I used to think I knew myself. I knew what I wanted from life, I knew where I was heading, and for the most part, I knew how to get there. I was secure and self-assured in that knowledge.

But the day Michael was born ripped that rug right out from under me.

The moment the last nurse left my husband and I cradling our dead son in the recovery room, I realized I had nothing. All my security, all my courage, all my self-confidence was gone. I was left reeling, adrift in a sea of wreckage from a life imploding upon itself. Who was I? Was I even a woman? Women give birth to live children. Was I even a mother? Mothers carry their children home with them, and after a couple hours I had to call the nurse to take my son’s cold body away because he looked too ‘dead.’

Everything I thought I knew was gone.

I am not blind anymore. They say hindsight is 20/20, and the more distance I gain from June 11th, the more I begin to see. I see the girl in the mirror, and she’s different, now.

Some things about this girl haven’t changed — she is still her clearest when she looks back and has a guitar in her hands. It comes as no surprise, for that is her natural state. She throws herself into music with an abandon and freedom rarely seen otherwise; in those moments, she is who she always has been. The ready smile she used to have is a little sadder, but it is still available at a moments notice, especially in those unguarded seconds spent among friends.

But those are the constants. It is the variables previously seen as constants that stare back at me, like my desire to be a mother that has hardened and coalesced into a deep-seated and primal need, instead of a negotiable bullet point on the bucket list. It is my understanding of what strength is, who my family is, and how faith is like a muscle — it must be broken down before it builds back up (a weight lifter’s description). It is how, as Doria’s family put it, trust looks different. It is how I see the relationships in my world as more precious and sacred.

I will never say I am “grateful” or “happy” or “thankful” that God chose to call my son up before we could know him. That’s an ugly sentiment that sullies the legacy of my son’s too-short memory. But taking the fall — HARD — has shown me introspection I may not have had otherwise. Would I want to go through this again, just for the sake of self-discovery? No. In fact, HELL No. This is not something I would wish on anyone. Is the insight I’ve gained worth it? Not even. I would gladly give back the things I’ve gained in trade for a life spent with my son alive. But, this is what I’ve been handed. We don’t get second chances or “do overs” in this life. I don’t get my son back, and even the knowledge that I’ll see him again in the hereafter is small consolation. So I am left with two choices: take what I’ve been given, or, not.

I’m not the kind to look a gift horse in the mouth, so to speak.

So I look in the mirror and see the girl looking back at me, now. I’m slowly beginning to accept her as she is. Her life has been separated into Before Michael and After Michael, and she is still madly trying to stitch the After Michael parts back into something somewhat resembling ‘whole.’ Sure, she’s smarter now, possibly even wiser… but she’ll never be quite the same. There will never be a time when she is no longer wounded or scarred. There will never come a day when she doesn’t ache to hold her baby boy. The only thing we can hope is that perhaps, in another month, or two, or a year, she’ll be able to look back and say her vision is brighter and her soul, stronger.

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3 thoughts on “The girl in the mirror

  1. You are correct Heather, you will never be the same, and I, as well as, your Grandmothers, your husband, his mother, his sister, her husband, your cousins, aunts and uncles, and all who are related to you, will never be the same either. We have also lost Michael in that event. It was a tragic loss for all and possibly the world as well due to never being able to know him…but Michael had great value to God and God saw fit to keep those of us here from the possibility that Michael may have never been a healthy child…when his heart could be put to a greater use in keeping others alive. I realize from first hand experience, it doesn’t make it any easier to have lost him. It hurts me deeply and I feel not only my pain at his loss, but yours and James’ and everyone else’s pain as well. You may not realize it, but we all cry, like you do, at the drop of a hat, is seems, for no reason, but then our memories come flooding back and we remember why…

    Michael was not just your loss…he belonged to all of us in the many different families. Time though will heal…but like you, we will never be the same. We just have to try to not dwell on it, see past it, never ignoring the fact that Michael was here and will never be forgotten. We will all grieve on his birthday next year, just like you, we will all try not to think about the fact that he is not here, and try wholeheartedly to not think about what took place, all the while knowing that it did happen, and that God has him now. I try to think about how the parents of the valve recipients must be so grateful and happy that their children are alive and must have some purpose greater than the average in this life here on earth. I’m sure they are sad for you as well, knowing that your child, our child, grandchild, nephew, cousin, did not survive. We are all changed but such an event. And it is not our place to question God’s will, but we still do. Someday, we will all know the reason. I’m sure it will be a good one. And we will all see Michael again, possibly sooner than many of us think. We don’t know the answer to that…only God does. We can look for deeper reasons…search for answers, and spend our lives dwelling on the sadness, or we can get on with life, and know that someday, it will all come to light.

    God has control over everything here on earth. This is His planet, His creation, His story, His game, His hope, His song, His dream, His will. And we must live our lives according to His wishes. God is our creator, our teacher, and our Father…we must accept His will, whether we like it or not. He chose you because he knew you could handle it. I know you will. It will take time, and yes, you will never be the same, but God had a reason…all we can do is be patient. Time is but a second in heaven. The blink of an eye…and before you know it, you will meet Michael again…possibly in your dreams. Be open to it. Keep your eyes open to the possibilities, and in the meantime, play your music, bring joy to the rest of the world…it will help to heal your heart. We all love you Heather! Michael does too. He would want you to be happy.

    I’m sure Jake is taking good care of Michael with the help of many other relatives. No doubt, he is learning to be a farmer/rancher/mechanic/and swordsman.

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