My shoe’s strap broke today. Seven years is a good run for a pair of shoes, but these shoes were different. These were the shoes that I bought for his funeral.
The day I bought the shoes, my sister and I started our errands with a visit to the deli recommended by the church and we placed the recommended order. An intern from the hospital called immediately prior to the deli visit to get my verbal permission for a partial autopsy so that the research clinic could obtain the portion of my son’s lung needed for research. It’s strange how seven years later I clearly remember parking on the curb and sitting in the car by the ball field and talking to the doctor, slightly annoyed that my son was dead and they’d delegated this to an intern. In hindsight, it makes sense, but at the time it felt cold.
After placing our order for meat and cheese, we stopped at the Mall of America. I knew exactly the type of shoes I wanted. Plain black, but comfortable. And I found a pair of Clarks and I paid too much for them. And every time I wore them after the funeral I thought of him.
And then walking back to my desk today, I noticed the broken strap. I hid my tears well and resorted to fixing the shoe with a paper clip. Seven years and things change. Time passes. Memories remain.
Halos of St. Croix Valley posted a photo of a baby tonight on ECMO. I scrolled past the first time until I realized the baby looked a lot like you. Halos had posted a sweet celebration of your life. Hard to believe that it has been six years since you gained your wings. I saw the post and sobbed. It’s now the middle of the night and I’m sitting on the couch in the living room instead of going to sleep. I miss you to a million as of yet undiscovered galaxies and beyond.
Dear Joey –
You would have started kindergarten today. I watched the little siblings of many of John’s friends walk into the school and head to the kindergarten classrooms and my heart ached for you to be among them. The class of 2028 will never know you. I imagine what you would be like. Would you enjoy soccer? Would you rather play hockey like your big brother John? You had the biggest feet. We joked when you were born that you were definitely a Barker. Would you have been tall? You had dark black hair, just like John. Would it have stayed black? Or would it have turned blonde, like your little brother Luke?
John started school on Tuesday. One of the questions his teacher asked was how many people were in his family. This is a question that bereaved parents everywhere loathe because the answer can be challenging. The reality is that the question isn’t any easier for siblings. John told me, “I answered 5, but I should have answered 6 because of Joey.” I told him that I struggle with how to answer that question as well and that either answer is just fine. Luke has strep this week, and when John went to bed on Tuesday night, he started to sob. I asked him what was wrong. He told me he was afraid of Luke dying. My initial instinct was to reassure him that Luke wouldn’t die. But I don’t know that. And he knows I don’t know that. He’s already lost one little brother. He misses you – fully and completely. He talks about how you would play with him now, attend the same school, and enjoy the same sports. He loves Luke and Ava immensely, but knows way too young the pain of intense loss.
Ava and Luke talk about you as well. It’s different, because they weren’t here when you died. They didn’t witness the first year, when I held it together pretty well during the work day but cried every evening on the way home until John finally told me that you wanted me to stop crying. But they still know you, and understand that you are an important part of our family. Luke will see a picture of baby and say, “Joey.” He’ll then talk about you not being able to leave the hospital and that you are dead. Tuesday he said, “I love Joey. I’ll see him in heaven.” Ava likes to say you’re in heaven “with the 3 dogs – Molly, Sadie, and Gracie.” You are still so much a part of our family even though you’re gone. We love you and miss you.
I wish more than anything that you had started school this week, that you would graduate in 2028. But I am grateful for the time that we did have with you and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
It has been quite some time since I’ve written. I have now reached 34 weeks, and am very anxious for Luke to arrive. The beginning of the trimester was rough-I threw up a lot, which was similar to the third trimester with Joey causing anxiety. I also experienced a random increase in blood pressure that my doctor thinks was a fluke, but worries me as Ava’s arrival was predicated on pre-eclampsia in the 37th week.
I was reading posts tonight from people who have become good friends, even though we’ve never met. Life changes when you lose a child. I know that some people probably thought I was cold because I didn’t cry in public very much and I didn’t have a breakdown or accept a lot of offers for help. In reality, I cried a lot in the shower and the car. I am not very good at sharing emotions. Or at letting people get too close to me. But it doesn’t mean that I didn’t appreciate the generosity and the hugs and the phone calls.
It’s a boy. I felt like it was a boy, but it is still a strange confirmation. I’m glad that Ava was in between. It feels like our family is supposed to have another little boy, but I’m always amazed how such happy news can also be so gut-wrenching. There isn’t a day that I don’t miss my second baby boy. I am so grateful that God sent Ava after Joey. The whole experience was different. There were new clothes to be bought, a completely different set of names from which to choose, and completely different hopes and dreams. I am grateful that John will have a brother. I know he so wants a brother. And Ava is so into her big brother and such a happy child that I really believe she will be okay being the only girl. But if I said that I wasn’t also anxious tonight, I would be lying. Holding Ava after she was born was so intensely bittersweet. I cannot help but think that will be magnified by a baby boy.
I am so thankful that the scans looked good and that he appears healthy. I’m cautiously optimistic that all will be well. How I wish for technology that could scan the lungs to see formation. Someday.
I also recognize that my good news is pretty hard on some of my new mom friends who are struggling with their own paths and their own sorrows. And I wish that my happy news didn’t make them sad. I remember being at that place on my own path.
I saw a baby onsie tonight that read, “Just evicted.” Initially, I loved it. Then it made me sad. Joey was my closest baby to my actual due date and I joked before he arrive that if he didn’t come soon, that I would evict him (induce). Little did I know that as long as he stayed in my nice warm womb, he could stay alive. So the shirt makes me sad.
I started our taxes. One of the first questions the software asks is changes to your families make-up. Taking Joey off the list was incredibly sad. All the things you don’t think of until they happen.