Eleven years ago, it was bitter cold in Denver, Colorado. 2 or 3 degrees, if I remember right. The chill is still part of my memory, though most of me felt numb.
Jason went out to the parking garage of Children’s Hospital to pull up the car and let it warm up for a few minutes. I stayed behind on the 4th floor where I bundled up our 7 month old son, Noah, for a short drive across town. He had only gone outside one time during his 5 month stay at the hospital……a beautiful October day when his pulmonary specialist and I detached him from all the machines and took turns hand-pumping his lungs for 1/2 an hour in the sunshine, much to the dismay of the doctors.
See, I had never been a fan of others telling me what to do, and my son needed to be outside, whether it had been written on his charts or not…
This would be Noah’s second time to leave the doors of Children’s Hospital, but this time, completely free of all wires, machines, and any other form of life support.
Despite what we think, the deepest expression of our love isn’t a guarantee the people we love the most are meant to stay.
You see, there was also no way my son’s body was going to sit in a hospital morgue and be transported by strangers to a mortuary. I had been in a morgue with a loved one before and it didn’t seem like the right place for my boy…so, I informed the hospital that Jason and I would be driving Noah across town and we’d be the ones to deliver his lifeless body to the team at the mortuary.
Initially the hospital staff blankly stared back at me when I let them in on this plan, but they had also gotten to know us over 5 months time, and adjusted accordingly to line up this first time “request.” I assured them I would be tasteful, there would be no theatrics and no passersby would know anything about the child in our blanketed bundle.
I had never done *this* before, but I was advocating for what felt right, what felt personal, parental, compassionate, and intimate…it was part of how I needed to be able to say my goodbye.
For my shocked and grieving heart, quietly walking with my husband out the back doors of Children’s Hospital with our cold son lovingly and discreetly tucked up against my warm body was all I could muster and all that made sense.
And so, that’s what we did…
Besides U2 singing us something as we drove the 6.5 mile route, I don’t think any words were spoken. If there were words, I guarantee they were on my end, a mix of grief and smart-ass with a side of shock and a plea for empathy, “Oh, hi people driving around today. We’re just driving our dead kid across town to the mortuary. Where are you headed?”
This scene is one of the *zillion reasons I know we must give grace to others at any given moment because we just don’t know what’s going on in their lives…we ALL have a story.
Today is cold in Nashville, Tennessee, where we now live. The kids are enjoying a Southern “snow day,” courtesy of the city shutting down in preparation for ice and an inch of white stuff. Thankfully, it’s nowhere near 2-3 degrees like it was 11 years ago in Denver. I’m nuggled up on the couch next to a dreamy 7 year old boy who daily brings joy to my life, sipping green tea from a mug that says, “I freaking LOVE you! xoxo,” listening to Jason on calls in the other room where he works from home for an international relief organization that works with beautiful people in countries our modern-day president inhumanely slanders, and I’m waiting a few more minutes before I walk into my teenager’s room to tickle her arm and tell her I love her, and invite her to have some tea, too, and keep reminding her that love always wins.
It was sunny 11 years ago, but there wasn’t anything warm about it.
Today, it’s overcast, drizzly, and cold. Cozying up with my family in the warmth of our home and recalling this memory of the day that changed our lives and perspective forever continues to pour healing into my bereaved heart, and for this, I’m grateful.
It’s a Beautiful Day.