It seems almost fitting that the year should end in death, but it is not a death I ever would have expected or wished for. It is without a doubt the most painful loss of life that I have ever experienced, one that was so unimaginable it will take a very long time to sink in. The grief was immediate, but the realization is still pending.
On December 28th 2010, at about eight in the morning, my sister-in-law gave birth to her fourth child and first son. Benton was stillborn, three days before his due date. The umbilical cord had been longer than normal, and had wrapped around his neck. The doctor said that it had probably been that way for a few days. There was no way this could have been prevented or predicted, as there is a 0% chance of it happening.
I cannot even begin to describe how contradictory this has made me feel. All through the day of the baby’s birth and death, I cried. Slowly at first, in shock and disbelief, then with more conviction and pain. I wrote him a letter before we knew for sure that he was dead, and then I wrote him a story when his stillbirth had been confirmed. I was heartbroken, yet thankful. Mourning, but calm. Towards the end of the day I waded in the depths of grief and wallowed in the hazy land of shock… and when it finally really hit me that I would never see my nephew, I was enveloped in a silent and tearful melancholy.
I know that many people might think it’s terrible of me to bring up the good aspects of my nephew’s death, yet… how can I not? I am thankful that my sister-in-law is physically well. I am thankful that God postponed my nephew’s coming until after Christmas, since he was most likely already dead on Christmas day, and that God did not allow him to be born in the new year and begin my family’s year with death. I am thankful that my nieces are too little to really understand what death means, and that they will not be emotionally scarred from the loss of their brother. But most of all, I am thankful that I know my nephew is with God, and he has been spared the evils of the world.
I do not want my thankfulness to make light of death, though, because death is a terribly sad thing. The pain it has caused my brother and sister-in-law is unimaginable. For them, I wish that the baby had lived. For me, I wish that my nephew had lived. For my family. For everyone. Despite knowing that he is so much happier now than he ever would have been had he lived, I wish he was alive.
But his death serves a purpose- whether it be something immediately apparent or something that we will not know until years have passed. In the immediate circle, it has made me more aware of life. Of those I love, of my friends, of the important things. It has shown me that even in the darkest moments of life, God offers a light to see by. I will always miss the nephew I never saw; I will always have a sadness in my heart for the life he didn’t live. But I will only be sad for myself -that I didn’t get to hold him, play with him, laugh with him, or watch him grow up- because he is in a perfect place.
So as this year comes to a close, I will not be looking back, but forward. I will be looking forward to the day when I get to meet him, and I will be looking forward to making the years until then the best that I can make them. I cannot change the past; it is set and immovable, and there is no reason to cling to it. I am not going to dismiss what has happened, rather let it simply be a part of who I am as I move on. I will not dedicate the new year to Benton, but to the new lives that will come into being in the future.
There are many things I was going to write about in this post. Before the baby’s death, I had planned to make light of the many events that I haven’t liked- my allergies, work problems- and then include the unimportant things, such as cutting off my hair or not finishing any books, to make my year look fuller. But death puts life into perspective, and I’ve realized that most of the things that I thought of as consequential aren’t as important as they had seemed. I’ve realized that an entire year has passed and I’ve barely done anything I wanted to do.
The year hasn’t been a waste, but I have not made it one I will remember well. I am determined to make 2011 a year I can be proud of. I am determined to live my life in a way that pleases not only myself, but my family and my God. When a year has rolled by, I want to look back and be satisfied with what I have done.
So I will be a new person. I will let the slate be wiped clean. I will not regret the past. I will not let myself be defined by others, but I will choose to define myself by me, and by God. And I will always keep my eyes looking forward.
Have a happy new year.