Trigger Warning: This post deals with infant death, grief and loss.
I would like to say the most difficult thing I’ve ever written was any of the books I’d completed – like my recent forays into different-for-me genres, but I’d be a big fat liar. The hardest thing I’ve ever written was a poem.
Before writing it, it had been years since I’d written anything. I’d had some success in college with short fiction and poetry, winning several awards, and I graduated planning to do great things with my writing. Instead, I let fear and insecurity devour my desire to create until wanting to write turned into that thing that I’d do “someday”. But in a way, I didn’t really believe that I’d ever go back to it. I wasn’t good enough to do it in the real world. So, I let that dream fade away a little more every year.
On March 4th, 1998, my nephew, Zane died of SIDs.
My brother called the evening of March 4th, while I was in the middle of putting the kids to bed. Before he’d gotten a word out, I asked if I could call him back when I was done with bedtime songs. Instead of answering me, he blurted, “Zane’s dead.”
There’s very much a before and after portion of my life. The before portion is blissfully naive. The after portion is viewed through a lens that’s clouded with grief and anger and general disbelief. Those two words were the dividing point between before and after. Those two words are the wall between happiness and grief and guilt. Those two words changed everything.
On March 5th, 1998, I woke up and said to my husband, “Oh my god, I had the worst dream.” When I saw the look on his face I fell apart all over again. Or maybe it was still. I’m not sure.
Later on March 5th, my brother called and we talked and cried some more. He asked me if I’d write something for Zane. If I’d write a poem for him to be read at the funeral. How could I say yes? How could I possibly string together any words to sum up the life of this beautiful child? How could I possibly tell my sweet, baby brother no?
We feel so helpless when someone we love dies. We feel more helpless when someone we love is in pain because someone they love more than life has died. We all tell the grieving, please tell me what I can do to help. And when they tell you what they need, you do it. Because how can you not?
I was terrified to try to put words to this child – to this beautiful, blue-eyed boy with the the sweetest smile I’ve ever seen. I was afraid I couldn’t do justice to him or the memories that we were left with. But I tried.
It gutted me while I was writing it. It gutted me to stand up at the funeral and read it to the family and friends that had gathered. It still guts me when I see a portion of the verse that’s been carved into a stone that’s part of a Michigan SIDs memorial garden. It guts me every June 30th and every March 4th.
I don’t read the poem. I’m not sure I’ve read it since I read it aloud at Zane’s funeral. But it remains the hardest thing I’ve ever written. And I hope that I never have cause to write anything harder than this. I hope no one does.
For the other Wednesday Random bloggers’ takes on this subject, please click the names below.