Tongue-tied

Ever since Lucy died, I have wanted to talk about her, look at pictures of her, just be close to her any way I could. Unfortunately, this involves telling new people she died.

“How many kids do you have?”

“Two.”

“Oh, where’s the other one?”

(Slight pause.) “She died last May of dilated cardiomyopathy.”  (Or a few other variations.)

(Deer in headlights look crosses their face or their face falls and they look as if they have been dealt a physical blow.)

Then they usually say “I’m so sorry” or some variation on that and the conversation moves on. I have discovered that the more normal and matter-of-fact about it I am, the easier it is for me and my conversational partner.

Sometimes I just mention Lucy and if it’s a new person, they end up asking where she is or how old she is. And I have to tell them. It’s not like I can lie and pretend she’s still alive. No matter how much I might want to sometimes.

Why not just not mention her, you ask? Well, that’s complicated.

At first, like I said, I just wanted to talk about her. I took any excuse. Honestly, I was afraid it looked like I was forcing her into conversations at times and I worried that it made people uncomfortable. Although, really, I didn’t care that much.  If I can live without my daughter for the rest of my life, other people can know about it. Screw’em if they don’t like it or don’t want to hear about it. Kids die. You shouldn’t be banned from the solace of talking about your precious child just because he or she died.

Most people have been very supportive. But, man, I get tired of telling people my child died.  It comes up a lot more often than you might think.

Last weekend, Chris, Max, and I attended my friend’s annual Dart Bowl birthday party. I had a lovely conversation with a fellow party guest I had never met before. She was very good with Max and helped keep him occupied while we waited for our food. Max kept talking about the baby, so we told her we were expecting again.

At some point, I said something about how things were with my first child. I can’t remember exactly what. And then, for the second time recently, I saw the opportunity to mention Lucy … and I didn’t.

I don’t understand it. I have become weary of it, but I usually still do it. It feels like a betrayal to her not to mention her. I want people to know she existed. She deserves that. She is still a part of our family.

But when I tell people she died, the conversation moves on. They never ask anything more about her. I don’t want her death to be the only thing people know about her.

I talked to Chris about all of this as we walked to our car. He was comforting and understanding. I understand why it’s hard for me to tell people Lucy died and hard for them to hear. I don’t understand why a slight pause before I share the information has become full-on omission of it. I guess as more time passes I have become weary of people’s wariness of child death. Their wariness of sadness and tragedy. There is a mistaken idea out there that a happy life involves nothing but happiness and positivity. I sure used to think that. I used to avoid stories about children being hurt or killed like the plague, even before I had kids. For awhile, my reason was to avoid exacerbating my anxiety after my nervous breakdown, which I think was legitimate.

I don’t want to have to act like my daughter didn’t exist. And I don’t want the conversation about her to stop with her ending. There was so much more to Lucy than dilated cardiomyopathy and an early death. She was beautiful and strong and loud. She had a beautiful smile and a Pee-Wee Herman laugh. She managed to dance with Elmo, even though she never even crawled. She kept smiling and laughing, no matter how much medicine she had to take or how tired she felt or how many painful pokes she had to endure from the needles.

I know it’s hard to hear, but believe me, it’s much harder to say. For some people, a happy, normal life encompasses the fact that they lost a child. It is part of human reality, not some tragic mishap. Death is a part of life, even for children. We need to not just listen to their stories, but welcome them. And we need to ask for more than just the ending.

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1 Comment

  1. Jerry said,

    January 25, 2014 at 1:27 am

    LOVE U SIS and i think u should tell everyone about Lucy its important if it makes them uncomfortable oh well thats to bad


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