I remember a lot of just being quiet in the beginning. Almost as if it hurt to form the thoughts, then string the words together into a sentence, and even harder to push them out of our mouths. The sadness was crippling.
We saw Noah everywhere. Peaking around every corner. Every trace of him was hidden on the day of the accident. Hal had called our neighbors, who were heartbroken themselves, and asked them to clear all his toys out and take all his pictures off the wall. His sippy cups. His snacks. His high chair. His books. So many books.
We came home that night to the emptiest apartment anyone could imagine. Empty of all life. Empty of warmth and light. Even the smell was different. Just flat and dead. I looked around as Hal cried, “Did I do the right thing??! I didn’t know what to do! I thought this would help. I’m sorry. Did I do the right thing?”
For him to think to do that and be thinking of me that day was so…just so him. His urge to protect me was never more evident even though it was impossible. It was an impossible choice. There were no right choices here.
We lived in that apartment with Noah’s closed door directly across from our bedroom for another two months. Where I used to see his head pop up and happily yell for me from his crib, I now saw a closed door when I opened my eyes every morning. I opened it a few times. And quickly closed it. I needed to see it was all real. It was filled with all his stuff. The sunlight that used to come through his plain tan curtains was serene and sad. I was sad. But not yet serene. I’m not sure when the serene part comes.
We moved to a new apartment two towns over. I had started a job in a wine store one month after I became a mother without a child. Hal went back to work. He was struggling. I threw myself into my job. Hal was barely holding on. He was able to take a medical leave. I guess I went on autopilot. It must’ve seemed like I was doing great. I pushed outward. Hal pulled inward. And when we met in the middle at home together, we were still that couple on our wedding day. Just very, very lost and sad.
We starting going to temple every Friday night. It was someplace to go. Someplace where we could just put every ounce of what faith we had into following along in the prayer book.
A few weeks after the accident, we were at a Friday night service and a young, simply lovely and genuine Rabbi was leading services. Rabbi Glazer led an interactive sermon in which she asked all of us the following question: Tell me about a time in your life that you felt a sense of wonderment and closeness to God? The Rabbi told us a story about a hiking trip she took as a teenager and being overwhelmed with the natural beauty of a national park.
A lady named Claire stood up. Claire, I believe, is close to ninety years old. Her body and voice shakes badly from Parkinson’s and is as beautiful and elegant as a movie star. Claire told the story of swimming with barracudas for her 80th birthday! It was fantastic. I laughed for one of the first times since the accident.
Rabbi asked for more people to share. My hand suddenly went up without really knowing what I was going to say.
Something along these lines came out of my mouth:
“We lost our two year old son three weeks ago. And I am overwhelmed with the love of my husband and our strength right now. I don’t really know how we’re doing it. And I’m in awe of the strength God and this congregation is giving us.”
There was the clichéd audible gasp after the first sentence from everyone around us. And then the tears flowed everywhere. The rabbi and I practically ran to each other and hugged. I didn’t want to let go.
After the service was over, we were bombarded with people. Such love. Everyone introducing themselves, crying along with us. One old man quietly whispered he lost a daughter many years ago and “it’s not easy but it will get easier.” He releases balloons on her birthday every year. I told him I loved that idea.
We received so many cards and gifts in the weeks after. Flowers, food, a beautiful engraved locket with Noah’s picture, picture frames for when we were ready to see his picture again, books of comfort, and so much more. Prayer chains were started by friends’ churches which I thought was lovely. I love the concept of a prayer chain. I didn’t really know what it was before we needed one.
A manila padded envelope arrived one afternoon in that time period of endless deliveries. Inside was a knit shawl in colors of browns and blues. It was perfect. The note was from an old friend I’d seen once at a reunion in the last 20 years. Lisa had the ladies in her church’s knitting circle make me a prayer shawl. The note explained that the ladies all pray and knit for a few hours every week. I was overwhelmed. I wore that shawl constantly. Even in the heat of August. We both needed it.We needed any drop of comfort we could find.
Signs and symbols became the focus of our days and nights.
To be continued…