is dead (Doria is Greek for “gift; See Hebrews 5:1 and 8:3 for the word in the New Testament). At 36 weeks, babies live. That’s a guarantee, but ours didn’t. I think about watching my own ability to do things that are easy for me, like reading and plowing through mountains of stuff, deteriorate and collapse. That seemed impossible, but it happened. 
 
4. God is still there, and He cares. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell, but it’s real and true. God and I have warred more than once over 11 months. I have questions that I knew theologically and medically wouldn’t be answered. In the battle, we both win. In the struggle, God never sent me away. He didn’t answer much, and frequently seemed to be absent altogether, but didn’t abandon me. As I got to see more of His care along the way, I win, because I can get to know Him better. He wins because He gains glory along the way. It may sound odd, but the struggle really is a win-win.
 
5. This happens a lot. It’s stunning how many baby losses I’ve encountered, and how normal it seems now.  I did not know that this stuff happened, because I really hadn’t dealt with it. I had no idea how many people were out there in the baby loss community, or how many ways there are for babies to die. I still don’t know a ton of them, and I’m OK in my ignorance. Just searching through the Internet, it just stuns me how often this really happens. Yet, in conversations, talking about infant death and terrible scenarios is just plain normal now. It’s just an “accepted” part of life, because I know it happens, and I have names and faces to attach to astounding stories of loss, grief, and victory.
 
6. I have no regrets about Doria. Neither does her mother. That’s just a beautiful source of comfort for me. I would prefer that this blog didn’t exist, because I’d rather be snapping mountains of little Doria photos, but that’s not the deal. Even with the shock and awe that her death brought about, I would do it all over again.
 
7. I have a brilliant wife, even with pregnancy brain. I’m glad everyone else was too stupid to catch on to who she really is. The woman processes things at an alarming rate, and does it with a cute and friendly smile. Her courage to charge right into the rainbow inspires me every day. Hesitating isn’t wrong, so if you;re hesitating and reading this sentence, please understand that I’m not judging you. We’re just charging people. I would have understood immediately if Becky wanted to wait. That would make sense. Instead, the night we came home from the hospital, she winked at said “6 weeks.” She wanted to press on towards that goal, and never hesitated. I’m in awe of the sacrifice she’s made all year long for Zoe.
 
8. People do amazing things, both ways. I think of the family who provided Doria’s grave marker, and the enormous amount of meals people supplied after her death. I think of all the support from my professors, and all the people who made the choice to spend time with us, even though we were living every parent’s worst nightmare. Just seeing that much love poured out when we needed it was and is amazing. That really helped to keep us going.
Also, I’ve seen a little of the opposite. Most of that is from reading other people’s stories and some nightmares that made my life feel very tame. I’ve seen that help can hurt despite the best of intentions. I’ve seen a small handful of acquaintances, mostly very loose ones, just turn away when they saw the pain. It’s sad, but it happens.
 
9. Life really does go on, relentlessly with pauses. When Doria died, life still went on. Things still happen, whether it’s work, classes, or just getting up in the morning. We took breaks from things, but life does go on. The pain and things that go with grieving bring some things to a halt for different amounts of time, and time often seemed to stand still, but life goes on.
 
10. It’s important to take the time to process the whole experience.  You can’t deal with something until you deal with it. I still find it important to put everything away sometimes and spend some Doritime. It’s just something that’s needed. I’ve talked with some good friends about what life would have looked like if I hadn’t done any of that, and it would have been pretty dark. In stark terms, I would have been denying the whole thing, and that catches up with a person.
In Biblical terms, Jesus said in Mathew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” It’s a neat verse. “Blessed” is also translated “happy,” which looks odd when you pair it with a phrase like “those who mourn,” which is a verbal form that essentially means that the mourning characterizes the person’s life, i.e. you see a guy and go “Oh, that’s the mourner.” It’s just a huge part of the person’s life. That person is happy (eventually), though, because they receive comfort. They acknowledged the pain, they work through accepting the loss, and they are comforted. It’s a passive verb, so it’s someone outside of themselves that provides the comfort. Since this is from the Sermon on the Mount, we usually understand that to mean God’s comfort. All that to say this: If I had just decided to suck it up and pretend that I could do it myself, I would have denied the problem, denied the ability of people to help, and denied God the chance to help, which really would deny me any of the chances to move on at all. 
 
11. I can’t do it alone. No one can. Everyone needs help. That help happens in so many ways, and everyone has a different need, but we all need help. One helpful thing from the Internet has been the community of people who have lost children. I can visibly see that I’m not the only one, ours isn’t the only home like this, and people have been able to keep going. That’s a great encouragement to me, even as heartbreaking as these stories are.
 
12. The journey isn’t a straight line. It’s very unpredictable, and impossible to plan for. I get the number, this is a bonus. I like to plan, put things in place, and watch things go methodically along. That’s my thing. The grief journey doesn’t go that way. One hour is fine, the next is a sobbing mess. I learned that I could have a triumphant class, and be wrecked an hour later due to nothing new. Doria’s death was and is enough. 
It would be nice if it went through progressive stages and timeframes, but that doesn’t happen. It all happens when it happens, and whatever that is changes all the time. Not just person to person, but me to me and day to day. It’s an incredible journey, with enough twists and turns that it can’t seem real, and that’s just normal. There isn’t really a plan I could put in place for this, and that’s just fine. I can’t change that at all.
 
It’s been quite an eleven months. Doria really brought a wild ride to my life and our life as a family, from conception to death and beyond. Like I said earlier, I still wouldn’t trade her. She’s a keeper. Someday, when I finally meet her, I can’t wait to hear the entire story with all the parts I don’t know yet. Someday, Doria. Someday.

 

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