Thursday, August 18, 2011

Five Months Apart

Daphne passed away five months ago, today. On these monthly anniversaries, 11:00 p.m. is the hardest hour for me to face. It marks the time when part of my heart left the earth, and I became a different person. Over the last five months, I’ve tried to reclaim the woman I was before Daphne’s passing, but it’s impossible. It’s hard to explain how I’m different. I suppose I’m both better and worse.

I used to be a perfectionist, giving 110 percent to every aspect of my life, but I seem to have lost the focus and drive I once had. Most things just don’t seem important enough to warrant that kind of sacrifice or commitment. I can still give 110 percent, but I won’t give it to just anything. I’m more selective about how I spend my time, and I’m better at knowing when 90 percent is good enough. (I mean, is it really necessary to scrub the counters three times before declaring them clean?) Sometimes this makes me better at prioritizing and putting the most important things first, but sometimes it makes me stand in the middle of a room, feeling lost and unmotivated. I’m grateful that my priorities have shifted, but I miss being a little OCD. I miss feeling put together and on top of my life, and I miss the satisfaction of going the extra mile. You’d think I could just decide to go back to my old ways, but it’s not that simple. I’m not that person anymore.

I’ve always been a compassionate person, sensitive to others’ sorrows, but now I finally understand the difference between sympathy and empathy. Before I lost Daphne, I mourned with those who mourned and comforted those who stood in need of comfort, but I didn’t really know grief. I didn’t understand its complexity or its permanence. Now when I hear about other tragedies and trials, it opens the wound in my heart. I weep for the individuals who are suffering and for my own loss. I remember the darkest moments of my life, and I wish I could wrap my arms around the bereaved and shield them from the long road ahead. Healing and peace will come, and grief will become a soft whisper, but it will never leave, and their world will never be the same. Knowing that is as heart-rending for me as that first, fresh pain.

Losing Daphne has made me more empathetic and more charitable, but I’m ashamed to admit it has also made me more selfish. I want everyone to love and miss her as much as I do, but each new tragedy reminds me that isn’t possible. For me, the pain of losing Daphne is still fresh, but for everyone else, new sorrows have pushed her story into the world’s collective past. I know family and friends still love her and think of her—a dear friend visited her grave just last week—but it isn’t the same for them. Of course, it can’t be, just as my grief for others isn’t the same as my grief for Daphne. I guess I’ve been running from grief by trying to make Daphne’s life powerful and inspiring for others, as if that will make her death more bearable. But it won’t. My baby has left this world, and I feel her absence even though I know she is happy and safe.

I have to remember that Daphne’s life mattered to me and it mattered to God. And that is enough. Anything else I do with her story or her name must be done in the name of the Savior. I think Daphne would want it to be about His life, not just hers. Perhaps that is how I will recapture myself.

In Loving Memory: Bows for AL Babies

After Daphne passed away, I needed a way to think about her without focusing on my grief. I wanted to remember the blessings and miracles and ignore the unanswerable questions that made me feel weak, guilty, and ungrateful. I wanted to do something to honor her memory, thank the doctors and nurses who cared for her, and comfort other moms with sick babies.

The week after Daphne’s funeral, I began making small, handmade hair bows to send to UAB hospital in Alabama. With the help of several friends, I made 350 ribbon bows and 100 mini felt flowers (inspired by felt flowers I saw on the blog Make It and Love It), which I divided into 50 packages. Finishing this project took longer than expected, because we adopted Phoebe just one month after losing Daphne, but I finally shipped the bows to UAB with a lengthy thank you note and a request that they distribute the bows to other moms staying in the RNICU.

Working on the bows was therapeutic. It gave me an excuse to think of Daphne and a way to share her story—something I feel compelled to do. I hope those who receive the bows will feel a small measure of comfort from my simple offering.