She used to wander the halls at night. Friendly, wanting to talk. Confused, unsure of where she was and what was happening. She'd make small talk with us while we did our charts or took our break.
"Are you married?"
"Do you have children?"
"I have three boys." Here her face would grow soft remembering the chubby babies, and she would smile. Then her eyes would take on a far away look.
"I had one more."
"His name was Samuel. He died when he was a baby."
She would sigh, a soft little sound. "I miss him. I will see him again one day soon. I want to see my baby."
People used to ask me when I would "get over it". I felt.... wrong... for remembering. Then I met her. She's in her late 90s ... still waiting to see her baby Samuel.
She's grown older now, and the horrible person-eating disease has taken its course. She no longer walks the halls and stops to chat. She no longer talks more than a word here or there. Some glitch in her mind, or some decay, has made her put everything in her mouth and chew it voraciously. She has the look of a feral child. Still, there are nights when I change her and tuck her back into bed that her eyes meet mine. I always think the same thing.
"Soon, sweetheart, soon."
You will see him soon.
She is too far gone to remember. So now I remember for her.
I printed pictures today, determined to decorate an empty wall in our dining room. Things that are special to us, family photos, laughing babies, gangly teens, good friends. I put them in frames and lay them out on the floor. We will decide how they go tomorrow.
Then I sat there looking at them.
That vague empty feeling - something is wrong, nothing is right.
I sat and quiet tears pooled in my eyes. There was my baby girl who died before she was born, who they threw in the trash "because she was not a human being yet". There was my other baby who died before we knew what it was. Laughing faces smile from the photos. My children are my blessings. But every time I hang their photos, I pause. That empty space.
Someone gave me a gift - a string of hearts with my daughter's name on it. That will go on my wall in among the family photos. Somewhere in there, I will hang a memorial to the tiny one we lost.
Grief is such a lonely thing. People grieve because they remember.
Grief of a baby not yet born is an isolated thing. No one remembers. I was the only one to know my child, the swelling in my belly, the flutters of little kicks. The hope.
It is March again. In March, I remember.
I tuck my patient in again at night and I tell her, "soon, sweetie". Soon she will see her child.... and mine.
Give them a hug for me when you do.