The doctor who had been handling Ewan's case came into the room in his street clothes after the nurses had informed him of our decision to stop support and say goodbye to our son in peace. He put his arms around us, said he was sorry.
It was precisely this moment I dreaded when I was pregnant -- the one that, as I imagined it, made my blood pressure rise. I knew I couldn't handle it. I knew for sure I didn't have it in me.
But I was given so much grace for that moment. Whether you share my beliefs or not, you have to know it wasn''t my own strength that got me through it. I wasn't numb to any of it, and I wasn't in shock. I was given the grace to be fully present, both in my aching grief and in my acceptance of it. One day, I will write at more length about that night. Everything about it was sacred. Everything about it was so, so holy. It was not my strength. It was most definitely not my courage.
I had never watched anyone die before -- never been present for when one person passed from this life to the next. I had never witnessed the mystery. I never expected that it would be with my son.
It was only this morning that I remembered Michelangelo's Pieta statue: a marble carving of Blessed Virgin Mary cradling the body of her dead son. Though our circumstances were so different, I did that too, and it made me feel such a kinship with her. I know she was holding me as I held my dying son. And I know her Son was there with us, too.
Other things I now know:
I know what it is now to plan a funeral for a baby, to be asked to bring his clothes and pictures of him to the funeral home.
I know what it is to feel utterly powerless, to trust cardiologists, surgeons, and nurses with the life of my son. I know what it is to consent to them taking a knife to his body to crack open his chest. I know what it is not to be able to help him.
I know what it is to come home to a basket of folded laundry: his clothes, diapers, and tiny socks.
I know what it is to hear the most skilled doctors and surgeons say: there is nothing more we can do.
I know what it is to stare at the empty crib, and the closet full of baby clothes that he will never wear. I know what it is to weep bitterly.
I know what it is to have my breasts ache with milk for a baby who can no longer be fed.
I know what it is to wonder why the sun dare shine, why the earth dare continue to spin, and why people dare go on smiling.
I know what it is to receive cards of congratulations and of deepest sympathy at the same time.
I know what it is to explain to kind strangers who witnessed my pregnancy that our baby is no longer with us.
I know what it is not to be afraid of what people might say. I have endured an entirely unmedicated childbirth with back labor, and I have held that dying baby in my arms just two weeks later. There isn't much that can rattle me now. I may be vulnerable and I may be grieving, but I still remember what the truth is.
I know what it is to welcome life into this world, and I know what it is to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of death at the next turn, and not to fear it. I know the grace that carries a person through that.
I never knew these things before. I never wanted to know them. I wish no one else had to know them. My imagining these things ahead of time doesn't even come close to the reality that is now, and that is to come.
To all the mothers and fathers who have walked this path before us: I honor you. I honor your bravery and your courage, and the grief you hold in your hearts. Ewan will always cause me to remember you and the children who were likewise taken from your arms.
* * * * *
Please grieve with me the fresh loss of another heart warrior. Jill and Shane have just lost their sweet baby Joshua who fought so hard for so long. Blessings and peace be upon them. Jill, I love you and my broken heart is with you. I only wish my arms could stretch far enough, that we could lean upon one another and weep together.