We go weekly. We spend a few moments listening for a sound - a rhythm, a beat, his heart. Every week, we wait for the inevitable, for the time, the moments when we hear silence in place of pulsing. And in spite of the inevitability, we are not, we will not, we cannot be prepared. How could we be?
It has been ten weeks plus one day since we learned that our son Samuel was broken beyond repair - an unimaginably long, short stretch of time. And the thing that has surprised me most has been the slowness of it all. It is as if these weeks have been one very long night - and we are living, awake, unable to do anything about this very bad dream.
Perhaps it is because my only experience with suffering and grief was in the sudden loss of my father, but it is this long plodding walk towards death which is most unsettling.
When my dad died, I grieved long. I missed his physical presence, his laughter, his words. There was an empty chair at our dinner table. But his death was sudden. We had no chance to prepare. We simply had to grieve through our loss, through the daily reminders of his absence.
In this experience, Samuel is still with us, very much alive. It is his heart that beats. It is his feet, arms, knees, legs, back, and face we see etched on the paper of our latest ultrasound. It is those same parts that daily push, kick, and stretch, offering quick, jabbing reminders that he’s not absent. Although we grieve, we don’t grieve an absence. We grieve and the present reminders of his life make it all the more difficult.
Will I ever hold him alive? Can I even hope to hear him laugh? Can I even contemplate words, his words? It seems so foolish to even think about this; there is a certain inevitability to his condition. So, slowly, we spend our days planning what life will be like when he dies, or what we will do the day that he dies, or how to talk to his brother about his death. And I’m afraid to even think about preparing for the possibility that he might live.
And there is no break, no getting away from it. It is a long, slow suffering. Will I be long-suffering while I suffer slowly?